I’m reading, I’m watching, I’m listening to …

I’m reading, I’m watching, I’m listening to … October 14, 2015

I’m reading . . .

A Case of Conscience by James Blish (1958).


It turns out that the bland title has prevented anyone else in my house from picking this book up, and they had no idea it’s a Catholic science fiction adventure novel about a biochemist Jesuit who is on an alien planet collecting information about a society of super intelligent lizard-like creatures who do not sin and who have no apparent need for God, and what do we think about that? In his down time, he works on solving an arcane ethical dilemma posited in Finnegan’s Wake.

Confronted with a profound scientific riddle and ethical quandary, Father Ruiz-Sanchez soon finds himself torn between the teachings of his faith, the teachings of his science, and the inner promptings of his humanity. There is only one solution: He must accept an ancient and unforgivable heresy–and risk the futures of both worlds . . .

Crazy, man. I’ve read this book before, but thanks to my Swiss cheese memory, I have no idea how it ends. The writing is snappy and entertaining. Recommended so far, for a bright middle schooler or high schooler on up.


I’m watching . . . 

Puffin Rock, which premiered in January of this year. Everyone should be watching Puffin Rock. It’s on Netflix streaming, and it will help you remember that it’s a good world, really.

Sweet as can be. I don’t even mind when the song gets stuck in my head. Made by the same people who made “The Secret of Kells” and “Song of the Sea.”


I’m listening to . . .

the irreplaceable Jean Redpath. Here she is singing “Lady Mary Anne”

just in case you wanted to cry about stuff.


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  • Jesuits on an alien planet reminds me of The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell!

  • Yes, Mr. Blish has some interesting ideas, even if I don’t necessarily agree with his character’s conclusions. Certainly a good book for provoking discussion.

    I’ve reviewed a slew of books and other items since your last such post–what I think might be of most interest to this audience is “In the South Dakota Country” by Effie Florence Putney which is a grade school history book written in the 1920s (and reprinted in 2010 so you might be able to find a copy.) One chapter is about Father Peter John de Smet, the first Catholic priest to missionize in the area.

    The author tries to be even-handed to the Native Americans, but you might still want to have a discussion with younger readers about how attitudes have changed. http://www.skjam.com/2015/10/13/book-review-in-the-south-dakota-country/

  • Heather

    I remember reading A Case of Conscience several years ago. It was WEIRD! My friend and I still have an in joke about satanic lungfish. The thing that bugged me though was that the main character’s moral struggles seemed… I dunno, scrupulous? His crisis of conscience seemed forced to me, based on a notion that questioning is in and of itself the same as heresy. At least that’s how I remember it, as I said it’s been several years.

    • That’s the same issue I had with it — I don’t think it is actual heresy if you are trying to understand a concept as best you can.

      I also wished Blish did more showing and less telling, but for specific examples I’d have to look at what I wrote on my blog again.

  • Guest

    A pretty good Catholic science fiction book is ‘Voyage to Alpha Centauri’ by Michael O’Brien.