Friday, March 16, 2007

Off Topic, Novel: Jesuit Mission to Another World, Are Ethics Transferable?

The Sparrow, Maria Doria Russell, Villard Publishing, 408 pp., 1996.

'The Sparrow' was all I hoped it would be. I am not a science fiction reader but I look for a smart, well constructed, character driven novel with nagging questions. They don't have to be answered, only asked. After several characters reveal themselves: their pasts, their faiths, and their fears, they grow as individuals as they face the challenge of exploring another culture.

At the root of the novel are the ethics of population control, education for the poorest 96%, power for the powerless, a homicide, and the difference between rape and prostitution. The violence is not graphically written; much of the novel is presented as a few priests conduct an inquiry. The violence is subtle; the ethical aspects of the dialogs are well established in the events of the novel.

No one sits around over coffee and bullshits; the characters are in constant activity of establishing their identities and exploring a earth-like satellite in the Alpha Centauri system. The novel's chapters alternate between present decades of the early 21st century and this allows for a traditional mystery story to be told. Yes, I had to read the last 100 pages at one setting.

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