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Children of God (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – Print, February 2, 1999
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
More About the Author
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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
Mary Doria Russell (a Catholic who converted to Judaism) is an excellent writer who is skilled at creating characters that seem real. Her books raise questions that open the mind and encourage conversation. They are wonderful to read alone, but would be great to read and discuss with fellow readers.
The story switches between Naples and Rakhat, and spreads between 2060 and 2096 Earth-Relative years. Three different locations are followed - Earth, Rukhat and the ship, Giardano Bruno. In addition, we follow the lives of Emilio Sandoz, Sophia Mendes (originally thought dead), and members of a Jana'Ata family, Hlavana Kiteri and his descendants. Despite the many viewpoints, and the time-changes, this is an enjoyable, thought-provoking read.
Was Jesuit priest Emilio Sandoz' original mission to Rakhat a success or a failure? Did God let him down? Is there more to be done before his work is finished? Sandoz is no longer longer judged by the Church's interrogators as a prostitute turned baby-killer. Still healing from the horrors of his experience and doubtful of his relationship with God, he is ready to move on, to make major changes in his life - including giving up his priesthood and marrying.
While Emilio is back on Earth, major changes are being made on Rukhat because of the Jesuit sponsored mission that started in the first book. The Runa have slowly begun questioning their sociological position. For centuries they were passive, accustomed to providing the Jana'Ata with everything from childcare to protein.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The Sparrow maybe be my favorite book, and this is a great follow-up. It picks up right where the first book left off and continues the story. Read morePublished 8 days ago by Joel
Different from THE SPARROW, but definitely a worthy sequel. THE SPARROW was a mystery at its heart; CHILDREN OF GOD is more straight-up science fiction, examining the fallout of... Read morePublished 11 days ago by Matt Weber
"When was the last time you got laid?"
The above line from Emilio Sandoz early on in the story encapsulates the subversive, understated wit that Mary Doria... Read more
I too felt that the Sparrow was a good standalone book and did not need a sequel, however, the sequel did turn out to be a fine book of its own. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Matthew
After reading the first book, The Sparrow, I knew I had to read the follow-up, and I want disappointed. Great story, very reflective on society and future societies.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
Both "The Sparrow" and "Children of God" we're excellent thought provoking books. However, "Children of God" answered many of the questions left hanging in... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Linda Corkadel
I'm going to do this book a disservice by giving a short review. I loved this book, it was a complete surprise to me as I was initially offput by the religious aspect (former... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Sm4rt4rse
These are the only two books I've ever read twice. I'm blown away by Russell's mastery in creating an entire civilization so real and convincing I would know how to interact with... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Melissa Hampton