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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 bestseller, 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 Ch 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 bestseller, 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...


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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 bestseller, 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 Ch 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 bestseller, 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...

30 review for Children of God

  1. 5 out of 5

    Candi

    "Everything we thought we understood—that was what we were most wrong about." This novel is the stunning sequel to The Sparrow, a book that left me breathless and yearning for more after the last page. Children of God made no less of an impact on me. It is a must-read for anyone that has read and enjoyed the first in the duology. I would highly suggest reading these in order as the one really does follow immediately on the heels of the other. The Sparrow was a story of a first contact conducted b "Everything we thought we understood—that was what we were most wrong about." This novel is the stunning sequel to The Sparrow, a book that left me breathless and yearning for more after the last page. Children of God made no less of an impact on me. It is a must-read for anyone that has read and enjoyed the first in the duology. I would highly suggest reading these in order as the one really does follow immediately on the heels of the other. The Sparrow was a story of a first contact conducted by a Jesuit mission to the planet Rakhat. "First contact—by definition—takes place in a state of radical ignorance, where nothing is known about the ecology, biology, languages, culture and economy of the Other. On Rakhat, that ignorance proved catastrophic." Both stories are termed ‘science fiction’ but both go deeper than just an exploration of the frontiers of space. They are journeys of faith, morality, and the influence of time on the shaping and perception of events. The author, Mary Doria Russell, does not ‘preach’ to the reader. Rather, we are given a slate on which to draw our own conclusions; there are many opportunities to question and reflect upon the events in this story and how they relate to humankind in general. This is the type of science fiction I am finding I truly love. The author’s own words offer the best description of the main theme of this novel: "Children of God is about the aftermath of irreversible tragedy, about the many ways that we struggle to make sense of tragedy. It’s about the stories we tell ourselves, and the ways we justify our decisions, to bring ourselves to some kind of peace. And I guess it’s about the way time reveals significance, strips away self-serving excuses, lays truth bare, and both blunts pain and sharpens insight." It is brilliantly written and often very profound. It is not a book that you will breeze through – you will want to stop and think, gather your thoughts, and wonder how you would react in these circumstances. My emotions seesawed constantly throughout this book! I realize I’m being fairly vague about the plot here. I simply don’t want to spoil anything from the first book by recounting the happenings in this one. I can say that it also a novel about what it means to be oppressed versus an oppressor and how the tables can be turned. We learn further about the species that inhabit Rakhat – the Runa and Jana’ata. What the effect of introducing a new species (that of homo sapiens) to the planet will have on the balance of power. Much of this will have a familiar ring to it from our own world history. It may bring to mind revolutions, such as that of the French and the Russian, as well as the settling of North America and the displacement of the Native Americans. The question as to whether the ends justify the means will recur in the book and in your own thoughts. Ultimately, it causes one to understand that we are all part of this world (or this universe) and that each serves a purpose, each life has meaning, all are dependent on one another in some way, shape or form. I highly recommend reading both books. Don't let the genre scare you away, or you will be missing out on some truly thought-provoking writing, some extremely nuanced characters, and excellent dialogue. Credo I cannot find my way: there is no star In all the shrouded heavens anywhere; And there is not a whisper in the air Of any living voice but one so far That I can hear it only as a bar Of lost, imperial music, played when fair And angel fingers wove, and unaware, Dead leaves to garlands where no roses are. No, there is not a glimmer, nor a call, For one that welcomes, welcomes when he fears, The black and awful chaos of the night; For through it all – above, beyond it all – I know the far-sent message of the years, I feel the coming glory of the Light. ~Edwin Arlington Robinson, 1897

