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Children of God (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – February 2, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

Children of God is the sequel to Mary Doria Russell's 1996 The Sparrow, which saw a Jesuit mission to the planet Rakhat end in disaster. The sole survivor of that mission, a priest named Emilio Sandoz, returned a beaten and broken man, having suffered rape and mutilation at the hands of enigmatic aliens. Now the Jesuits want to go back to Rakhat, and they want Sandoz aboard the new mission. But Sandoz has renounced his priesthood and even found a measure of happiness with his new wife and stepdaughter. Meanwhile, on Rakhat, contact with the humans has thrown the local culture into turmoil, precipitating a war between Rakhat's two sentient races. As forces conspire to send Emilio back to Rakhat--and toward a possible reconciliation with God--the planet verges on genocidal destruction. Children of God is a more polished novel than The Sparrow, and the story is equally compelling. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Russell follows her speculative first novel, The Sparrow, with a sequel that will please even readers new to her interplanetary missionaries. Having returned from a disastrous, 21st-century expedition to the planet Rakhat, Jesuit Father Emilio Sandoz, the sole survivor of the mission, faces public rage over the order's part in the war between the gentle Runa and the predatory Jana'ata?fury more than matched by the priest's own self-hatred and religious disillusionment. In the sequel, he is forced to return to Rakhat with a new expedition more interested in profits than prophets. When they discover the planet in turmoil and the Runa precariously in power, the temptation to interfere is more than they can withstand. As in her first book, Russell uses the entertaining plot to explore sociological, spiritual, religious, scientific and historical questions. Misunderstandings between cultures and people are at the heart of her story. It is, however, the complex figure of Father Sandoz around which a diverse interplanetary cast orbits, and it is the intelligent, emotional and very personal feud between Father Sandoz and his God that provides energy for both books. 50,000 first printing; BOMC selection; audio rights to Random House Audio; author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Ballantine Reader's Circle
  • Paperback: 438 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (February 2, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 044900483X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449004838
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (216 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mary Doria Russell has been called one of the most versatile writers in contemporary American literature. Her novels are critically acclaimed, commercial successes. They are also studied in literature, theology and history courses in colleges and universities across the United States. Mary's guest lectures have proved popular from New Zealand to Germany as well as in the U.S. and Canada.

Her debut novel, THE SPARROW, is considered a classic of speculative fiction, combining elements of First Contact science fiction and a tense courtroom drama. Its sequel, CHILDREN OF GOD, is a sweeping three-generation family saga. Through the voices of unforgettable characters, these novels raise respectful but challenging fundamental questions about religion and faith. Together, the books have won eight regional, national and international awards. They have also been optioned for Hollywood movies starring Antonio Banderas and Brad Pitt, and they have inspired both a rock opera and a full-scale bel canto opera.

Next, Russell turned to 20th century history. A THREAD OF GRACE is the story of the Jewish underground near Genoa during the Nazi occupation of Italy. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, this thriller "moves swiftly, with impressive authority, jostling dialog, vibrant personalities and meticulous, unexpected historical detail. The intensity and intimacy of Russell's storytelling, her sharp character writing and fierce sense of humor bring fresh immediacy to this riveting WWII saga," according to Publisher's Weekly.

Her fourth novel, DREAMERS OF THE DAY, is both a romance and a disturbingly relevant political novel about the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference, when Winston Churchill, T.E. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell invented the modern Middle East. The Washington Post Book World called it "marvelous and rewarding... a stirring story of personal awakening set against the background of a crucial moment in modern history." Nominated for the 2008 IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize, Dreamers of the Day is also being adapted for the stage by Going to Tahiti Productions in New York City.

As a novelist, Mary is known for her exacting research -- no surprise, when you know that she holds a Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology from the University of Michigan. Before leaving Academe to write, Mary taught human gross anatomy at the Case Western Reserve University School of Dentistry. That background came in handy for her fifth novel, DOC, a murder mystery set in Dodge City in 1878, when the unlikely but enduring friendship between Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday began, four years before the famous shoot-out at the O.K. Corral.

"It's about vice, bigotry, violence, and living with a terminal disease," Russell says. "And Doc Holliday is going to break your heart." DOC was nominated for the Pulitzer in 2011, named a Notable Book by the Kansas State Library and won the Great Lakes Great Reads prize. The story has been optioned by Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman for an HBO series.

Mary is currently at work on the story of the Tombstone gunfight (working title: THE CURE FOR ANGER). "DOC is The Odyssey," she says. "What happened in Tombstone forms the basis of an American Iliad." Expect it in late 2014 from HarperCollins Ecco imprint.

Customer Reviews

It did not need stock bad guys or good guys to make it a success.
In The Sparrow, Russell's primary focus was to deal with the great dilemma that Emilio is facing, his struggle to love a God who allows him to go through such pain.
Strong character development, very interesting plots on the alien world, and an extremely satisfying ending.
R. L. Cobleigh

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 84 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on October 6, 2004
Format: Paperback
Like many readers, I found The Sparrow to be one of the most moving and exciting Science Fiction books to come out in recent memory. I almost did not want to read the sequel because I was afraid that it was going to be a disappointment.

