The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell is book one of two in the Sparrow series. At around 500 pages, this is a long one, but fortunately, readers can treat it as a standalone novel as well. While looking for stories similar to The Three Body Problem, where it deals with human emotions and problems along with first contact with a different sentient species from a different universe, I found this excellent referral from Reddit, and I’m so glad I took up the recommendation. Being a slow burner of a book that mainly deals with the human side of things for the majority of the chapters, I, however, found it still a pleasure to read through. Each of the characters has depth and differs from each other personality wise. Although the book has certain flaws, the emotional roller coaster of the story overshadows them.
“God does not require us to succeed. He only requires us to try.” - Emilio Sandoz
One of the things I did feel could have been done differently was the reveal of the dark things that took place between the planet Rakhat and Emilio Sandoz. It’s clear from the beginning that the author revealed the “what” of that part when it came to the questioning of Emilio Sandoz. Throughout the story, we are taken back and forth between the events of the crew flying out on their mission and 40+ Earth years later, when Emilio, the lone survivor of the mission, returns home. The “why” part is what I feel many would consider a drag to get to when it’s hardly that surprising when revealed at the end. Regardless, I felt the story was still beautifully told. The horrors and sadness that ultimately envelop the cast of characters are tragic.
“I really resent the idea that the only reason someone might be good or moral is because they are religious.” - Anne Edwards
Talking about finding and discovering God can always be controversial. The Sparrow does have a religious theme and backdrop. In fact, I found the entire story about sending a Jesuit party to an undiscovered planet to make first contact to be hilarious and unbelievable. The crew selection as well as how the mission actually came together were just utterly different from what I’d normally expect. However, this just goes to show me that this area is not what the author specializes in and therefore should not be the focal point. As mentioned earlier, it’s human relations and interactions with each other that make up the majority of this story, not techno gadgetry and hardcore science fiction.
I am losing my mind, one word at a time. - Emilio Sandoz
I was contemplating whether to read the sequel or not. The Sparrow ended on a solid note with no cliffhanger, so reading the sequel felt optional. But then I remembered how tranquil it felt while reading The Sparrow. While I had just complained earlier about the author revealing things too early, I feel as if it was done to serve a purpose in regard to the religious theme of the overall story. Sometimes, things just need to be said out loud before a person can be healed. It is this calming realization that ultimately made me want to seek out the continuation of The Sparrow and see how the next group of explorers will fare on Rakhat.