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The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

Average Rating: 96 points, 5 STARS
Complete series with 2 novels.
Genres: sci-fi, science fiction, first contact, spiritual, religion
Warning: Trigger Warnings

In 2019, a researcher working at Arecibo in Puerto Rico discovers extraterrestrial life. What he heard was beautiful singing from the planet that would come to be called Rakhat. The Society of Jesus quietly, but quickly, organised an expedition to this planet of singers. A catastrophic end to the mission leads the sole survivor, Emilio Sandoz, to be blamed for heinous crimes. But what really happened on Rakhat, and how does someone who might once have been considered a living saint become someone who became a whore and child killer? And where does he go from here?

RVs Chart 95 Reading Order:

1. The Sparrow 5 stars!
2. Children of God 5 Stars!

First and foremost, The Sparrow is a tragedy. It never hides that from you. It tells you from the very, very beginning that the journey you are about to read about is going to be a devastating one.

It doesn’t disappoint.

The story is presented in a way where chapters focus on either the “past” or the “present”, “here” or “there”. You’ll have a chapter, or even several chapters in a row, that introduce you to some of the best people ever. They’re so kind, they’re so amazing. You fall in love with them. They become your family. And then you get to a “present” chapter and your heart fucking breaks because you know there is a good chance that those people you just fell in love with?

They’re dead.

And there is nothing you can do to save them.

And the very best character of them all is the one who is vilified. Emilio Sandoz in the “past” chapters and the Emilio Sandoz in the “present” chapters are very different people. The past paints Emilio as a kind of Saint. He is everything you expect a priest to be: kind, helpful, willing to put his flock above himself. Everyone around him loves him. He is outgoing and funny, and he himself loves everyone around him even more than they love him. Emilio truly believes that he is doing God’s will.

But the “present” Emilio Sandoz is completely and utterly broken. He is accused of being a whore and of killing a child (we learn this in chapter one). Physically, he is suffering from severe malnutrition and scurvy. And his hands have been mutilated to the point where he can barely use them for anything. Emilio also no longer wants to believe in a God who allowed what has happened to him happen. He is soul-sick, which in turn is making him even more physically sick. Despondent, even.

How does a Priest go from near Saint to whore? How does he give up on god? Is he, like others speculate, looking to find God even in what has happened to him and those of his party?

The Sparrow is extremely religious, but I implore you to read it even if you aren’t. The Sparrow is inclusive to all religions, even atheism. I don’t believe anyone of any faith would be offended or turned off by this story.

The writing of was just beautiful. It gives you time to become connected to the characters. It drops hints on you for what is to come that you may or may not notice. There are bits of the story that I find unrealistic. The science is slightly questionable, though I have definitely read way worse. The planet is perfect for them, and they’re able to eat the food and breathe the air and handle the gravity – which makes things a bit too easy. They’re able to understand the locals given time, which again makes the story a bit to easy. But that easy is such a good setup for the rest.

The Sparrow was an absolutely amazing story. I really recommend reading this story if you are at all interested in it. Or if you just want to cry

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