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A Case of Conscience (1953)

by James Blish (1921 - 1975)

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judygreeneyes January 5th, 2014 09:53 PM PST

Wow -- I loved it. Vintage sci-fi from 1958 that reads very well today.

Father Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez, a Peruvian Jesuit, visits the planet Lithia with 3 other scientists. Their mission is to study the planet and the beings there to decide whether the planet should be opened to human contact. Ruiz-Sanchez is a biologist/biochemist. He studies the planet through the lens of his training not only in biology but also in theology. The planet is inhabited by a race of intelligent bipedal reptile-like creatures, the Lithians, with whom Ruiz-Sanchez can communicate well in their language.

The Lithians seem to have an ideal society, a utopia without crime, conflict, ignorance or want. This is what seems to cause the difficulty in deciding whether the planet should be open or not. Fascinating premise, theologically. I'm not a believer in any sense, and Catholicism is particularly bizarre to me, but I can appreciate how the Jesuit perceives the Lithians, both good and bad, relative to his beliefs.

This book stands up well to the test of time, and was a very memorable read. I may seek out more from James Blish.

If you enjoyed this story, I highly recommend "The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell.