on July 23, 2003
I couldn't wait to read Children of God after finishing The Sparrow (which I loved, by the way). However, I was disappointed in the sequel, which I found more confusing and less enthralling than the original. There were too many characters, so that none of them seemed as fully developed as the characters in the first novel. After awhile I was getting the various aliens mixed up with one another. I almost needed to take notes to keep them all straight! And although the 2nd book explains some of the events from the 1st book, at least one mystery remains unsolved - e.g. what DID happen to the party from the Contact Consortium (the guys who found Emilio Sandoz on Rakhat, returned him to Earth on his asteroid, and then disappeared)? That seemed like a real omission to me. Still, I think that if you enjoyed The Sparrow, you HAVE to read the sequel, simply because things were not always what they seemed in the first book, there is at least one really nice surprise, and Children of God fills in many of the missing pieces.
on February 27, 2012
Mary Doria Russell takes us back to Rakhat in her sequel to The Sparrow and I'm happy to say that I enjoyed the journey. With her main protagonist Emelio Sandoz in tow she once again paints a lush personal background for both his obstinate state of mind, but also the varied motivations of his newest companions in the venture. What I love about Ms Russell's writing is the way she forms her characters lives into a believable web of circumstances that ultimately lead them to a far off world filled with danger and possible death. She humanizes them; none perfectly good, none perfectly evil, yet all of them come alive to share in the humanity of not only the voyage back to Rakhat, but the lives that continue on in both the Runa villages, and the Ja'anta cities.
We find Sophia alive and struggling to make a life for herself and her new born son, Isaac, with the Runa. We know that change will soon sweep across the world introduced by author in the first novel, The Sparrow. And we learn that the events that have changed Emilio Sandoz's tortured life were not all as contrived as we once thought. Perception is certainly one of Ms Russell's main concepts in the sequel and she twists these varied personal perceptions from every angle possible.
If you have read The Sparrow and enjoyed it, you can't possibly miss with its sequel, Children Of God.
on May 2, 2011
I have been reading "legitimate" Sci-Fi (not fantasy) for over 40 years and this book (with its prequel "The Sparrow") is undoubtedly the BEST, most awe-inspiring, enrapturing novels ever written.
I have read both books 3 times, and each time I am in awe - of the details, the ethical and moral dissection, and the plot which is both entrancing and entrapping.
If you (or anyone you know) is into Sci-Fi or, for that matter, into the deepest aspects of the ethical and moral dilemmas of vastly different cultures and customs on a collision course, then you must read both novels.
Brilliant, fascinating, intelligent, deeply moving and religious throughout (regardless of your religious leanings), this novel speaks to everyone and challenges your views of the universe, the diversity of "life" there might be out there, and the effects of forcibly placing 2 vastly different worlds and their customs/ethics/morals together in one place.
I challenge you to find a better book in existence.
And.......to make things even better........after reading "The Sparrow" and being blown away, the sequel "Children of God" is EVEN BETTER!!!
on June 9, 2003
I just finished reading this book for the second time, and I'm wowed (re-wowed)! For me, it took two readings (two years apart) to fully appreciate this story. It involves peoples and individuals with a long memory of injustice and cruelties that govern their present relationships with bitterness, remorse, rage, fear, longings for peace, longings for revenge, and longing for the assurance of safety. I was reminded Israel and Palestine as I read it, but another reviewer thought of the American Indians, and the wonderful thing about science fiction is that it can be about any or all of our own stories. Russell delves compassionately into the personal stories of individuals caught in various sides of the "big picture." The first three-quarters of the book is build-up, background to the coming event--the return of humans to Rakhat. Anyone who has read "The Sparrow" will know that this encounter cannot possibly go as planned--and in fact, much of this background is to show how Rakhat has changed in response to its earlier contact with humans--changed in ways that the approaching travellers cannot imagine or be prepared for. Personally, I found the build-up more absorbing than the last quarter of the book, which contains the long-anticipated outcomes that were almost unbearable to face (although ultimately satisfying).
The book 'Children of God' is the sequel to Mary Doria Russell's award winning first novel, 'The Sparrow'. In this we take up once again with Father Emilio Sandoz, the only survivor of a doomed expedition to a nearby planet, set in the not-to-distant future. (Please see reviews of 'The Sparrow' for a little more detail about that.)
