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RUSSELL, MARY DORIA - THE SPARROW 1996 Villard Books 

 

a major modern work of science fiction. When a radio telescope signal is detected from a distant planet, proving that there is intelligent life elsewhere e in space, a small group of devout Jesuit priests take up the challenge of travelling out to make contact with Godís other creation, when the secular scientific community proves unable to undertake such a mission. The religious society buys them an asteroid whose orbit will take them close to the newly discovered planet. Such technology is already in use by some space mining corporations and the priests make a deal with the miners. They mine the asteroid out and transform it into a makeshift space vehicle, and embark on their expedition. That the mission is doomed is made apparent from the outset. The story is told by the one surviving member of the expedition force who is he seriously injured by his experiences. At first he s clearly holding back on some dreadful truth about what he has seen, but gradually, the awful truth emerges. The Jesuits had zealously interpreted the signals from the new world as something of deeply religious and spiritual significance. In fact it is an explicitly pornographic revelation. The survivor has found himself turned into a sex slave in a culture, which practices sodomy as a matter of course. This is a profound story about assumptions, mistakes and misinterpretations, where humanity sees what it wants to have revealed to it rather than what is actually out there in the Universe. The Sparrow is a beautiful, haunting tale that could easily have been told as a punch line laden short comedy story. Instead it becomes an epic tragedy of deep sentiment. A sequel, Children Of God, followed a few years later. http://www.sfsite.com/~silverag/russell.html

 

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