  2. 5 out of 5

    Phrynne

    I am so glad I only waited a month between reading parts one and two of this book. It really is just one book split into two parts and I could not leave Emilio for too long suffering the way he was at the end of part one. Emilio Sandoz is one of those book characters who jumps off the page and out of the book. Whenever he is not front and centre of the story it lacks a certain something. Even the characters in the book notice when he is not in the room. He loses so much and suffers so much that a I am so glad I only waited a month between reading parts one and two of this book. It really is just one book split into two parts and I could not leave Emilio for too long suffering the way he was at the end of part one. Emilio Sandoz is one of those book characters who jumps off the page and out of the book. Whenever he is not front and centre of the story it lacks a certain something. Even the characters in the book notice when he is not in the room. He loses so much and suffers so much that at times I wondered how the author was going to finish him off. I can't say much without spoilers but let's say she still had something up her sleeve and I was perfectly content with the last few pages. Many of the other characters are memorable too. I loved all of the Jesuit priests with their sardonic humour and their less than perfect attitudes always disguising their real love of humanity and their work. Isaac was a wonderful character too, a child and then a man with high functioning autism who is accepted totally into the society he lives in. His reactions to the world around him are explained beautifully, and make sense of his autistic behaviours. I enjoyed the space travel with all its boredom for the travellers and its occasional real dangers. I loved the planet and its unusual dwellers. I was happy to see loose ends being tied up all over the place. In fact I loved it all. A great book following another great book. So happy I read them both:)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brooke

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I was expecting this to knock me off my feet the way The Sparrow did, but it was such a letdown of a sequel. I didn't connect with anyone the way I completely fell in love with all the characters in The Sparrow. Sean Fein, Danny Iron Horse, Joseba Urizarbarrena - they were all completely interchangeable. I couldn't tell you who did what or who had which characteristics. There was an overweight pilot as well, and I'm not sure why he was in the book at all except for the ship to have a pilot. I did I was expecting this to knock me off my feet the way The Sparrow did, but it was such a letdown of a sequel. I didn't connect with anyone the way I completely fell in love with all the characters in The Sparrow. Sean Fein, Danny Iron Horse, Joseba Urizarbarrena - they were all completely interchangeable. I couldn't tell you who did what or who had which characteristics. There was an overweight pilot as well, and I'm not sure why he was in the book at all except for the ship to have a pilot. I didn't buy the reasons for sending Emilio back to Rakhat. None of them held up under scrutiny, and nothing happened on Rakhat after his return that absolutely required his presence. It all seemed like a bunch of faux-concern for Emilio's soul just so Russell could write another book. There were far too many scenes from the VaRahkati point of view, and dear lord did they drag on. So much time was spent going over the specifics of their civil war; for some reason Russell decided to place a conversation between Danny Iron Horse and a Runao before they actually arrived on Rakhat so that she could squeeze in an explanation of 20 years' worth of change that had occurred on Rakhat. The Sparrow was about a man's spiritual journey, and that was lost in the sequel's massive focus on the VaRakhati war. Finally, it was just really unnecessary. The Sparrow was emotionally brutal and that's part of what made it so impressive. This sequel neuters that brutality, and while it's nice seeing Emilio having some happy moments, The Sparrow made sense as it was - it told a story in a way that it needed to be told.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I loved The Sparrow and when I finished it there wasn't anything else I wanted to know - a mark of a good novel. So it wasn't a novel that called out for a sequel. One of the big strengths of the first book was its fabulous characters. Almost the opposite was the case here. We get the same trip on a spaceship - brilliantly tense in the first book, repetitively dull in this book - but this time there are no women and the men are all either obnoxious or indistinguishable. Also, it came across as h I loved The Sparrow and when I finished it there wasn't anything else I wanted to know - a mark of a good novel. So it wasn't a novel that called out for a sequel. One of the big strengths of the first book was its fabulous characters. Almost the opposite was the case here. We get the same trip on a spaceship - brilliantly tense in the first book, repetitively dull in this book - but this time there are no women and the men are all either obnoxious or indistinguishable. Also, it came across as heavy handed and sentimental how she eventually sought to make everyone likeable. And there was too much theologising for me. And too much forcing of parallels with the two alien races with the plight of Jews and North American Indians. And I didn't like the structure of sometimes jumping forward in time which seemed clumsy to me. And I was often confused what was going on among the aliens. For example, when an army appears with artillery. What artillery? There had been no mention in either book of weapons before. Unless I missed it. But I often found I was unable to picture what she was telling me. There were very good bits but there were also very dull bits. So, a bridge too far for me.

  5. 4 out of 5

    carol.

