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Mary Doria Russell Books In Order

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Publication Order of The Sparrow Books

Publication Order of Doc Holliday Books

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

A Thread of Grace (2005)Description / Buy at Amazon
Dreamers of the Day (2008)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Women of the Copper Country (2019)Description / Buy at Amazon

Mary Doria Russell is a bestselling American author if literature, fiction, fantasy and science fiction novels. She was born in Elmhurst, Illinois a suburb of Chicago. Her parents served in the military; her mother was a Navy nurse while her mother was a Marine Corps drill instructor. She was raised in a family with staunch Catholic roots but left church aged 15. After graduating from Glenbard East High School, Mary went ahead to earn her Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Illinois at and a Master’s in Social Anthropology at Northeastern University Boston and a PhD at the University of Michigan specializing in Biological Anthropology.

Mary Doria Russell has been recognized for her detailed research, narrative drive and fine and has worked in several varieties of genres. The author’s first two novels, The Sparrow and its predecessor Children of God generally known as Sparrow series are known as speculative fiction and majorly focus on psychological and religious insinuations of the first contact with the aliens. These novels explore the problems of theodicy, and to reconcile an omniscient, benevolent, all-powerful deity with lives full of undeserved suffering.

The Sparrow won the Tiptree annual science fiction book awards and Arthur C. Clarke BSFA Award. Subsequently, the novel has been the basis for Mary Doria Russell winning 1988 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. The author has also been nominated for various awards such as Hugo Award, Dublin International Literary Prize and Book of the Month Club for best fiction category. The rest of Mary Doria books are classified as historical romance books even though she draws from different genres when telling these stories. She is a resident of Lyndhurst, Ohio and lives with her beloved husband Don she married since 1970 and they have a son named Daniel.

The Sparrow

The Sparrow is the debut novel in Sparrow series by Mary Doria Russell. It is a science fiction story somehow inspired by the life of Isaac Jogues. The author imagines that at some point in the near future that a giant radio telescope Arecibo intercepts a message from the alien civilization. A group of scientist amongst them Jesuit priests decides to set for the far distant planet in a classified mission sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church. Several years later we meet the only survivor from the secret mission, Father Emilio Sandoz, a linguist based in Puerto Rico returning to Earth from the mission with his hands brutally mutilated. He is questioned by father superior and what follows next is the mission to discover through a series of flashbacks how he was brutally mutilated.

The underlying theme of this first book in the series is an extraordinarily compelling one. Russell has woven a beautiful storyline with compelling characters that stand out well. Each of the character involved in the interplanetary mission including Father Sandoz have their own background, with their unique challenges, each with a unique language and outlook on the world. Additionally what makes this novel unique is the incorporation of dual timelines. As the story kicks off, it is revealed that Father Emilio is the only survivor of the mission. He is in poor condition with brutally mutilated hands, and he is also on trial for a couple of crime allegedly committed while on his mission on the alien planet. This leads to a series of flashbacks timelines where the details and the mysteries regarding the mission gradually unfold. It pretty clear that Mary Doria Russell is a great author and she certainly knows how to play her wild cards close to her chest as she adds suspense and plenty of twists and turns guaranteed to hook the readers from the first page to the last.

While The Sparrow is indeed a science fiction book the emphasis of the book does not majorly rely on the science-fictness of the contact with aliens, but the underlying theme is more of an exploration of faith. However, the concept of faith does not imply that the author, Ms. Russell is forcing the readers to accept God, but instead she writes about what you could possibly expect to get for your faith. Should you believe that God watches over your every minute of the day? She detailed describes this as the belief of God’s micromanagement. Despite the religious theme being addressed, the theme of contact with the aliens is not neglected. The conditions of the alien planet are vividly described and the extraterrestrial life well imagined. The aliens are pretty similar to the humans in many ways but also extremely alien in other ways as well. The exposition of their culture, cities, biology among others forms part of a secret ingredient that science fiction loves to love. This is also what leads to the secondary theme of the dangers of the first contact, the risks of interfering with a culture you do not understand but one similar to your own. The seriousness of the primary themes is beautifully balanced by the inclusion of humor throughout the pages.

Children of God

In the second book in The Sparrow series, we meet Father Emilio has made good progress in recovering from the body mutilation he suffered while on the alien planet. However, his body may be healed but his soul is still gravely wounded, and the last thing that he wishes to is to return to the place where all his partners were murdered.

Once again, Ms. Russell gives the readers an excellent morality play in a sci-fi setting. It is in this second book in the series that we get to learn of what happened to the first explorers- as well as the Jana’ata and Runa- misunderstood about the alien cultures and how such small mistakes led to deaths of an entire crew. The author shows that the influence of the humans, regardless of the original intentions to explore and observe merely has dramatically changed the balance that existed and even resulted in civil war.

The story shifts back and forth, moving between Earth and planet Rakhat between the present and the future. Additionally, the second novel in the series is more philosophical than the debut. The characters here have great conversations, about their beliefs and purpose. If you enjoy reading science fiction books, then Mary Doria Russell books are worth your time.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Mary Doria Russell

One Response to “Mary Doria Russell”

  1. Mary Steinhauser: 2 years ago

    I just read Women of Copper County. I loved reading it. I have a question as to where Michael the reporter fits in to the real Big Annie story.


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