Children of God

Posted by : atcampbell | On : July 6, 1999

Children of God by Mary Doria Russell

Six people participated in the discussion of Children of God, which is a current Hugo nominee. This book is the sequel to Russell’s Tiptree Award-winning “Jesuits in space” first novel, The Sparrow. The story starts as Father Emilio is finally learning to enjoy life again after the devastating first contact mission to Rakhat. Then the Catholic Church decides to send a second mission to Rakhat, and Emilio is forced to participate. When Emilio and the rest of the mission team arrive, they find that their first visit led to major changes on Rakhat as well as on Earth.

All of us found the story and Russell’s prose compelling. One person had not read The Sparrow, but he found the author did a good job of filling him in on the necessary background. Emilio is a sympathetic character, so we are pleased when he finds happiness and devastated when the Pope yanks it away from him. This book has a textured and layered structure more ambitious than The Sparrow, and it’s pulled off beautifully. We learn a lot more about the aliens, but the author avoids making them too human. Various forms of politics (within Earth’s government, the Catholic Church, and two alien societies) are important plot elements of this book. This book made us care about its characters, and we laughed, worried, and cried about them.

The book had only minor problems. Emilio is less central to the plot here than he was in The Sparrow, which some may find disappointing. A revelation near the end that’s supposed to provide a big conceptual payoff only worked for about half of our group, with the rest finding it a letdown.

Overall half of our group said that the loved this book, and the rest said they liked it a lot. We recommend it to lovers of good fiction.

— A. T. Campbell, III