Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Book review: Children of God by Mary Doria Russell

Year Published: 1998
Genre: Science fiction
Rating: A+  

Review: Yesterday I reviewed The Sparrow Children of God is the sequel, and it's just as good, but you should definitely read the earlier book first.
Children of God starts off with Emilio Sandoz back on Earth, broken in both body and spirit; it follows him back to Rakhat and then back to Earth, and back to spiritual and physical health. Along the way there are plenty of plot twists to keep the story moving, but what is most remarkable about both The Sparrow and Children of God is not so much the plot, as the character development and the way Mary Doria Russell manages to incorporate a great deal of spiritual wisdom without either sounding "preachy" or slowing the plot down.
Even the alien characters (of both alien species) are sympathetic, even when they do utterly alien things.

And the human characters are each fully drawn; they jump from the page into your heart and mind. These are real people, with warts, but also with numerous redeeming qualities. It is relatively easy for an author to make us feel sympathy for people who are similar to us - Mary Doria Russell pulls off the much harder feat of making us sympathetic to people(and aliens) who are very different from us.
In terms of spiritual wisdom, perhaps Russell is able to do this because of her own history:  She was raised Catholic, became an atheist, and then converted to Judaism.  She certainly shows sympathy for people in all three groups. Many of the characters are Jesuits;  Sandoz himself goes from being a Jesuit (in The Sparrow to atheism, and back to faith.

Another main character (Sofia Mendez) is Jewish.  The aliens have their own religions, as well.
Highly recommended.

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