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 September 3, 2000
I listened to the preceding book, The Sparrow, in its unabridged splendor from Brilliance Audio and rate it 5 stars, in spite of some slowness (mostly in the opening, but also in some of the "inquisition" scenes) that could have used tighter editing to remove redundancy and hasten the pace. Overall, the characters were superb, though, and this set my expectations quite high for the sequel.
It was with considerable anxiety that I settled for the abridged reading of Children of God from Random House audio. Better than nothing, I thought. But maybe I was wrong.
I found Stephen Lang's reading acceptable, though somewhat preferred David Colacci's reading of the first book from Brilliance Audio. In any case, both were competent and this was not the problem.
The first book sets us up to think Sophia dead, so it's quite exciting to find fairly early in this book that she's alive. However, given her history with Emilio, one can't hope but root for the two to seek in some way to restore some vestige of what they once had. Instead, the ultimate interactions between them seem not only unexpected, but so ill-motivated that I'm caused to wonder if some critical piece of personality development was lost in the abridgement.
Overall, this book introduces a number of interesting characters and then callously discards them in one way or another. Sometimes with anticlimactic successes, sometimes with empty and pointless deaths, and sometimes by just failing to mention them again further. I won't say which happened to who, but the fate of Rookaway, Supari, H'Anna'la, Suchmel, Qlavin Kithery, Sophia, and Isaac all left me feeling like something was amiss. Wonderful setups of interesting people. Great interactions. Terrible wrapup.
To some extent, I felt a little this way about the first book, but the fact that it was working toward a central powerful ending forgave the callous treatment of the minor characters. In this book, though, the ending was week, and Emilio's role was less central, except in the sense of the barebones structure of the narrative. As such, the outcome of the others mattered more.
I'm betting The Sparrow took years to put together, and that the sequel was hurried out of the author by an overanxious publisher. If that's the reason, the lesser quality is understandable, though no less lamentable. I would so love to see this book rewritten with different outcomes for most of the characters.
on January 24, 2000
For those who admired the soul-searching tenor of the first book, The Sparrow, there's very little of that here. Despite attempts to reintroduce the spiritual and moral concerns of the first volume, this second book is primarily concerned with events...telling the long and complicated story of what unfolds on Rakhat after the first mission. The actual presence of priests in this book is for the most part a red herring. Unlike the very plausible scenario of the first book, which found Jesuits doing what they have always done--rushing forward to the vanguard of exploration in the name of God--the second book requires a ridiculous and infuriatingly contrived Camorra (Mafia) kidnapping ploy to get its characters into space. With that said, the story itself is an interesting one, and those who appreciated the first book will enjoy the deeper insights into Rakhati culture. I would advise, however, against expecting too much of this sequel--it aspires to, but does not reach, the thought-provoking heights of its predecessor.
p.s. For the record, Merriam Webster Online reports the definition of celibacy is: 1 : the state of not being married 2 a : abstention from sexual intercourse b : abstention by vow from marriage
Seems to me Russell used the word correctly, by definition 2a. Besides, when it comes to matters of grammar and usage, one could just as well blame the writer's editor as the writer herself.
on September 3, 1999
It's about what I expected in a second half. (Me thinks she could have written more but her editor put a limit on the number of pages.) Her writing style is noticeably improved as her moving back and forth into time is not as abrupt as in The Sparrow. Supaari VaGayjur's character was well developed, as he becomes up being more tragic than Emilio Sandoz. Russell got me to judge Supaari at the end of the Sparrow as Voelkering judged Sandoz at the beginning-- good trick!. While the discourse of the pre-revolutionary Machiavellian politics was interesting in the Children of God, I was more interested with the spiritual dilemmas brought up in The Sparrow. Perhaps it is because Russell spends so much time on Fr. White Horse's pet subject, that the spiritual redemption of Emilio is anticlimactic, even hollow, if it ever reaches a clear resolution. I felt that Emilio came to peace with himself and even forgave Supaari VaGayjur and Havlin Kitheri -- he had to or the hatred would have killed him. But his relationship to God at the end seems just as distant, just as far removed as when he realized that his pleas during the rapes seemed to be futile gestures. It seems that Russell has two main threads one is of a spiritual nature and another demonstrates how even the political correctness of the late 20th & 21st century cannot prevent the sociopolitical havoc wreaked by a 'first contact' situation. In the first thread, Sandoz's experiences are not too dissimilar to Job, Jeremiah and other Biblical Prophets. The latter thread is very similar to the experiences of the early European 'Discoverers' of the Americas and our current judgement of their insensitivity. In the Sparrow, the political events help to drive Emilio's journey froward while in the Children of God the roles are reversed. I think it is this reversal that makes the Children of God not as satisfying to me.
