The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

February 2009

This is one of those books I picked up on a whim in a bookshop. I’d never heard of the author or the book, but the synopsis (basically, Jesuits in space) intrigued me mightily.

The book itself wound up intriguing me mightily as well. It starts with the aftermath of a disastrous interplanetary mission funded by Jesuits to make contact with extraterrestrial beings (I know this sounds crazy, but somehow, the plot works). The story unfolds in flashback as it is recounted by the sole survivor of the mission.

I really had absolutely no idea where the story was going, or indeed where the author was going with her ideas of God and religion and divine intervention and forgiveness, and that’s what kept me turning pages late into the night. I think the book owes a big debt to Contact, but it also acknowledges that debt, which is nice. The Sparrow is a very unusual book, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, Children of God.

Further reading…