name that sci-fi book!
February 26, 2007 3:47 PM   Subscribe

SciFi BookTitleFilter: I am preparing a segment on religious-themed or religion-oriented science fiction and trying to remember the name of a book I read in college...of course there's more!

The book centered around a future where earth became uninhabitable so a number of different cultures and groups set out to colonise new worlds. One of those groups was the Catholic Church, who got their own planet and had a chapel and a strict authoritarian streak. Then, their last earthly relic, the Shroud of Turin, was stolen by a group of reform-minded intellectuals. They hire a bounty hunter to find the relic, which takes a millenium. I know so much about this book, but for the life of me I cannot remember the title.
posted by parmanparman to Grab Bag (26 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I have no idea what the book is, but I think I'm going to read it when the title pops up. Sounds interesting.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 3:56 PM on February 26, 2007

This isn't it, but your description reminded me of another book to add to your list: A Canticle for Liebowitz.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 4:14 PM on February 26, 2007

I've never heard of it either, but I am reminded of Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke. I wouldn't call it religion-oriented, but there is definitely some commentary on the subject.
posted by comatose at 4:20 PM on February 26, 2007

It sounds like you're talking about Dan Simmon's Endymion series which was a follow-up to the far-better Hyperion series.
posted by sourwookie at 4:43 PM on February 26, 2007

You can't leave out of any such list many of the extraordinary short stories of Cordwainer Smith. Particularly those dealing with the pacific resistance of the Underpeople and the conspiracy of the Aitch Eye. "The Dead Lady of Clown Town" is the one that sticks to such themes the closest (and is by itself so good it's almost flooring).
posted by Iosephus at 5:00 PM on February 26, 2007

The description sounds familiar to me, but I don't know the name of the book either. I don't remember the Shroud of Turin in Endymion, wookie.

If you haven't already added it to your list, The Sparrow and its sequel should also be on it. Great book from a unique perspective.
posted by gemmy at 5:10 PM on February 26, 2007

After doing some thinking (it's been a few years since I read the whole Hyperion Cantos) I have to agree that there's probably no shroud there. There's oodles of religion around the work, though.
posted by Iosephus at 5:15 PM on February 26, 2007

I'd also suggest Ursula LeGuin's classic, Always Coming Home.

(I'm sorry I can't help with the title of what you're looking for, though I'd like to read it)
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:15 PM on February 26, 2007

Thank you all for the suggestions. I am working on getting Ursula K. LeGuin for my show, hopefully sometime in April. I;d love to find the name of this book but keep the suggestions for other books coming. They certainly do not need to be Christian-themed, my show looks at interfaith issues.
posted by parmanparman at 5:31 PM on February 26, 2007

If this question has turned into a list of religious-themed sf, you might find A Case of Conscience by James Blish to your liking.
posted by Ritchie at 5:41 PM on February 26, 2007

no, it has not turned into a list!
posted by parmanparman at 5:43 PM on February 26, 2007

For a Hinduism-oriented novel, consider Zelazny's Lord of Light.. Additionally, Clarke wrote an explicitly religious (or, perhaps, anti-religious) short story, The Star.
posted by MiamiDave at 6:48 PM on February 26, 2007

I believe you're talking about The Mansions of Space. And here is the search that eventually turned it up.
posted by anaelith at 6:52 PM on February 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oops, forgot to add, I also recommend reading Canticle, it's quite interesting.
posted by anaelith at 6:53 PM on February 26, 2007

Hooray for the MeFites! Keep your booklist suggestions coming. I will put the entire suggested reading list on my show's website (which you can access from my profile) when the segment airs. I will announce the segment on MeFi Projects so people are informed.
posted by parmanparman at 7:13 PM on February 26, 2007

How sad, I had the flash to perhaps book John Moressy, author of "the Mansions of Space" but he died in March, 2006.
posted by parmanparman at 7:19 PM on February 26, 2007

Short obits of minor SciFi authors always sound better in French:

John Morressy était âgé de 75 ans. Eclectique, il avait écrit une vingtaine de livres allant du space opera à la fantasy humoristique.
Mr. Morrisey avait publié Le fils des étoiles et Le barde des étoiles alors que les éditions Opta avaient édité Terre de glace, rêve de feu.
Plusieurs nouvelles étaient parues chez le même éditeur dans la revue Fiction.
posted by parmanparman at 7:22 PM on February 26, 2007

Snow Crash probably belongs on this non-list list. Cult-like religiosity is spread by a virus while other heroic figures (eg, Jesus) attempt to "rationalize" religion to stop the spread.
posted by salvia at 7:53 PM on February 26, 2007

If you're also looking for short stories, Ted Chiang's Stories of Your Life and Other Stories has a good one about angels and faith in it (actually, now that I think about it, it also has one about the Tower of Babel and one about golems, so it might be worth picking up in general. Plus it's awesome).
posted by inkyz at 8:32 PM on February 26, 2007

You probably already have it on your list, but James Morrow's Godhead trilogy fits the bill. His religious satire short story collection Bible Stories for Adults might be worth a look, too. (I haven't read him but he's at the top of my sci fi stack right now and comes highly recommended.)
posted by mediareport at 8:52 PM on February 26, 2007

Orson Scott Card's later Ender novels (beginning with Speaker of the Dead, and ending with Children of the Mind) feature Catholicism quite heavily.

Unfortunately, my enjoyment of the books took a hit when I discovered that Orson Scott Card is a bigoted fucktard who probably deserves to live in the militaristic autocracy he seems to desire... the sick son of a bitch!
posted by The Confessor at 9:20 PM on February 26, 2007

Walter Jon Williams had an excellent short story called "prayers on the wind", dealing with religion in a SF setting.
posted by dhruva at 10:30 PM on February 26, 2007

There was a story by James Blish, damned if I can remember the title, about future space explorers discovering the location of the Christmas Star, which turned out to be a nova which destroyed an inhabited planet.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:12 AM on February 27, 2007

I would definitely suggest Frank Herbert's Dune which features a great deal of mysticism and a version of Islam (though a bit skewed, from what I've been told). I can't comment on whether he's done a fair portrayal of any religion in particular, but there is a great deal of it and politics. Personally, I haven't been able to get past the 3rd book in the series, but I'm told it picks up a bit by the 6th book.

I do NOT recommend the latest related books by his son (?).
posted by oreonax at 4:54 AM on February 27, 2007

Steven, I believe the story about the nova that you're referring to is 'The Star' by Arthur C. Clarke. There are also quite a few Philip Jose Farmer short stories and novels on the subject of religion. One of them in particular presages some of the alien interpretations of Christian sacrifice found in the Ender books, but I can't remember which.
Definite second for The Sparrow - it's one of the best books I've read, and one of the miniscule number of sci-fi works I've managed to get my SO to read.
There's a reasonable chunk of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy that deals with Islamic thinking (mostly Sufism, IIRC), and its morphing into a native Martian mysticism.
Neil Gaiman's work deals with some older pagan gods, but I can't vouch for the veracity of the images. American Gods is worth the read regardless.
Branching into fantasy, Lewis's narnia books are a pretty straight Christian allegory, and LOTR is full of Norse/Christian imagery. OTOH Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' trilogy is a blatant anti-religious tract, and a damned good read into the bargain.
posted by Jakey at 5:03 AM on February 27, 2007

Steve C. Den Beste, you may also be thinking of James Blish's 'A Case of Conscience' which deals with a Catholic who investigates an alien race with no concept of God or religion. As Ritchie mentioned earlier in the thread, this is an excellent piece of science fiction.
posted by plep at 1:42 PM on February 27, 2007

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