Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow

From tor.com: Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow Might Be Coming to FX

I wouldn’t watch it. Have you read this book? Because some of the situations in this book constitute the second-worst things I have ever encountered in fiction. I really enjoyed The Sparrow, in a way. I admired the book very much, in a way. But, (a) I have never re-read it; and (b) I am far, far less tolerant of terrible things in visual formats than in words. I could handle the awful things in The Sparrow when I read it, but I don’t think I could stand to watch it.

Also, I trust they actually mean both The Sparrow and Children of God. This is not a story where you can stop halfway through the duology. No.

Having said that, there’s no indication at the tor.com post that anyone is actually planning on completing the story. That’s … unspeakably awful. The Sparrow ends in a terrible, terrible place. If you don’t go on with the second half of the story, that’s where you’re left! That’s an awful thing to do to the viewer!

This duology was very interesting to me as a writer because I read a lot of reviews that divided down the middle. Half the reviewers said, “I hated this book; the characters are SO FLAT.” The other half said, “I loved this book; the characters are SO REAL.” I thought that actually both takes on the duology were half-right: the characters are in fact flat, but the story is nevertheless brilliant. The one-dimensional characters allow the author to do a lot with the worldbuilding and plotting that more complicated characters would have interfered with.

Also, the dialogue is absolutely stunning. The least believable thing about the story as a story is that no one is that consistently witty in conversation.

The least believable thing about the story from a scientific perspective is that the evolutionary situation described is so entirely unlikely as to be impossible.

Anyway, interesting choice for visual media. I could think of a hundred books I’d rather see in that format, but, well, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with this.

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5 Comments Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow

  1. Allan Shampine

    My wife has been watching Outlander. I was passing through the living room during a flogging scene and it literally gave me nightmares. I’m told that the showrunners toned down the torture quite a bit from the books, which shocks me because it seems from the sounds I hear from the other room that it’s still pretty frequent. Absolutely not up for that. Especially now. We live in grim days, and I look to my entertainment for light, not even more darkness.

  2. Rachel

    Well, Allan, Outlander just shuffled waaaaaay back in the queue of stuff I plan to watch and/or read this year.

  3. Elaine T

    Tor.com also posted last week that Disney is making a show of Megan Turner Whalen’s Thief book(s). Which I expect to be a disaster, BTW.

    I did not finish Russell’s book. I remember clearly a sensation of hitting a wall of DON’T CARE, and putting it down. it down.

  4. Kootch

    Rachel, I’ve read the books and watched the series and, though I loved both, they are definitely not light entertainment.

  5. Rachel

    Elaine, alas, I fear you are right and that anything Disney does with The Queen’s Thief series is likely to be less than great.

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