Thursday, December 5, 2013

Book Thoughts - Children of God by Mary Doria Russell

Children of God by Mary Doria Russell
published 1999
464 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

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.

My thoughts -

I think it's safe to say that Mary Doria Russell doesn't write "easy" books. There are no easy scenes, no easy characters, no easy answers. Russell writes about struggle - the struggle to find a place; the struggle to find hope from despair; the struggle of faith amidst betrayal. I have not found her novels easy to read, but I have found them to be highly rewarding, and utterly unforgettable.

While Emilio Sandoz would ostensibly be the hero of the novel - it is, after all, his story readers of The Sparrow  want more of - he is not necessarily the MAIN character. Russell gives equal time to the others on Sandoz' mission, to Kitheri and Supaari on Rakhat, and on Sofia, the other survivor of the first mission. All Russell's characters- human and alien alike - come to feel like friends, flaws and all, as the reader follows them on their journey to find the answers they seek.

Russell's background as a biological anthropologist is a backbone of this novel - she is clearly interested in the the impact of one society on another, and the devastating consequences that can occur when societies collide. Her worldbuilding is intricate and complex, and the customs and political machinations within each society are an integral part of the story. This complexity was actually my only minor quibble with the novel - sometimes I felt like I was getting bogged down in detail, when all I really wanted to know was what the characters were going to do next.

I started reading this novel wanting to know what happened next to Emilio Sandoz after the devastating events of The Sparrow. I got those answers, but not necessarily in the way I expected them. Russell's second novel was thought-provoking and surprising, but certainly not disappointing. I think, for the right reader, this will be a reading experience you will never forget.

Finished - 11/28/13
Source - my shelves
MPAA rating - R for violence, adult situations
My rating - 8/10


Aarti said...

I thought this book was a bit more hopeless and angry than The Sparrow. I didn't like it as much, perhaps because everyone was so unhappy through the whole of it. But I love Russell's writing and can't wait to read more of her books!

mar10123 said...

Only part way through so far, but I am finding the challenge of the book very, very satisfying.

mar10123 said...

Finished. Loved it. Still have some BIG questions: is the "evil" perpetrated on Rakhat only in the perceptions of the human foreigners? With her obvious knowledge of Judeo-Christian doctrines, the author gives no source for this "sin" - no Satan, or equivalent. It's like the question of a tree falling in the forest - - - if there is no "theology" to tell you that what you are doing is wrong, who/what determines right from wrong? Is it only determined by each civilization or culture? Are there absolute standards of right and wrong?
LOVE books that make you wrestle with these Big Questions!