Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

"The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell (Black Swan, 1997)

This book has been on my wanted list for a while. I've seen it mentioned as an SF book with literary merit. There are some interesting ethnological/sociological ideas. In his recent book "The Eerie Silence" Paul Davies suggests that religion would wither away after first contact. In this book the effect's more personal. But I wasn't convinced.

The conversation is snappy, with thoughtful enough observations - "Faced with death, people looked for reasons, to protect themselves from its arbitrariness and stupidity", (p.247). People from several nations are involved, though the Texan's very Texan and the Australian's very Australian. On p.412 we're told that "though [Anne] was a woman of highly trained intelligence, she passed all experience through her heart". If we have to be told (rather than shown) this about a main character after 400 pages something has gone a little wrong.

The technology's erratically predicted, and some of the plotting's unlikely - the age of the chosen crew; the lack of ships sent out (the lack of intense excitement globally on finding life so close); the slowness of quizzing Supaari about fuel; Sandoz's experiences on Rakhat impacting on his belief in God. Why are we told the details of the events on Rakhat so late? The world knows what what went on, but not us! We're not following the PoV of someone trying to suppress this information, so the avoidance doesn't feel justified. Infodumps could have been replaced by inserted articles from the press.

Most of all I missed theological debate and spiritual turmoil (Sandoz tries to project secular suffering onto a vague spiritual plain where his only belief is in question). The book's 100 or so pages too long, I feel. I think M. John Harrison etc write much better.

No comments:

Post a Comment