December 24th, 2007

reading

Recent Reading: Children of God by Mary Doria Russell

This is the sequel to The Sparrow, which I reviewed here. I found the first book a captivating, albeit flawed, First Contact novel with religious overtones. The Society of Jesus sends the first mission to the planet Rakhat, from which radio broadcasts that sound like people singing have come to Earth. Charmed by music from another planet, Father Emilio Sandoz and his fellow explorers - three other Jesuit priests, a married couple, and a single man and single woman - look on their mission as part of God's plan to bring intelligent species together. As happens even on this planet when people encounter unfamiliar civilizations, misunderstandings abound and the mission ends tragically, with Emilio the only survivor. A broken man - physically, emotionally, and spiritually - he returns to Earth to find that he is the subject of revulsion within his own order and tabloid smearing to the world at large for crimes he supposedly committed while on Rakhat. Much of the novel's exposition reveals to the reader what really happened on Rakhat.

Children of God is concerned primarily with the second Jesuit excursion to the planet Rakhat, one intended to heal wounds of various kinds. Collapse )
I enjoyed this book considerably more than the first, which I had quite liked. Russell has some problems with plot and plausibility that were evident in both books, but in this one they were much more pronounced in the Earth segment of the book, which is brief. I found the characters in the second book more compelling and more fully realized, for the most part, and the philosophical questions better integrated with the personal story. I felt so for the plight of the characters that I cried through much of the second half of the book and find myself thinking about them - particularly Ha'anala - at odd times since. Children of God is definitely a book worth reading and one I expect will stay with me for a long time.