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The Sparrow (Ballantine Reader's Circle)

by

The Sparrow (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Cover

ISBN13: 9780449912553
ISBN10: 0449912558
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. How do faith, love, and the role of God in the world drive the plot of this story? One reviewer characterized this book as “a parable about faith-the search for God, in others as well as Out There.” Do you agree? If so, why?

2. This story takes place from the years 2019 to 2060. The United States is no longer the predominant world power, having lost two trade wars with Japan, which is now supreme in both space and on Earth. Poverty is rampant. Indentured servitude is once more a common practice, and “future brokers” mine ghettos for promising children to educate in return for a large chunk of their lifetime income. What kinds of changes do you think will occur during the twenty-first century-with governments, technology, society, and so on? Do you think America will lose its predominant status in the world?

3. Do you think it likely that we will make contact with extraterrestrials at some time in the future? What will the implications of such an event be? Weve always viewed Earth, and human beings, as the center of the universe. Will that still be the case if we discover alien life forms? How will such a discovery change theology? Does God love us best? Will such a discovery confirm the existence of God or cause us to question his existence at all?

4. If, sometime within the next century, we hear radio signals from a solar system less than a dozen light years away from our own, do you think humankind would mount an expedition to visit that place? Who do you think might lead such an expedition? If you had to send a group of people to a newly discovered planet to contact a totally unknown species, whom would you choose? Is the trip to Rakhat a scientific mission or a religious one?

5. The Sparrow tells a story by interweaving two time periods-after the mission to Rakhat and before. Do you think this makes the story more interesting and easier to follow or more difficult to follow? How does this story differ from other stories you have read?

6. Why do you think Sandoz resists telling the story of what happened on Rakhat?

7. A basic premise of this story is an evaluation of the harm that results from the explorers inability to assess a culture from the threshold of exploration. Do you see any parallels between the voyage of the eight explorers on the Rakhat mission and the voyages of other explorers from past history-Columbus, Magellan, Cortez, and others-who inaccurately assessed the cultures they discovered?

8. Despite currently popular revisionism, many historians view the early discoverers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries not as imperialists or colonists but as intellectual idealists burning to know what Gods plan had hidden from them. Do you agree? Does this story make you reconsider the motives of those early explorers?

9. One of the mainstays of the Star Trek universe is the “prime directive” which mandates the avoidance of interference in alien cultures at all costs. Would the “prime directive” have changed the outcome of events on Rakhat?

10. In an interview, the author said, “I wanted readers to look philosophically at the idea that you can be seduced by the notion that God is leading you and that your actions have his approval.” What do you think she means by that? In what way was Emilio Sandoz seduced by this notion

11. How is Emilio Sandozs faith tested on Rakhat? One reviewer suggests that in his utter humiliation and in the annihilation of his spirit, Sandoz is reborn in faith. Do you agree? Consider Sandozs dilemma on page 394. Did God lead the explorers to Rakhat-step by step-or was Sandoz responsible for what happened? If God was responsible for bringing the explorers to Rakhat, does that mean that God is vicious?

12. The discoverers of Rakhat seem to be connected by circumstances too odd to be explained by anything but a manifestation of Gods will. Do you think it was Gods will that led to the discovery of and mission to Rakhat, as Sandoz initially believes? If thats the case, how could God let the terrible aftermath happen?

13. One reviewer wrote, “It is neither celibacy, faith, exotic goods, nor (as Sandoz bitterly asserts) the introduction of one of humanitys oldest inventions that leads to the crisis between humans and aliens. The humans get into trouble because they fail to understand how Rakhat society controls reproduction. In short, they fail because they fail to put themselves into the aliens shoes.” Do you agree? If so, why? If not, why not?

3. One reviewer wrote, "It is neither celibacy, faith, exotics goods, nor (as Sandoz bitterly asserts) the introduction of one of humanity's oldest inventions that leads to the crisis between humans and aliens. The humans get into trouble because they fail to understand how Rakhat society controls reproduction. In short, they fail because they fail to put themselves into the aliens' shoes." Do you agree? If so, why? If not, why not?

14. Is confession good for the soul? Do you think Emilio Sandoz will ultimately recover--both as a man and as a priest--from his ordeal?

15. Why do you think it's so important to Emilio to stand by his vow of celibacy when he so obviously loves Sofia Mendez?

16. The Jesuits saw so many of their fellows martyred all over the world throughout history. Why aren't they more sympathetic in dealing with Sandoz--a man victimized by his faith?

