Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Case of Conscience

A Case of Conscience
by James Blish

This novel, by James Blish, won the 1959 Hugo Award for best science fiction novel, and even now, over 50 years later, continues to appear on the lists of the greatest science fiction stories of all time. My science fiction club recently read it for a group discussion, and I enjoyed the opportunity to introduce myself to one of the classics. This novel feels like two stories that have been patched together, and that is literally the case. The first half of the novel (previously published on its own) features an exploratory team of scientists nearing the end of their visit to a distant populated planet, preparing their recommendation report to their superiors back on Earth, as to the planet's suitability for human interaction. The primary narrator is Father Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez, a Jesuit priest who also happens to be a biologist. His discoveries among the intelligent reptilian natives (Lithians) of the planet leads him to a moral crisis of conscience: His strong Catholic belief structure lead him to the conclusion that the planet's entire existence is a Satan-created challenge to his faith. The second half of the novel is set on Earth, as Father Ramon brings a gestating example of the Lithian species back home, and we see the worst example of "nature vs nurture" development that could possibly occur, as the Lithian, separated from the natural environment that it would normally evolve in, becomes an ethical and moral challenge to human society. To be honest, I thought that this book felt a bit dated, but it is still a stellar example of 1950s-era science fiction. -- recommended by Scott C. - Bennett Martin Public Library [Subscribe to Scott's monthly booklist newsletter It's All Geek to Me! - on the Books, Movies & More newsletter sign-up page].

[ A Case of Conscience entry on Wikipedia ] | [ James Blish on Wikipedia ]

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