The Sparrow

Mary Doria Russell
The Sparrow Cover

The Sparrow


I have a hard time deciding whether I really liked this book or not.

The story evolves around a first contact gone horribly wrong. This is clear from the beginning of the book, although the author only explains what actually went wrong at the very end of if. The book is very well written told in two different times: it starts from the end, after the single survivor of an expedition to contact and alien species (a jesuit priest) returns to Earth under a cloud of suspicion about what actually happened out there; at the same time, the book goes back to the events that lead to the discovery of the new alien species and the expedition itself, going back and forth between the two points in the narrative.

If I were to comment on the book while I was reading it, I would probably give it 4-4.5 stars. I was really caught into it and involved with the characters, and really anxious to understand how things got to the bad ending which you know from the start. However, I felt disappointed at the way in which the author finally reveals what happened. Rather than telling it from the perspective of the expedition, she chose to do it from Emilio´s perspective in the future, and rather than being involved in the events, the events, at least to me, became like a report from things happening to other people, withouth involvement with the feelings and impressions of all the other very reach characters whom I felt were sort of left in the middle of their stories.

Despite which was for me a rather anticlimatic ending, which left me a bit disappointed, I still think it is a very interesting and different first contact book, whcih poses many interesting questions. The science in it is only hinted at (the author doesn´t attempt to go into any scientific detail with respect to how the ship works, or details of life support, survival in a different ecosystems, etc), focusing rather on the interaction between the characters, the aliens and the horrible things that can happen when you misunderstand what someone from a completely different culture is telling you. Although I did expect some theological discussion on the book, since this is a mainly religious expedition, I found that this is not heavy in the story, which focuses more on how events can affect the personal faith of those involved in them.

For all of this, although I think the final chapters of the book do not do justice to the rest of the story, I would still recommend this as a though provoking and well written book on first contact.