A Case of Conscience 

by James Blish

 

 

The story of Father Ruiz-Sanchez's journey to another world and back is a riveting look at a convoluted question. The priest is a scientist, and has managed to balance what many mistakenly see as conflicting world views for a very long time. As he encounters another intelligent species and watches it interact with his own, though, he is faced with a dilemma. This beautiful new race he has encountered, he finds is totally reliant on cold reason, incapable of faith or belief.


Ruiz-Sanchez deals with his struggles, ultimately having to decide between the teachings of his faith and the teachings of his scientific background. A more basic force, the tug of humanity in his heart, is also at work underneath all of his learning (of either sort). He seeks to unravel the riddle that has been set before him, and the reader is taken through the many winding paths that his mind makes.


It is always interesting to speculate what all of the spiritual implications of intelligent life on other planets will be, when and if we finally contact those species. Blish does a wonderful job of exploring some very difficult questions in relation to this problem. His writing is engaging, his tale is gripping, and his insights are profound. As with all of Blish's novels, A Case of Conscience is one that is difficult to put down, and even harder to forget.


reviewed by Shelly Bryant ©2009