    Epic. Read it shortly after reading The Sparrow, and I'm glad that I read both together. Although it might stand alone, some of the characters are the same, and the story firmly builds upon experiences and events in The Sparrow. Didn't rate it 5 stars for a couple of reasons. One, occasionally Russell has the habit of dropping non-plot vital but important information in the space of a sentence, so if you tend to skim or even if your attention wanders, comprehension will suffer. An example would b Epic. Read it shortly after reading The Sparrow, and I'm glad that I read both together. Although it might stand alone, some of the characters are the same, and the story firmly builds upon experiences and events in The Sparrow. Didn't rate it 5 stars for a couple of reasons. One, occasionally Russell has the habit of dropping non-plot vital but important information in the space of a sentence, so if you tend to skim or even if your attention wanders, comprehension will suffer. An example would be along the lines of "It was many years into her widowhood when..." lets you know that the husband in the prior paragraph died. She actually does this again with one of the most pivotal characters, (view spoiler)[ The Paramount, after a battlefield confrontation. I had to re-read the section two or three times to make sure I understood this is where the story ended for the alien man that was mainly responsible for Emilio's repeated rape. It was a jarring note to have such a central character's story fizzle out with someone mentioning his dead body on the field. (hide spoiler)] Second, because the scope of the story covered decades, not just years, time was treated in a very disjointed fashion, moving very slowly in the beginning, and then jumping through the years at the end. I got a little of the sense of, "let's just wrap this up now, shall we?" from the narrative. Barring those two complaints, it is a beautifully written book, with multidimensional characters. Despite the detail and complexity of the plot line, it is a mediation on religion, race and forgiveness, so it satisfies on many levels. I felt it deftly avoided preaching, while perhaps echoing a Socratic dialogue at times. The ending was genuinely a surprise. Incidentally, one of the few books that's made me cry.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    In many ways, this novel rivals the scope of The Sparrow in both worldbuilding and theme. By the same token, both are portrayed in a much more dilute fashion. This is not a bad thing, but it is a different thing when comparing the two. I loved The Sparrow's tight focus on faith and the loss of it and the general healing or the swift decline. Death came fast and suffering was slow. Children of God added many new dimensions to the tale. Many characters from either alien species and humans had their In many ways, this novel rivals the scope of The Sparrow in both worldbuilding and theme. By the same token, both are portrayed in a much more dilute fashion. This is not a bad thing, but it is a different thing when comparing the two. I loved The Sparrow's tight focus on faith and the loss of it and the general healing or the swift decline. Death came fast and suffering was slow. Children of God added many new dimensions to the tale. Many characters from either alien species and humans had their time as PoVs. Emilio is still a major character, but not necessarily the Main Character. Sophia and her son Issac have a lot of screen time. As do the once-pacifistic vegetarians on the alien world and the meat eaters. Do we need to get into that little feature? Maybe, maybe not, but let's put it this way... Soylent Green is People. Where does forgiveness reside? Can it even have a place in the discussion where the meek are constantly preyed upon and the arrogant constantly get away with it? Is this a novel about our own world? Actually, yes and no. The alien society is writ large for us, but better than that, it's delightfully complex. Russell does a great job juggling all these issues and as a cohesive whole of a novel, I'm surprised and delighted by how wise and multi-layered it develops. Emilio heals a bit of his heart but is eventually convinced to return. Sophia, in the meantime, wrangles up the meek and starts a revolution. Everything else is gravy and nuance and a delight. :) There's nothing simple about this tale. In fact, between the two novels, it might be one of the most heart-wrenching alien tales I've read. So much better than, say, ET. ;) Little about faith, hate, understanding, and intelligent discourse touches that tale. This one is for smart people.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    I loved this but then I expected no less since I felt the same about it's predecessor, The Sparrow. This book picks up right where The Sparrow left off. In my opinion neither of these books are easy reads, by that I mean something I could whiz through. Part of it is the time lines taking place, part is the completely foreign names and culture. I only wish I had read this shortly after The Sparrow although the author does remind you of what happened previously. I am going to sum up this book by q I loved this but then I expected no less since I felt the same about it's predecessor, The Sparrow. This book picks up right where The Sparrow left off. In my opinion neither of these books are easy reads, by that I mean something I could whiz through. Part of it is the time lines taking place, part is the completely foreign names and culture. I only wish I had read this shortly after The Sparrow although the author does remind you of what happened previously. I am going to sum up this book by quoting the author. At the end of my edition there a Q &A with her. The question: "Is there a moral to this story?" Her answer: "Don't be so damned quick to judge! The less we know about someone, the easier we find it to make a snap decision, to condemn or sneer or believe the worst. The closer you get, the more you know about the person or the situation in question, the harder it gets to be sure of your opinion, so remember that, and try to cut people a little slack. Like Emilio says, ""Everything we thought we understood-that was what we were most wrong about."" So the moral of the story is to be suspicious of your own certainty. Doubt is good." Good words to live by. If you haven't had the pleasure of reading these books, I highly recommend them. Would be great book club reads.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    The sequel to The Sparrow. Once again, the author does a tremendous job in both introducing new social, political, and cultural concepts on almost every page for both the human and alien species she writes about, which makes the story very compelling for the reader. As the story progresses the author creates a nearly intractable problem of species genocide that she resolves near the end in a manner that completely surprised me, but which makes a lot of sense once one considers the backgrounds of The sequel to The Sparrow. Once again, the author does a tremendous job in both introducing new social, political, and cultural concepts on almost every page for both the human and alien species she writes about, which makes the story very compelling for the reader. As the story progresses the author creates a nearly intractable problem of species genocide that she resolves near the end in a manner that completely surprised me, but which makes a lot of sense once one considers the backgrounds of the human characters she sends forth on this second mission to the discovered planet. Two quick thoughts for any readers out there who have not yet had the pleasure of reading either of these wonderful books... I consider theese to be two parts of one long story, even though it appears that the author didn't plan a sequel when she write The Sparrow. A reader would be best served by reading both, of course, to get the most insight. Secondly - since the books' story consists of the outcome of a manned mission to another planet, one who has not read these books may immediately consider these to simply be science fiction, as I did when my friend Alex suggested that we read The Sparrow. But these books turned out to be so much more that that. There are very few books of fiction that I have read that gave me quite so much insight into the complexity of how we act and interact as human beings, for all the good and bad that comes with that as we try to create our future. These are classic books, and I would hope that they are well read for many years to come.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kara Babcock