17. What is this story about? Is it a story about coming face-to-face with a sentient race that is so alien as to be incomprehensible, or about putting up a mirror to our own inner selves?

14. Is confession good for the soul? Do you think Emilio Sandoz will ultimately recover-both as a man and as a priest-from his ordeal?

15. Why do you think its so important to Emilio to stand by his vow of celibacy when he so obviously loves Sofia Mendez?

16. The Jesuits saw so many of their fellows martyred all over the world throughout history. Why arent they more sympathetic in dealing with Sandoz-a man victimized by his faith?

17. What is this story about? Is it a story about coming face-to-face with a sentient race that is so alien as to be incomprehensible, or about putting up a mirror to our own inner selves?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 25 comments:

bstein33, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by bstein33)
Fascinating. A real genre-bender. Great writing and thought-provoking subject matter in the guise of science fiction. The best and most original book I've read in years.
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Eunice, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by Eunice)
Very well written...the author has command of the language, as she should. Intriguing, haunting story with characters that you begin to care about. Are they doomed, will it all work out? I won't reveal the ending of an amazing plot-line. But, I will say that this book has stayed with me since I finished it. I think it will stay with me forever.
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Margaret Hines, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by Margaret Hines)
The beautiful descriptive prose of Mary Doria Russell takes the reader back and forth effortlessly between the past and present in this future tale of the discovery of a planet like Earth. This time travel allows the reader to understand the spiritual torment of Emilio Sandoz, a Jesuit priest, who made the journey to the planet and the future and returned to his past on Earth. I could scarcely put this book down. I felt as though I were there and could see the settings and feel the emotions of the characters. This, and its sequel, are books I shall read again.
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View all 25 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780449912553
Author:
Russell, Mary Doria
Publisher:
Ballantine Books
Author:
Various
Location:
New York :
Subject:
General
Subject:
Religious
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
Science Fiction - General
Subject:
Life on other planets
Subject:
Science Fiction - Adventure
Subject:
Twenty-first century
Subject:
Jesuits
Subject:
Religious - Science Fiction
Subject:
Twenty-first century -- Fiction.
Subject:
Christian Science -- Fiction.
Subject:
Science fiction
Subject:
Jesuits - Fiction
Subject:
Christian - General
Subject:
Science Fiction and Fantasy-Adventure
Subject:
science fiction;fiction;religion;aliens;first contact;sf;space travel;jesuits;novel;fantasy;catholicism;faith;speculative fiction;anthropology;space;christianity;spirituality;linguistics;space exploration;jesuit;language;sff;rape;philosophy;adult;literatu
Subject:
science fiction;fiction;religion;aliens;first contact;sf;space travel;jesuits;novel;fantasy;catholicism;faith;speculative fiction;anthropology;space;christianity;spirituality;linguistics;space exploration;jesuit;language;sff;rape;philosophy;adult;literatu
Subject:
science fiction;fiction;religion;aliens;first contact;sf;space travel;jesuits;novel;fantasy;catholicism;faith;speculative fiction;space;anthropology;spirituality;christianity;linguistics;space exploration;jesuit;language;sff;rape;philosophy;american;arthu
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Ballantine Reader's Circle
Publication Date:
19970931
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
448
Dimensions:
8.24x5.62x.98 in. .82 lbs.

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Related Subjects


Featured Titles » Genre
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » Adventure
Religion » Christianity » Christian Fiction

The Sparrow (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$10.50 In Stock
Product details 448 pages Ballantine Books - English 9780449912553 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Herself a former anthropologist, born and raised a Roman Catholic and recently converted to Judaism, Russell brings to this novel a keen grasp of the methods used by scientists investigating an unknown culture, as well as a deep appreciation for the varieties of religious experience. She has created a cast of interesting and likable characters in Sandoz and his crew mates and in the team of Jesuits trying to rehabilitate him: These are intelligent, caring people equally capable of light banter and deep philosophical discussions....Even readers who do not usually appreciate science fiction may well find themselves enthralled."
"Review" by , "The Sparrow tackles a difficult subject with grace and intelligence."
"Review" by , "Russell's novel is driven by her characters, by their complex relationships and inner conflicts, not by aliens or technology."
"Review" by , "It is rare to find a book about interplanetary exploration that has this much insight into human nature and foresight into a possible future."
"Review" by , "Two narratives — the mission to the planet and its aftermath four decades later — interweave to create a suspenseful tale."
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