While perhaps Children of God is not as original as The Sparrow, it is not (I am relieved to say) a disappointment. It picks up the themes that were explored so well in the first book and develops them in a number of new and satisfying ways. Rakhat is considerably more developed, as is the interspecies conflict between the Runa and the Jana'ata. As in the first book, Russell uses a sure and blessedly light hand to link the events on the two planets to the long-standing moral issues that have concerned humanity.

There are weaknesses in the Children of God that are largely tied to the Earth side of the story. A few of the less necessary characters have the unfortunate feel that they exist simply to move the plot along. Since Russell uses so few cliches in her writing, it unfortunately hits a very sour note on the few occasions where her talent for writing character fails. It did not need stock bad guys or good guys to make it a success. The book also did not need the dramatic 'reward' offered at the end by Isaac and his discovery. The hand of God would have been clear enough in the unfolding events on Rakhat, and additional proof felt unnecessary. Not bad, but unnecessary.

Properly speaking, this book would probably be rated four stars rather than five. However, there are so few writers working with this level of inventiveness. For that reason, and for the strength of the two books taken together, I am rating it as five stars.
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68 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Jim Mann on March 25, 1998
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow was one of the best SF books of 1996 and a remarkable first novel. That novel, which involved first contact with aliens living on the planet Rakhat (orbiting Alpha Cetauri) worked well on a number of levels. It told a good story, had interesting characters, creating a fascinating alien civilization, and explored some interesting philosophical issues. The ending of the book left me stunned and nearly in tears. I was thus rather worried when I heard that Russell was at work on a sequel. I wasn't convinced that the book needed a sequel and wasn't sure that any sequel could live up to The Sparrow.
Children of God isn't quite as good as The Sparrow. However, although it doesn't have quite the impact of the original, it is still a fine novel in its own right. The book interweaves two stories: the story of Emilio Sandoz and his return to Rakhat and the story of what happened on Rakhat after the original Jesuit mission failed and Sandoz was sent back to earth. The two stories together continue and in many ways complete much of the story of The Sparrow, in a way that makes the book feel like a natural, almost essential sequel.
On Rakhat, war has broken out. The Runa, the herbivore species that were both the servants and the food of the planet's other intelligent species, the Jana'ata, have risen up against their former masters. At the same time, Jana'ata society itself is undergoing great changes, in fact is undergoing a mostly progressive social revolution, lead by the same Jana'ata who was the source of Emilio's brutalization in The Sparrow. Russell does a very good job here of not giving us good guys and bad guys in this struggle.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 31, 1999
Format: Paperback
It's almost not fair to think of The Sparrow and Children as two seperate novels, since their plots tie in so closely and could just as easily be combined into one coherent book. That being said, Children is everything The Sparrow(Also a 5 star book in my opinion) was, and a little more in some places!
There is much more background on Rakhati history and culture given here, which certainly helped me make sense of a few lingering questions I had from The Sparrow(which I'll be reading again in a month or two, of course!) Many questions left open about the characters of The Sparrow(particularly Emilio Sandoz) are also answered, which leads to a better understanding of the storyline of both books, although Children won't be nearly as an enjoyable or understandable to someone who hasn't read The Sparrow.
I highly recommend this novel to anyone who read The Sparrow and enjoyed it, and I recommend the Sparrow followed by Children of God to anyone looking for an engrossing novel on spirituality, religion, and what it all means.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Shepherd VINE VOICE on February 25, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After reading just two of Ms. Russell's books, I'm a confirmed fan, and hope she writes many more. This book is a direct sequel to The Sparrow, and while there is some explanatory material about the events in The Sparrow in this book, I'm afraid someone who hasn't read the earlier book will feel a little lost, and will definitely not be able to appreciate the full power of this book.

Once more I found myself irresistibly drawn to Ms. Russell's full-bodied characters. Emilio Sandoz, the Jesuit priest who has been through a myriad number of events that would test anyone's faith, in this book begins to find a way to believe that life is still worth living, that he can still be of benefit to the people around him. Sophia Mendez, the quiet, withdrawn, abused, and highly intellectual lady finds a reason to return to the faith of her parents when she finds herself marooned on Rakhat, surrounded by enslaved Runa. New characters of Giardano Bruno and his bodyguard Nico prove that Russell can portray many kinds of people in a very believable manner.

Perhaps the reason these characters are so fascinating is that each of them has their own outlook on life, their own problems, their own ways of coping with life's vagaries. When placed within the Runa/ Jana'Ata society, each person's attempts to influence that society becomes magnified, each action leading to consequences both foreseen and totally unexpected. Which brings to the fore the focus of this book, which is much more about cross-cultural relations and impacts than religion, though the original questions of The Sparrow are not slighted here.
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