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. You know Alien ends with Ripley getting into the shuttle with Jones, fighting off the alien one last time, and consigning herself and Jones to a lonely trip home in stasis? And then in the sequel, she’s essentially drafted into accompanying another team back to the planet where they found the Alien eggs, and almost everyone dies again? No? Well, sorry for spoiling Alien and Aliens. Anyway, Children of God is kind of like that. At the end of The Sparrow , Emilio Santos arrives home, sole surviv You know Alien ends with Ripley getting into the shuttle with Jones, fighting off the alien one last time, and consigning herself and Jones to a lonely trip home in stasis? And then in the sequel, she’s essentially drafted into accompanying another team back to the planet where they found the Alien eggs, and almost everyone dies again? No? Well, sorry for spoiling Alien and Aliens. Anyway, Children of God is kind of like that. At the end of The Sparrow , Emilio Santos arrives home, sole survivor of the first expedition to Rakhat. He is psychologically and physically maimed thanks to gross cultural misunderstandings—the muscles in his palms have been removed, rendering his fingers almost useless, and he has been subject to rape and molestation at the hands of the Jana'ata nobility who kept them as their plaything. Emilio is hurt and resentful—towards the Church, towards God, and mostly towards himself. After about a year, Emilio is on the road to recovery. He starts working again, meets a love interest, and seems to be reconnecting to the world. But then he gets drafted to return to Rakhat, and it all goes wrong. Again. Mary Doria Russell moved me deeply with The Sparrow. Her approach to first contact and interstellar exploration was a mixture of cultural anthropology and religious faith. The first mission is funded by the Jesuits, and throughout the story, questions of the role of religion, the Church, and God are prominent. With Emilio’s fate we are left to wonder with him why God would permit such a thing to happen. And all the while, the characters asking and precipitating these questions are complicated and three-dimensional, whether they are human or alien, priest or layperson. MDR’s touch is a subtle and deft one. Truth be told, I was somewhat apprehensive about Children of God. Several of my Goodreads friends had commented on my review of The Sparrow advising me to read this book, even as they told me it wasn’t as good. Even if they hadn’t, The Sparrow is that type of standalone jewel that is almost always diminished by a sequel—why re-open old questions only to spoil them with answers? MDR makes several very smart choices, however, that mitigate the damage to The Sparrow’s memory. For instance, she reveals that Sofia Mendes is still alive despite what Emilio and everyone else believed. Living among exile Runa now, Sofia gives birth to an autistic son, Isaac. MDR tells Sofia’s story in parallel with the story of how Emilio goes from recovering dependant of the Church to independent researcher to hostage of relativity. To these two perspectives MDR adds a third, visiting for a time various Runa and Jana'ata characters. This proves to be a brilliant stroke of storytelling. Although I found these sections the most confusing (little bit of name soup going on), they were also very enlightening. I liked hearing Suupari’s side of the story of Emilio’s transition into prostitution, for example, and was glad to hear that Suupari was contrite. It would be blatantly inaccurate to say that MDR humanizes the Jana'ata, but she definitely provides us with the opportunity to empathize with their worldview. Thanks to these choices, Children of God is a good story regardless of how it fulfils the role of sequel. Despite my apprehension, I eventually sunk comfortably into my role as reader and enjoyed the story. There is plenty of tragedy to be had here, especially for Emilio, but it is not as dark or unforgiving as The Sparrow was. Of course, that may or may not be an improvement depending on what one expects from these kind of novels. I admit it’s a little disappointing and makes Children of God feel a little more shallow—but then again, this book, unlike The Sparrow isn’t really about Emilio’s personal struggles any more. The possibility of there being intelligent life, the suspense leading up to confirmation that the signals were actually coming from an alien species, was a huge part of The Sparrow. But as the opening part of Children of God makes clear, knowing that we are not alone hasn’t changed life on Earth all that much. MDR doesn’t spend too much time speculating why this is, leaving us to draw our own conclusions. I suspect the major reason is expense: numerous expeditions set off for Rakhat, but only two made it there intact, and of those two, Emilio is the only human who returned. Space travel is expensive and provides little in the way of return so far. Plus, with a sole survivor in the custody of the Jesuits, there is little in the way of information about Earth’s nearest neighbours. In this respect, the sequel shows us how merely discovering that we are not alone is not necessarily the life-changing event that we might expect it to be. The same cannot be said for humanity’s influence on the Rakhat. Stumbling in where we are not invited, we destabilize the tenuous predator–prey relationship between the Jana'ata and the Runa. By the time Emilio and the second Jesuit expedition arrive, the Jana'ata are almost extinct and the Runa are free. Just by existing and exposing the Runa and the Jana'ata to our peculiar cultures and beliefs, we caused massive change. Is it for the better? Even making that distinction assumes that the way we, as humans, define better is relevant to life on Rakhat. Again, MDR doesn’t necessarily spend too much time on this point, but issues of cultural relativism and ethnocentrism are implicit in the relationship between humans, Jana'ata, and Runa. Recall, too, that this is the result of a handful of human representatives visiting Rakhat, none of them representatives of any government other than the Vatican—and even then, only loosely. Children of God certainly provides interesting food for thought, and I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting Rakhat. We learn more about the Runa and Jana'ata in this book; their cultures are not as confusing or as alien any more. And by far, the best part of the book is Celestine. Precocious child characters usually annoy me, but Celestine captured my heart and wouldn’t let it go. The involuntary separation of Emilio from Gina and Celestine is one of the more brutal acts in this book. It’s obvious that there’s no contest between this book and its predecessor. The Sparrow stands alone as an amazing work of science fiction, one that demands an examination of faith and empathy and science against the backdrop of contact tragedy. Children of God is more like DLC than a sequel—a little more content, a few extra missions with familiar characters that flesh out the storyline of the original game without taking too many risks themselves. It’s fun while it lasts, but it does not have the same staying power as the original. And that’s the perfectly fine, considering what it’s up against in that comparison.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Petra