on August 20, 1999
I find it interesting that amazon.com critics have given this volume a better overall review than the first book, "The Sparrow." I myself was enraptured by the first book, its human characters, the excellent meshing of linguistics, anthropology and theology, and Sandoz' almost Jesusian experience.
"Children of God" I cannot even get through. I have been wading through it for weeks and can't get into it. Sure, it's nice that Sofia survived because she was a cool neo-feminist and all, but the whole interplay between her, Supaari and her son Isaac is quite odd. Isaac seems like some kind of autistic prophet, which is rather bizarre to me. Russell seems to go into rather esoteric ideas about religion and civics in this volume. I have to admit, I have no idea at the point I'm at what is going on between Sandoz and the members of the Hugo crew. I can't figure out at all who's good and bad. Iron Horse? Sean Fein? And who are these Italian thugs, the megalomaniac conqueror Carlo seems more fit for an X-Men comic than Russell's universe....and did Father Giuliani put them up to this? If so, it ruins his character from the previous book, I'd say. I also don't find the VaRakhati characters very interesting in this one.
In conclusion, I guess sometimes you really should let the dead rest. The legacy of characters like Jimmy, Anne and George is done little honor by digging them around. In my mind, Sandoz's quest was finished in "The Sparrow."
on April 23, 2002
"Children of God" certainly does a good job of filling in the blanks left by "The Sparrow." Anyone who has read the first book will find the second worthwhile.
The book also does a good job of again making the point that missionaries who "mean no harm" can and do alter the societies they set out to help...and whether that is for better or for worse depends on your point of view.
In "The Sparrow," Russell moved the reader between two time periods, which was only slightly confusing and seemed to work pretty well in moving the story along while exploring the later consequences of events. However, in this book, the story jumps all over the calendar, and the constant shifting of time sequences seems more like a gimmick than a connective narrative tissue.
Although the book is about a Catholic mission, Judaic themes figure rather more prominently...and more favorably.
on August 6, 1998
I'm a Catholic going to a Jesuit university who has returned from the typical youthful alienation from organized religion to the (occasionally smothering) embrace of Mother Church. If you're like me you should give this book a try. Its concept is audacious and its behind-the-scenes humor (the Pope and the Father General bargaining over birth control, Neapolitan crime families) appealing. The issues it tackles are ones that compel me: revolution and progress; genocide and liberation from that; and behind it all, the intimation of God's hand ... heck, I'm hooked. How about you? Can't say if you'll like it--but give it a try.
on March 26, 2000
Unfortunately, this was rather a let-down as a sequel. THE SPARROW was an incredible book that deserved to be written and read. This one doesn't match up at all. I found the Sandoz character's quandries to be extremely redundant from the first book and rather boring (we've HEARD all of it already). The developments on Rakhat were interesting but really could have been included in the first book as a condensed couple of additional chapters. Ultimately I'd say reading THE SPARROW is a must, but save your money on CHILDREN OF GOD
on September 25, 1998
Children of God isn't nearly as intriguing and inspiring as The Sparrow. Still, I enjoyed the closure it brought to the original story. I found the chronology of the story very confusing and difficult to follow. No question though that Mary Doria Russell is an author worth reading, even when she's not at her best.
on June 28, 1999
A decent ending to a good first novel. I had a bit of trouble with Sandoz finding redemption. I found that I didn't care much for the characters either. I also found some of the plot unbelieveable. Not a bad book, but not great either.