The title had “:a novel” after the title (so, “Book Title: a Novel”) cause I remember as a young person wondering what that meant.

It was a story about young man/teen who crash landed and was all alone on an alien planet. I seem to recall he got attacked by a pterodactyl-type creature and had an injured shoulder for most of the story. I also seem to remember that he was in a weird cave system for a lot of the book.

I don’t remember if he found a ship to escape or if he wound up staying on the planet.

I seem to remember the cover art being very blue.

  • 1
    Hi. When did you read the book?
    – Spencer
    Jan 19, 2020 at 14:28
  • Could this possibly be Catalyst: A Novel of Alien Contact by Nina Kiriki Hoffman? "Running from a bully, a young man leaps into a strange cave—a place that will transform him forever. Sliding down the slippery slope, Kaslin enters a physical world ruled by an alien intelligence" It's a YA book, but not Christian as far as I can tell. Also the cover art isn't blue, and I'm not able to tell if it matches the other details you recall. goodreads.com/book/show/473871.Catalyst strangehorizons.com/non-fiction/reviews/… It was published in 2006.
    – Kenny
    Jul 14, 2020 at 17:04

1 Answer 1


You might check out The Sparrow: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell. Here's the summary from Kirkus:

Brilliant first novel about the discovery of extraterrestrial life and the voyage of a party of Jesuit missionaries to Alpha Centauri.

Russell lays down two narratives: One begins in 2059, in the aftermath of the mission; the other in 2019, when a young astronomer intercepts a transmission of haunting songs from Alpha Centauri. In the latter, a linguist and Jesuit priest named Emilio Sandoz swiftly organizes a group of Jesuits and civilian specialists to turn an asteroid into a spaceship. The ship will reach the singing planet, called Rakhat, in four years of passenger time, even though 17 years will pass on Earth. In the narrative beginning in 2059, therefore, the mission's only survivor, Sandoz himself, is only a decade older. But he is a broken man physically and spiritually. The mission began well: Rakhat was beautiful and bountiful, and the men and women from Earth lived peacefully alongside a gentle and dreamy race, rather like the eloi of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, here called the runa. Then, inadvertently, the visitors improve the local diet, causing a surge in births among the Runa; suddenly, another, fiercer race appears to put things right. It seems that the Jana'ata raise the Runa like rabbits. The newborn are slain and eaten, as is the party from Earth, except for Sandoz, who is taken to the strange capitol city and sold into a brothel. There, he is raped repeatedly by the great poet who wrote the angelic songs that fetched the Jesuits in the first place. A startling portrait of an alien culture and of the nature of God as well, since, in his utter humiliation and in the annihilation of his spirit, Sandoz is reborn in faith.

It's got a young single survivor on an alien world. I don't know about the pterodactyl thing or the shoulder injury or the caves. There's a strong religious component to the story, so that fits your recollection of Christian-ish. The cover art is blue, and at least one edition has the words "a novel" as you remember it.

Cover art for The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

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    There is nothing like a pterodactyl in Doria Russell's fantastic The Sparrow (nor in it's sequel Children of God), there was also not a crash, and at least two members of the first ship survive to the second book. Given that there are subsequent ships, "all alone" is a bit of a stretch. Likewise, none of the main characters are soldiers, and there is no elaborate cave system. Finally, a character is seriously injured, but it is not the shoulder.
    – Lexible
    Jan 19, 2020 at 0:36
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    OK, it's probably not the book Podeque is looking for then. Also, if the plot of The Sparrow includes the main character being sold into a brothel and repeatedly raped, it's not likely to be mis-remembered as a juvenile. It looks like a great book though. I'm always on the lookout for science fiction books that treat religion seriously, so I may have to put this one on my to-read list.
    – Kenny
    Jan 19, 2020 at 2:05
  • OMG! If you have not read it, or the sequel, you should very much hop on it! :) (Sez me.)
    – Lexible
    Jan 19, 2020 at 3:01

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