    This is not a stand-alone book. The Sparrow is essential to have read. Without that background story, Children of God would be confusing at times. This was a seamless continuation of The Sparrow and really can be considered one book. The story picks up where The Sparrow left off. Woven throughout this work is the concept of Faith in God, self, others. How one's faith in one's present can influence one's future. Morality is also a prevalent theme. Decisions affect others besides ourselves. This s This is not a stand-alone book. The Sparrow is essential to have read. Without that background story, Children of God would be confusing at times. This was a seamless continuation of The Sparrow and really can be considered one book. The story picks up where The Sparrow left off. Woven throughout this work is the concept of Faith in God, self, others. How one's faith in one's present can influence one's future. Morality is also a prevalent theme. Decisions affect others besides ourselves. This story is a bit confusing in the aspect of time-line. Mary Doria Russell does a good job in showing the relativity of space travel but it sometimes gets confusing in perspective of the story. Does the previous section happen before, during or after the story section we're now reading? It takes a bit of going back, checking dates, etc. This story isn't as perfect as The Sparrow. I had some doubts along the way, which didn't happen in the first. But it's still a brilliant story. I don't want to give any of the story away. This is a difficult review to write because of that. Children of God has a very thought provoking story and is a perfect continuation of The Sparrow. I recommend it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tom Mathews

