The Sparrow

(1996)
The Sparrow book cover

I'm finding it difficult to begin a review of this book--this story packed into this little volume is large in scope and dense in detail. The story told is of a group of smart folks coming together as friends and being friends when one member finds evidence of life in Alpha Centauri. Another member, a Jesuit priest named Emilio Sandoz then makes a proposal to the Society of Jesus that this group travel to this other star system, find the planet these other beings live on, and go meet them. They make the trip, they make contact, but as you'll learn in the opening of the story, only Emilio Sandoz returns to Earth.

Russell is good at providing those little hooks along the way to keep you reading. Why did only Emilio return? Why does he act so strangely? What's wrong with his hands? What are the being who live in Alpha Centauri like? Little hints are given, you're steered one direction, then taken another.

But it's not just the suspense that keeps you locked in to this story. The characters are deeply drawn and authentic--very easy to connect with as a reader. You care about what's going to happen to them next.

I want to note also that Russell's ideas of the future have aged nicely for a work of science fiction published in 1994. You may notice a lack of mobile phones, but characters use tablets that are easy to associate with today's popular tablet devices.

But is this book for you? Do you like stories of exploration? Of individuals forming unofficial families together out of friendships? Do you like to wonder about life on other planets? Answers in the affirmative suggest that you would enjoy reading Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow.

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