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Review: The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell

Astronomer Jimmy Quinn is having a long night at work after time with his friends when he hears an alien radio signal.  Almost immediately, plans are laid to explore this alien signal, and a group of friends, including a few Jesuit priests, heads into space to make contact with and study the alien population.  While on the planet, however, things go wrong, and only one damaged man returns.

The story begins with him, Emilio Sandoz, and his return, switching between time periods to explore the back story of the mission.  So don’t worry, I haven’t spoiled anything.  And let me also start off by saying I simply loved this book.  I read it when I started working and I actually enjoyed that because this was the first book that I really enjoyed that I had to spend more than a day with.  Spreading it out over four days meant I could grow to love these characters and I was completely wrapped up in the story every single time I picked up the book.

This is science fiction which works for people who don’t like science fiction, with tons of character development and a truly enthralling plot.  We know the basics of what’s happened from the start, but finding out why it’s happened, especially to people we care about so much, is amazingly compelling.  There isn’t really any technical jargon at all; there is only basic detail to understand what’s happening.  The focus is all on the breathtaking story.  Even though so many clues are laid, it’s hard to guess what’s happened.  I feel like I could almost certainly pick up more on a reread than I did this time, and this is a book that is worth rereading.

I also thought that Russell’s worldbuilding was interesting and well-done, but not extensive enough to bore any readers.  Rather, it’s wrapped up in the sense of discovery and each revelation ramps up the tension, so it’s impossible not to keep turning the pages whenever you have the opportunity.   The book really made me think about culture clash and what would happen if we ever really came into contact with aliens – and what we’d do if aliens came into contact with us.

Overall, my review doesn’t feel particularly coherent, but I doubt talking about such an amazing book will ever be coherent!  The Sparrow comes hugely recommended by me.

I am an Amazon Associate. I purchased this book.

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