Sunday, March 22, 2009

Book 29: Children of God

Children of God by Mary Doria Russell

This novel is the sequel to Russell's The Sparrow, and begins almost immediately after the occurences of the previous novel. Emilio Sandoz is slowly trying to put his life back together, and as part of that, has decided that he must part from the church. He actually meets someone, and his interactions with her help him slowly heal. This narrative flashes back with the events on Rakhat immediately after Sandoz's departure (thanks to time travel, the events on Rakhat take place over almost forty years, while for Sandoz, only a two or three years pass). The first surprise is that Sophia is still alive and had only been badly injured but not killed. Supaari, who had been a character in the first novel with questionable intentions, also is a major player in the Rakhat narrative, and it turns out that he had been well-intentioned all along but had seemed like a bad person due to cultural misunderstandings.

When the Jesuits decide to go on another mission, Sandoz agrees to train the new crew but refuses to go along. He is forced on the mission, and when he returns to Rakhat, he finds a very different planet than the one he left. Supaari and Sophia have rallied the Runa, and changed the life on the planet drastically. Children of God is in ways a darker novel as the planet Rakhat becomes involved in a violent civil war, leading to the near annihilation and extinction of an entire species and way of life. It also has a more hopeful ending than The Sparrow, however.

I preferred The Sparrow but Children of God was still a very good novel. A few of the characters in Children of God seemed a little random, but the Jesuits had to get the expedition to Rakhat financed somehow. Russell is great at developing characters in all of her novels, but I preferred the more intimate setting of explorers interacting and misunderstanding a new culture and society to the massive civil war back drop. However, as usual, her writing was excellent, and she shows very well how the good guys can become the villains, and how what seems right and moral can easily slide into grey areas.

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