Most of the characters from the first novel have died (in this novel we discover how a few of the missing people from the first expedition met their fates), and due to the effects of near-light-speed travel, many decades have passed on earth while Father Emilio is still relatively young.
There are political crises on earth, including a crisis in the church, and there seems to be an urgent need for yet another expedition to Rakhat. In the interim, there have been several attempted journeys, all of which have failed. The church hierarchy decides that the only 'successful' trip was that of Father Emilio, and thus decides (largely without his consent) to send him off again.
At the same time, Rakhat has undergone a dramatic change, brought about in part by the arrival of the strangers, but also due to the political schemings of members of the dominant race, the Jana'ata. The Runa, always larger in population, begin to realise their oppressive situation, aided by renegade Jana'ata, and a civil war breaks loose. Into this situation the human expedition re-enters the scene on Rakhat.
This story completes many of the unfinished details from 'The Sparrow'. By filling in the blanks while also carrying the narrative forward, Russell's rather dark picture of the nature of God in the universe (as enacted by the creatures on earth and elsewhere) becomes a little lighter, a little more just, a little less doomed. There is, however, no answer to the personal injustices, to Father Emilio's abuse both at the hands of the Jana'ata and the Jesuit order.
Russell's development of the characters, both human and alien, deepens and broadens in this second novel; her imaginative history of the alien cultures is quite stunning, and her treatment of the strengths and weakness in human character insightful.
Read 'The Sparrow' and 'Children of God' back-to-back if at all possible.
on February 25, 2003
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. Within the events that humans arrival on Rakhat have provoked, there is a deep delving into the ethics of the 'the end justifies the means', played on a canvas where a species survival is the end stake.
There are some areas where I was not quite as pleased. The characterization of the aliens was just a little too human, even though such characterization does much to highlight the fact that the ethical problems of this book apply just as equally here on Earth. In some ways, the cultural parallels between the Jana'Ata and the American Indians were just a little too obvious. And once again, the story is not told in a totally linear fashion, with occasional flash-forwards to various later periods that then fill in the back-story of the history of the world after the main events of the book. While this type of structure worked very well in The Sparrow, here I thought it led to a little disjointedness to the story continuity and too much a lessening of suspense. Once again, there are some aspects of the portrayed science here that do not ring true. These are all minor quibbles, not seriously hurting the engrossing wholeness, the feeling of not only that this is how it could be, but the why of seemingly random and sometimes-cruel events.
There are very few works that approach these two books in terms of thematic depth and both intellectual and emotional reader involvement. Nominated for the 1999 Hugo Award, this book fully deserved that honor.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
on August 31, 2002
I know that many people consider _Children of God_ to be inferior to _Sparrow_, and certainly _Sparrow_ has a certain existential sincerity that few other sf novels posess. But on the whole I find the sequel even better than its predecessor. In particular, Russell's depiction of the alien society of the Jana'ata is much richer and more interesting than that found in _Sparrow_. In the first novel, the Jana'ata were monsters; here they come across as real people (albeit with a tail and claws) who have built a beautiful though profoundly sick civilization. The Jana'ata characters are arguably even better drawn than the humans--at least by the end of the novel the characters with whom I most identified were Jana'ata. And the dilemma of how to deal with a civilization guilty of great atrocities (without committing even greater atrocities in one's zeal for vengeance) is presented here more powerfully than anywhere else I know.
Some readers criticize the means by which Sandoz gets back to Rakhat. Yet in a way this underlines the profound moral ambiguity of the novels. The Pope and the General of the Jesuit order are presented as thoroughly good (even, in the case of the Pope, holy) people. Yet they violate Sandoz's free will in a high-handed, almost brutal way. And this violation is itself portrayed as the divinely ordained means by which Sandoz's wounds, and those of the planet Rakhat, may be healed. I understand those readers who find this contrived and unconvincing. Myself, I think it rings true with reality. By the end of the novel one cannot but think of Frodo's lament at the end of Lord of the Rings (I paraphrase); "I have saved the Shire, Sam, but not for me. Some must give things up, lose them, so that others may keep them."
