In the year 2019 a group of friends, one of whom works at the Arecibo Radio Telescope, receives a radio transmission from another galaxy indicating that sentient beings exist there. This group of friends is made up primarily of an astronomer, a linguist/priest, a retired engineer, a practicing physician, and a woman who systematizes complex tasks for artificial intelligence (she's wicked smart). The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) add a few members to the team and catapult this ragtag group of friends off to the planet Rakhat to make contact with the aliens.
And more. SO MUCH MORE! The book is told in three parts:
- 2019--when they receive the signal and plan the mission
- 20-something--17 years have passed on Earth while they travel to Rakhat, but a much shorter time has passed for them on the ship. They land and live on the alien planet.
- 2060--Emilio Sandoz, the priest and linguist around which this story really revolves, makes it back to Earth, but he's the mission's only survivor and he's utterly broken.
It's an incredibly complicated plot. There's a lot going on, but I never had a hard time understanding what was happening. The truth and the meat of the journey is doled out a bit at a time until we understand Sandoz's full experience and trauma in the final pages of the book. There is just so much going on...
- Issues of science
- Issues of culture
- Problems of faith
- Questions of morality and intention
At its center it's about a group of friends and their goodness and their best intentions. But sometimes our best intentions set off chain reactions that change everything. Emilio Sandoz's story is the whole group's story. His survival is cruel and a plague to his mind, body, and soul. His journey is one of the best damn stories I've ever read.
Just read it. I could gush for eternity. And if you haven't watched my BookTube review, I'm actually much better-spoken in it. Surprise!
Pub. Date: September 1997
Publisher: Random House
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: Bought it.