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

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The abridged audio version of Mary Doria Russell's sequel to The Sparrow is read by actor Stephen Lang, of Last Exit to Brooklyn fame, whose deep, dramatic voice perfectly suits this tale full of loss and redemption, despair, and hope. Children of God continues the story of Father Emilio Sandoz, the Jesuit priest whose faith was brutally tested when he was maimed and raped, and witnessed the deaths of his friends on the faraway planet of Rakhat. Sandoz has begun the long, slow work of healing body and soul, finding some measure of happiness in his new life. He finds himself an unwilling member of a second mission to Rakhat, where survivor Sophia Mendez struggles to live in a world torn by genocidal strife between the Runa and Jana'ata. Children of God is a respectable sequel to a brilliant first novel, one that brings back and further develops beloved characters, and adds depth to an already thoroughly realized world. Lang perfectly captures each character, using flawless accents and a broad range of emotion to bring a new immediacy to the story. (Running time: five hours, four cassettes) --Therese Littleton --This text refers to the Audio Cassette 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 (242 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,928 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

81 of 85 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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69 of 75 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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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Nana Annie on August 24, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As intriguing as the first novel, The Sparrow, Children of God kept me reading, but reluctantly. Why? Because I knew once I was finished, I'd have nothing comparable to read.
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.
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