The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

Mike’s review

Jesuits are such a well-adjusted branch of Catholicism. Healthy questioning of the way things are/could be. Inquisitiveness, not Inquisition. Even their self-doubt is plain and matter of fact. They’re so practical. So the search for self I was hoping for here probably won’t manifest.

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I get the point of the future/now sections, but they’re such a slog. I think there’d be just as much suspense, more even, if I didn’t know everyone dies and Emilio’s a prostitute and murderer (boy does this even end up to be a letdown). Also, not a spoiler because it’s revealed pretty early in the book.

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Plot is pretty simple. Jesuits discover a planet with life. They fund a private voyage to the planet. Only one priest makes it back alive. The story is told with alternating chapters set in the past and the now, during something like Emilio’s (the living priest) trial amongst his Jesuit peers.

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“From a culture gone mad with documentation, publicity, broadcast, narrowcast and pointcast, where every act of public and private life seemed to be done for an audience […]” This was written in 1996! I don’t remember that being a concern then. Wasn’t that about O.J. time though, which was arguably the start of that culture. But were people aware of it yet?

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“‘What is a whore but someone whose body is ruined for the pleasure of others? I am God’s whore, and ruined.'”

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I feel a genuine sense of wonder at first contact.

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“‘on the fate of Cleveland in the World Series of 2018′” so close. And may still come true!

“‘Anybody can have a couple of lousy centuries.” re: being a Cubs fan. The Cubs continuing to lose is a small recurring joke through the book that would have been real funny had I read it 2 months earlier than I did. As it was, it was still a little amusing to think about.

 

Infected by Scott Sigler

Mike’s review

Disclaimer: It’s been a long time since I’ve read this. I can’t remember when it was. But then I “lost” my notes and couldn’t put anything up here. (Lost, in this case, means they were in the notebook I always use, but somehow I was unable to see them when I looked before). Usually I’ll amend my notes a bit, clean things up, add insights, but I don’t think that’ll really be possible in this case. So deal with it, three people.

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I never take recommendations from non-confirmed persons, but this one came from a coworker who is certainly non-confirmed. Almost anti-confirmed, really. Nerdy guy. Non-socially grating. Eats a lot of mini-pizzas that make the break room smell.

I took the recommendation based on a picture he had of the author that looked like me. Usually when people say someone looks like you, they’re very wrong, but this one was right. At leas the picture he showed me was right. The author photo in the back of the book looks less like me (basically, I was tricked by the mustache in the first picture, which is usually the thing that makes others compare people to me. This is convoluted as shit), but he does look angry, so the similarity is still there.

Coworker has reminded me several times the book is available as a podcast. I’ve never in my life listened to a book. I’ll listen to podcasts in the car and sometimes I realize I’ve heard nothing for the last 10 minutes. Can’t imagine “reading” in that environment. But it was a podcast first, so maybe that’ll affect the experience.

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Here’s what I remember to scrape together a plot summary: Alien triangle beings are infecting the human race, using humans in a parasitic manner, inhabiting their bodies and making them rage. A couple detectives/CIA?/FBI? agents track down the patterns to try to stop the beings before they open an inter-dimensional portal. Or do they?

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Trying to be nice and accept the book for what it is, but the snow seems to be shifting depths through the first chapter and I can’t tell how bad the bleeding is.

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But, for some reason, the NSA monitoring all phone calls (this was rather relevant/timely when reading, so whenever that was, was when I read) draws me in. (Here’s a political aside I wrote in my notes: At the least, this is a huge waste of money. How can we afford this?) Hard to tell who the narrator is exactly. Someone who has the clearance to understand this operation probably wouldn’t say things like, “that’s some pretty serious black-ops shit.”

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“‘We can wallow in your rapier wit later.'” Classic telling me these detectives are super clever.

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Stages of germination chapter is good: clinical, but not overly so. Just enough to scare me, but not so much that I’ll zone out.

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How could I have ever anticipated that there’d be casual misogyny in here? First woman’s-perspective chapter, two pages in and she’s talking about fucking (with no one ever mentioning anything slightly sexual before).

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The tension of “she just didn’t like this guy…something about him was off” that’s so prevalent in detective pulp is such a weird, false tension.

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Someone who works in IT would go to the Internet before the phone book. Especially Perry, who has full unreasonable levels of deduction.