A Case of Conscience

  • by James Blish
  • Narrated by Jay Snyder
  • 8 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Father Ruiz-Sanchez is a dedicated man - a priest who is also a scientist, and a scientist who is also a human being. He has found no insoluble conflicts in his beliefs or his ethics...until he is sent to Lithia. There he comes upon a race of aliens who are admirable in every way except for their total reliance on cold reason; they are incapable of faith or belief.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 . . .

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What the Critics Say

Hugo Award, Best Novel, 1959"Kudos to Audible Frontiers for carefully audiobooking this Hugo Award novel. A Case Of Conscience is an SF classic!" (SFFaudio.com)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Excellent audio book of a Hugo winning story

I had long been hesitant to listen to this audio book because one of the first reviews was truly awful. I can't begin to guess why that original reviewer bashed this audio book. It's an excellent read of a very good Hugo winning story. I guess the lesson I learned is "you can't always rely on others reviews." This audio book is highly recommended from me.
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- Amazon Customer

Sci-fi first, thought provoking theological second

Have you ever wonder how the Catholic church would deal with sentient extraterrestrial contact? This is a science fiction story first and a thought provoking theological and philosophical study second. Originally written as a novella, and then expanded into a novel it very much feels like two separate stories.

The strong story is of biologist, biochemist and Jesuit priest Fr. Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez. He is part of a scientific mission to determine what kind of relationship, if any, Earth should establish with the Lithians. A sentient lizard like species with no religion or concept of morality, yet instinctively established an idealistic Christian society. This causes the Priest to reach a rather unexpected, but plausible once explained, conclusion dealing with an area of theology I was unfamiliar with. I won't spoil the surprise but it causes a crisis of faith he must struggle with both internally and with the church.

The other weaker story deals with an alien egg being brought to Earth, raised essentially isolated in a lab, and introduced into human society. Without morals (not in their biology) he challenges the establishment and human nature.

The world is very well developed and thought out. The aliens are well realized, they are not just 'different humans.' They are lizard like who think differently and even scientifically evolved differently due to a lack of metals. It is well thought out and described.

However, like any classic science fiction the future didn't turn out the way the story tells it. Earth cities have turned into underground 'shelters' due to the nuclear cold war scare. It's an interesting alternative take and nothing too jarring. Interesting how influence of talk show personality and celebrity culture still relevant today.

Dealing with religion themes can be difficult but I thought it was handled well, with respect and the author has done his research.

In fact, I found the forward most interesting. The author accounts the feedback he'd received from theological scholars, including the actual Church's guidelines on dealing with extraterrestrials. Essentially there are three possibilities, the aliens have no soul, they have a soul and share our state of having fallen (original sin) or they haven't fallen an are in a state of grace.

If you like heavy themes of philosophy, morality, and not scared off by religious themes give it a read.
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- Nathan

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-21-2008
  • Publisher: Audible Studios