The religious revelation with which the novel ends may likewise be unconvincing to some readers. But Russell has built the possibility of such a reaction into the story itself. My own reaction was to sob almost uncontrollably with heart-broken joy, not only the first time I read the ending but the second and (if memory serves) the third as well. But then, I respond to that sort of thing.
on July 20, 2002
Children of God continues the saga of Father Emilio Sandoz as he struggles to conquer the demons that torture and haunt him following his first trip to Rakhat. When he seemingly finds happiness and a measure of peace of mind, he is brutally snatched up against his will and returned to the scene of former heinous acts. Plunged once more into a sea of betrayal by those he trusted most, Sandoz once again finds himself in an abyss of physical and spiritual despair as he soars again through time and space to another adventure among an alien world.
Rakhat, however, is not so alien this time, regardless of the terrors its memory conjures up, and as Sandoz is reunited with Sophia Mendes, he learns acceptance and resolution for himself. In the process of absorbing the changes that have occurred in his absence of forty years, he learns that forgiveness is indeed within his reach as well as absolution for the sins he blames himself for.
In addition to Sandoz's story, the changing social history of Rakhat and its peoples is interesting and exciting as it presents a drastic and violent change in philosophy and ethics. New characters step into strong roles that catch our imagination and spark empathy with both sides.
All in all, Children of God is an excellent sequel to The Sparrow, although it still calls for more when it ends. Again, Mary Doria Russell has woven a spell of magic and wonder worthy of ancient and modern spiritual thought as she has raised the consciousness of all her readers about their own spiritual health and well being.
on May 23, 2002
Children of God by Mary Doria Russell is a magnificent book. It offers extremely satisfying science fiction, and it provides meaningful insight on man's relationship with God, asking tough questions about our relationsip with God and in the end offering great hope.
This does continue the story of The Sparrow which needed to be done. In Children of God, Emilio Sandoz leaves the priesthood and falls in love. Nevertheless, he still somehow ends up traveling back to Rakhat to face the terrible things that happened to him there. This novel doesn't just focus on Emilio as The Sparrow did, though. Children of God is much more plot oriented than The Sparrow. This novel uses a much wider panorama of characters, including extensive omniscient sections dealing with new inhabitants on Rakhat and with new members of this expeditions to Rakhat.
Children of God is not quite as good as The Sparrow mainly because it is so focused on the plot. 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. The Sparrow is written to a thesis which ever word of the novel builds towards. Children of God isn't so tightly focused. Excess pages and chapters are here which focus on less meaningful conflicts and characters and which don't always serve enlighten the reader. The book is still an amazingly compelling read, but it is slightly overlong. Children of God does have some amazing strengths, though. Russell is still examining humankind's relationship to God, here presented with much more of a Jewish view of God than the Christian view. Russell is still dealing with the problem of pain, still asking why it is man must suffer so much in this world. In Children of God, Russell delivers an amazing message of hope to man. We may not always understand God's poetry. In our lifetimes, we may not see any reason or our pain, but that doesn't mean God is not there loving us and injecting great meaning into our lives through pain. Children of God is a fabulous read and is very enlightening. By itself, it is not as good as The Sparrow, but together, the two novels make up some of the greatest literature I have ever read.
on October 21, 2000
"Children of God," equally worthy sequal to Mary Doria Russell's "The Sparrow," picks up where the earlier volume left off, with Father Emilio Sandoz confronting what happened to him during a doomed Jesuit expedition to the planet Rakhat. Sandoz, bitter, his faith in God challenged, seeks to leave the Society of Jesus.
Like "The Sparrow," the plot unfolds from two perspectives: On Earth, the Pope and the society's Father General have plans of their owns for a commercial mission to Rakhat. Sandoz refuses to be a part of these plans, leading to a thorny moral dilemma for the mission's advocates. And on the planet Rakhat, the missionaries' inadvertant overthrow of the Jana'ata's carefully controlled breeding of the Runa leads to chaotic upheavals in the planet's social structure.
The inability of Earth's and Rakhat's people to interpret context as well as language are the catalyst for the personal and large-scale upheavals that these two books chronicle. Much that Sandoz suffers in "The Sparrow" is due to his host, Suparri va Gayjur's misunderstanding. While Suparri's treatment of Sandoz seems like a betrayal in "The Sparrow," we learn in "Children of God" that he actually had good intentions for what he did based upon his understanding at the time.
Both books are wonderful examples of the use of fiction to present a sensitive and intelligent discussion of religious issues. Deeply moving and lyrical, the books are wonderful works of literature as well as outstanding representatives of what can be accomplished within the science fiction genre.