God’s Fires

Posted by : atcampbell | On : February 16, 1999

God’s Fires by Patricia Anthony

Seven members attended this discussion, and one person sent her comments by e-mail. God’s Fires is a “secret history” about an alien encounter in historic Portugal during the Inquisition. Characters meeting the aliens include villagers, a local priest, several representatives of the Inquisition, and Portugal’s mentally challenged king.

We found this book both intriguing and disturbing. Since the Inquisition is a major factor in the plot, it has tragic elements. All of the characters were well developed, and their personalities ranged from caring to belligerent to (in the case of a high-ranking Inquisitor) lacking in compassion. The book was well written and it kept us turning the pages rapidly, even though we feared bad things would happen to characters we cared about. And despite all the gloomy goings-on, the book contains a lot of humor.

One of Anthony’s best achievements was in exploring differing reactions of the Catholic priests to the aliens. Some considered them to be angels, and others looked for scientific explanations. Others didn’t want to figure out what the aliens were, but just considered them problems to be dealt with.

Most of us had read Anthony’s work before. We all feel that God’s Fires is her best book to date. At the end of the meeting, one member of the group asked if we thought this was a memorable book that we’d recall after several months. The general impression was yes, but we said that we’d be able to answer this better in the future.

— A. T. Campbell, III