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Children of God (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – Print, February 2, 1999
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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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
I resisted this book for years. How could anything live up to The Sparrow? Oh, me, of little faith, the circle is so beautifully completed.
Read The Sparrow first, and then this wonderful book takes you on the same journey as the crew of the Stella Maris, because what you think you understand, what seems obvious to you, is utterly wrong. The villains of the first piece have agendas so different from your assumptions that, after surviving the shock of the first book, you will have to rethink everything. Ms. Russell didn't lie to us, she just let us make all the wrong conclusions. Of all the ideas these books present, this feels the truest - As Fr. Sandoz says of Voelker in The Sparrow, "...It's human nature. He wanted it to be some mistake I made that he wouldn't have made." We all made exactly the same mistake at the end of The Sparrow. We thought we'd sorted it out.
That the characters I so loved could come back into my life and make me cry all over again is a testament to Ms. Russell's amazing skill with a story. And her depth of knowledge in so many fields weaves a tapestry of ideas, emotions and people. Philosophy and physics, theology and revolution, genetics and music, an amazing, emotional roller coaster of sentient life and intelligent reading.
Impossible to classify, these two books together cover the whole spectrum of fiction, should have their own wall at the book store. Courtroom style drama, space travel, religion, love story, communication failure and success, personal drama, time travel, cosmic misunderstandings and even an invented botany lesson or two. What a feast!
In a lifetime of hungry reading, The Sparrow is my favorite book. This is the end of The Sparrow.
Thank you Mary Doria Russell for a most thoughtful, useful, and interesting excursion!
I found Emilio's decision (in Children of God) to leave the priesthood for marriage and an (apparently) posh life a definite let down, a "maybe saint" settling for bourgeois gratification. His "rescue" from this fate feels like something out of a comic book. I have read about 200 pages and there is some good writing, but it cannot possibly equal The Sparrow.
Mary Doria Russell (I always want to precede her name with "Sister") spins a lovely yarn, with beautiful language, and its strengths lay more in its spiritualism and character development. As a "hard" scifi novel, it suffers.
The scientists, priests, and entrepreneurs of the new mission apparently attended the "Prometheus" school of exobiology and space exploration, as they have absolutely no clue about basic quarantine and first contact protocols. Blithely, they prance out of their spaceship and breathe the air and immediately sample the local wares. This, despite the fact that of the two previous missions, only two humans have survived. Do bad things happen as a result? Yep.
And speaking of that second mission. Their arrival ended the first book. They were gone by the second. Mentioned briefly in dialog, but afterwards, no one shows any real interest in finding out what ultimately happened to them. That's sad. In a sense, their fates were more tragic that what happened to Father Sandoz.
When faced with the need to find a new food source, the predatory alpha alien species appear to be clueless on the matter of "hunting" or "domestication" of animals. "Why don't you hunt and eat those big animals over there?" "Ohh, no, they're too big and scary..." Really? You're a culture that apparently developed radio technology. Your armies have "artillery" and "armor", so you'd think you'd have guns. Bows? Spears? Something? No? OK, then, I guess you'll have to starve.
Oh, and that whole alien butt gang rape thing that represented the big reveal of the first book? That was just a biiiig misunderstanding. So sorry. Boy, are our faces red. Phew, glad we got that settled. We're cool now, right? You mad, bro?
Most interesting to me is that a big plot point, a conspiracy that results in a HUGE betrayal, occurs almost exactly midway through the book. I felt it was a wasted opportunity. Just as she did in the first book, Russell could have kept that card up her sleeve, letting the story play out, past and future, until the very end, where the truth is revealed and the timelines connected. Instead, I felt it let the steam out of the story, and the book kind of petered out to a weak ending.