JESUITS IN SPACE–A REVIEW OF THE BOOK “THE SPARROW”

Sunday night I finished The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell.  I read it as part of the sci-fifantasy group over at Goodreads.  I love Goodreads, but it irks me that they combine sci-fi and fantasy that way.  Anyway, back on subject, The Sparrow was published in 1996.   The paperback edition I read was released in 2008.  334176

Overall

I give the book an overall grade of A-.  I have never read anything by Russell before, so I didn’t know what to expect.  I had heard about the book and knew that it was highly regarded as one of the best sci-fi books of the past generation and she is favorably compared with the masters of the genre.  I can see why.  The book is interesting throughout.  It is not a perfect book, as I will get to below, but a well-thought-out plot with fascinating characters is more than most sci-fi books achieve.  It gets a “minus” because the whole Jesuit in space thing has been done a time or two and the adverb issues which I address below.

Plot

Without spoilers, the story is about the discovery of life on another planet in the not so distant future.  Before governments can form a response, a group of Jesuits lead an interstellar expedition of people from various technical and religious backgrounds to investigate.  As you might imagine, all does not go well.

Strengths

This book has three strengths.

1. The characters are written well.  This is brought out with crisp dialogue and believable action.  Russell’s intelligence and research on Jesuits, science, linguistics, and history makes every character human.  The only flaw in her characterizations are that every major character is just a little too competent and perfect, but I can live with that.

2. There is an almost perfect balance in the book between science and fiction.  It is in this way that the book reminds me of Ray Bradbury.

3. The book asks sincere theological questions without giving pat answers, either for or against.  Russell seems to delight in the intentional ambiguity.

Weaknesses

1. The pacing of the book is sometimes less than ideal.  About one third into the book it felt like she kept repeating the same basic things.  She could have told the same great story with 50,000 fewer words.

2. Russell is guilty of adverb abuse.  She loves, loves, loves, loves to have people doing “ly” things.  For example:

D.W. lied cheerfully

Two lines later:

Emilio said seriously

I just pulled that out randomly by opening the book (page 51).  They are all over the place.

3. At times I lost the POV.  Sometimes she would switch right int he middle of a paragraph with no warning.

Audience

There are some mature themes to be sure, and the language is rough.  Who knew Jesuits talked like that?  If you are easily offended at different religious worldviews, you shouldn’t read this book.  However, if you like to see how others might wrestle with difficult issues, then this book is for you.

There is a sequel to this book called Children of God.  I do not know when I will read it, as my TBR pile has grown out of control, but I will indeed read it.  In fact, I’ll probably buy it today at Amazon.

THAT SOUND YOU HEAR IS ME BOUNCING UP AND DOWN WITH JOY

It has been a while coming, but I am pleased to announce that my new novel, The Little Girl Waits, is now on sale.  It is available in paperback, and will be available as an eBook soon.

The LIttle Girl Waits Cover
The cover is from a scene in the book

The story is a full length novel, and in many ways it is a sequel to The Haunting of Pastor Butch Gregory and other Short Stories.  It is a sequel in that it weaves together characters and background introduced in some of those shorts.  Yet, it is not precise to say it is a sequel because the novel goes in a very different direction.

The backdrop of the book is the crisis of child sex trafficking.  You have probably read or heard about this awful, horrible, terrible plaque.  The problem is global, as we have recently been made aware of the plight of those 300 girls in Nigera and the #bringbackourgirls campaign.  The novel, though, is set in the United States and focuses upon the issue at a personal level.  Most of us live our lives as if this problem is somewhere overseas, across the border, or only impacts certain kinds of people.  But that is wrong.  It is in every community and can happen to anyone.  We all have a responsibility to do something, and it is that responsibility that fuels the action in the novel.

Learn more at the book’s website, www.thelittlegirlwaits.com.  You can buy the book there, my publisher, online retailers (Amazon, Barnesandnoble.com), or directly from me.  I have a supply of books that I will autograph and send to you at $20 (that includes shipping) each.  Comment below if you want an autographed copy, or you can send a me private message on Facebook or Twitter, or you can always email me at jkgreenings@yahoo.com.  There is also a Goodreads giveaway contest for the book, as I am giving away 25 free copies.  You can click on the link at the books website.

If you read it and like it, I have one simple request.  Please take a moment to rate it and/or review it at amazon.com, Goodreads, and barnesandnoble.com.  Those ratings and reviews do make a difference.

I hope you like it.

 

Screenshot from barnesandnoble.com
Screenshot from barnesandnoble.com

 

EASY PEASY WAYS TO HELP A STARVING ARTIST (LIKE ME-HINT HINT)

Is there an artist, maybe a writer or a musician, that you really dig but you know they don’t have much visibility and a lot of people don’t know about them?  Wonder what you could do to help?  If so, I have good news for you.

A new title has just been released by my friend Anthony Horvath called Superfan.  It is essentially a manual written to those who are  fans of an indie artist.  It is only 10,000 words (very short) and reads even quicker than that.  I highly recommend it to people who either know an indie writer/musician/artist or to someone engaged in that venture and who is trying to break through the noise.  It is cheap on the Kindle and also available in paperback.

Click image to buy for only $2.99 on the Kindle.
Click image to buy for only $2.99 on the Kindle.

Horvath’s book is chock-full-o stuff, but I have included here three easy peasy things you can do to help your favorite writer/author out.

1.  Rate books and stories on Amazon, Goodreads.com, Barnesandnoble.com and wherever else you can.  These things really really really matter.  Amazon uses these metrics in determining all kinds of stuff–not the least of which is the “you may also like…”  Don’t just rate it though, take the time to write a review–three or four sentences about what you liked in the book or story.  Caution–write it like you don’t now the author, even though you do.  If you write the review like you’ll be having lunch with the author tomorrow, then people will discredit your review.

2.  Share links to the author’s work on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.  If you really like the artist and want good things for him or her, then do a little free and easy promo work.  I mean, after all, you passed along that funny picture of the cockatoo or the kitty cat so it is not like you’ll lose any professional cred by recommending some awesome literature.

3.  Okay, this one requires a little nuance, but it is still super easy peasy.  Mention this person you like in the same breadth that you mention other writers that everyone admires.  So if you’re talking to someone at work, say, about the newest zombie movie, mention something like, “Yeah, I read a story the other day by that cool Indie author Derek Elkins about Zombies.  It’s called The Driving Dead.  I just love zombie satire,” and then let it go.  A better one would be, “I read Jamie Greening’s science fiction story The Deep Cove Lineage the other day and I just kept thinking about how much it reminded me of Dean Koontz.”  Now be careful, because you could come across as pushy.  Don’t be pushy and don’t go on and on and on everyday.  That would do more harm than good.

I know this all sounds like shilling, but the truth is the deck is stacked so much against real writers (TV personalities who have books ghost written for them don’t count) that we need every edge we can get.  The best stuff ever is being published right now and it is out there for anyone to read and find, but no one knows about it.  You are doing the world a favor by making them aware of something they weren’t aware of before, and that is a noble task.