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This author's background as a cultural anthropologist brings a vermillisitude to this tale of cultures in conflict. Her graceful prose, hint of humor, and fascinating characters keep the story electric and the reader entranced. Russell's book coalesces around a first contact mission, something that might scare off some readers, but this is not some fan-boy's science fiction novel. This is an adult, emotional roller coaster ride driven by fully etched characters who are challenged ethically and morally by a culture they can't hope to understand, or be understood by. I highly recommend this debut novel by one of my favorite writers. — Erik Barnum
Emilio Sandoz is a remarkable man, a living saint and Jesuit priest who undergoes an experience so harrowing and profound that it makes him question the existence of God. This experience--the first contact between human beings and intelligent extraterrestrial life--begins with a small mistake and ends in a horrible catastrophe.
Sandoz is a part of the crew sent to explore a new planet. What they find is a civilization so alien and incomprehensible that they feel compelled to wonder what it means to be human.
The priest is the only surviving member of the crew and upon his return he is confronted by public inquisition and accusations of the most heinous crimes imaginable. His faith utterly destroyed, crippled and defenseless, his only hope is to tell his tale. Father John Candotti has been charged with discovering the truth, but the truth may be more than Earth is willing to accept.