Children of God

  • by Mary Doria Russell
  • Narrated by Anna Fields
  • 17 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Mary Doria Russell's debut novel, The Sparrow, took us on a journey to a distant planet and into the center of the human soul. A critically acclaimed best seller, The Sparrow was chosen as one of Entertainment Weekly's Ten Best Books of the Year, a finalist for the Book-of-the-Month Club's First Fiction Prize and the winner of the James M. Tiptree Memorial Award. Now, in Children of God, Russell further establishes herself as one of the most innovative, entertaining and philosophically provocative novelists writing today.The only member of the original mission to the planet Rakhat to return to Earth, Father Emilio Sandoz has barely begun to recover from his ordeal when the Society of Jesus calls upon him for help in preparing for another mission to Alpha Centauri. Despite his objections and fear, he cannot escape his past or the future. Old friends, new discoveries and difficult questions await Emilio as he struggles for inner peace and understanding in a moral universe whose boundaries now extend beyond the solar system and whose future lies with children born in a faraway place.Strikingly original, richly plotted, replete with memorable characters and filled with humanity and humor, Chil-dren of God is an unforgettable and uplifting novel that is a potent successor to The Sparrow and a startlingly imaginative adventure for newcomers to Mary Doria Russell's special literary magic.


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Customer Reviews

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A weaker, but worthwhile sequel

Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow was a beautifully complex human drama, which happened to be dressed in science fiction clothing. In it, a diverse cast of people set off to another star system, in hope of making humanity's first contact with another intelligent species. Though the mission was successful at first, it ultimately shattered in tragedy, leaving one survivor, a maimed, spiritually broken priest named Emilio Sandoz. Through his eyes, the story told is one of faith disappointed, and the struggle to come to terms with what the word "faith" might still mean after such trauma -- whether in humanity, in the people of other planets, or in the ultimate design of the universe.

I'm not sure if The Sparrow was a book that needed a sequel, but Russell felt that Emilio Sandoz's story wasn't finished, and contrives a way to bring him back to Rakhat, as well as a mission for him when he gets there. Thus, we get a second space expedition, with another crew of history-freighted characters. Meanwhile, on Rakhat (decades pass during transit), the native aliens find their attitudes changed by their contact with the foreigners, which sets in motion a civil war between the plant-eating "slave" species and the dominant, but less numerous predatory "master" species.

Children of God is as thoughtful a book as its predecessor, and Russell does an admirable job of expanding on the themes she established in the Sparrow, finding hope, meaning, and connections to religious ideas in events on Rakhat, while maintaining a vision of a God that’s ultimately mysterious. The plotting, however, feels more labored this time around, an obvious process of getting pieces into place with plenty of glossing over of logic. Other than Emilio Sandoz, most of the characters feel like talking biographical dossiers who don’t have all that much to do other than push the protagonist in various directions. I missed the organic friendships of the crew in the Sparrow, and found it hard to care about Danny Ironhorse and Sean Fein in the same way.

The part of the novel set on Rakhat isn’t uninteresting, though the alien characters feel more human than they did before and I had some trouble keeping their identities straight. Russell seems to be going for a parallel between the Runa and the Biblical Jews in Egypt, but with a different kind of outcome, which I thought went well with all the other religious themes in the book. I enjoyed seeing how the herd mentality of the Runa, which had previously kept them docile, could be turned into an advantage against a foe with a less collective-minded, more aristocratic society. It would have been interesting to see, in a third novel, where things on Rakhat went after the war ended, given the future issues Russell hints at, but we’ll just have to use our imaginations.

Though the last chapters of Children of God are somewhat predictable, I thought they provided an emotionally satisfying conclusion to Emilio Sandoz’s story. Was a whole novel necessary to get there? Maybe not, but I think Russell accomplished what she set out to do, and it was worth my time to complete the two book series. 3.5 stars.

Audio notes: Anna Fields is a competent narrator, but nothing special. I happened to have a paper copy of this book as well, and might recommend that format more. The contemplative quality of the writing is more evident without the sometimes overwrought accents that Fields employs.
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- Ryan "Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good."

Confusing disconnect and mixed feelings

There were many parts in Children of God during which I found it hard to believe this was the same author as The Sparrow. The latter was one of the best books I picked up this year but the sequel was disappointing. My friend Brooke thought a sequel was unnecessary and, as far as the storyline in the first installment went, it was unnecessary. The story had a satisfying ending in The Sparrow, but the book was so good, I was sure hoping for more.

Other reviewers found CoG to be boring and confusing. There were places, actually many places, that I found this to be true. This was particularly true while I felt mired in the tedium of Rakhat politics and VaRahkati civil war. The first story seemed to magically flow from the author; the second felt like the author was really just working to put out a second installment. Book one focused on the earthlings; book two focused on two less interesting alien cultures.

I almost never complain that a book was too long. I love long books. I love long books that have substance throughout. In so many places in CoG I felt I was reading fluff.

Now that I've gotten all the bashing off my chest, here's how I feel in the end. The Sparrow was such an extraordinary book that I have to give the author the benefit of the doubt and concede that maybe and just, maybe I might have missed something and might have to read this one again to fully appreciate it. Nah, that's bologna, the book was a disappointment. But I do not regret the time spent reading it and I will read it again at another time and if I have a greater appreciation, I promise I'll come back and be more complementary. Otherwise, 3 stars is the best that I can give this sequel whose predecessor deserved the highest of ratings and praise.

As far as the narration went, it was very good. Again, it was not as good as The Sparrow but it was very good.
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- Robert "Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-16-2008
  • Publisher: Random House Audio