16—The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

It's 2019 and Jimmy Quinn has discovered a radio signal from Alpha Centauri. It is of incredibly beautiful singing. He shares this information with his friends Father Emilio Sandoz, a Jesuit priest, and George and Ann Edwards; he a retired civil engineer and she an emergency room doctor.

They keep the discovery to themselves and bring it to the Jesuits who mount an expedition to the planet.

On the planet they encounter a peaceful people who, they later learn, are the subservient species there. Through their encounter with the Runa they meet the dominant species. 

When the story opens it is 2060 and the only survivor of the mission, Father Sandoz, is returned to earth a broken man, on death's door step. His rescuers claim to have found him in a brothel serving as a prostitute for the local elite.

The Father General of the Jesuits convenes a panel to probe the whys and wherefores of the mission. Piece by piece the story unfolds and we eventually learn what happened to the 7 other people who were part of the mission and to Father Sandoz.

© Surveyor of the Passing Scene