    The first book in this duology, The Sparrow, stands at the top of my list of favorite books read in the past decade. I strongly recommend that readers read Sparrow first as Children of God is a continuation of that story and will make little sense without the background provided in the Sparrow. The Sparrow tells the story of Earth's first contact with alien races and, with a sociologist's eye, the impact that a meeting between two entirely different cultures have upon each other. A facetious exam The first book in this duology, The Sparrow, stands at the top of my list of favorite books read in the past decade. I strongly recommend that readers read Sparrow first as Children of God is a continuation of that story and will make little sense without the background provided in the Sparrow. The Sparrow tells the story of Earth's first contact with alien races and, with a sociologist's eye, the impact that a meeting between two entirely different cultures have upon each other. A facetious example might be if one culture considered a swift kick in the ass as a polite greeting coming into contact with one that does not. Children of God tells the story of Emilio Sandoz' second trip to Rahkat and focuses more on the impact that the first visit had on that planet's civilization in the years since he first departed the planet. This was a good book but imho it was not as good as the Sparrow. Part of the problem may be that the story skipped around in place and time which can be very confusing when listening to an audiobook. Another part of the problem may be that while the ideas shared in The Sparrow were original and fascinating to consider, the impact of human explorers on indigenous cultures is all too familiar. Bottom line: Mary Doria Russell is still one of the few authors on my if-they-write-it-I-will-buy-it list. I encourage readers to read all of her books, including this one. I just don't think this is her best effort.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marialyce

    Always and always love a book that brings all the human emotions to the forefront. As we continue the journey to discovery, we are marred, enlightened, ennobled, and most of all touched by the things that make a life human. We are also, as foretold in this novel, made better by the things we do not yet know, the races we have not yet met, and the horrors we might not yet understand. This novel plus the one that came before it, is a thinking person's book. It makes you question, to wonder, to begi Always and always love a book that brings all the human emotions to the forefront. As we continue the journey to discovery, we are marred, enlightened, ennobled, and most of all touched by the things that make a life human. We are also, as foretold in this novel, made better by the things we do not yet know, the races we have not yet met, and the horrors we might not yet understand. This novel plus the one that came before it, is a thinking person's book. It makes you question, to wonder, to begin to note that it is not only humans who might be among us and if they are, then why could it not be possible for them to be exactly like us and yet so different too? Where and what are the things that raise us up? Is it a belief in a higher power or is it the power within each of us that makes life worthwhile and something always valuable and while not always good and oftentimes evil, might not this spirit in and of itself be divine? Suffice to say that this is a book that has so many facets it would be impossible to cover them all without rewriting the entire book and then some. If you are in need of a book that will have you questioning and perhaps eventually even liking what we are a a people, than this book might head you down a direction that is both philosophical and deeply moving. I only wish there was another book in this series as I feel that I am not done with Emilio and his journey or perhaps he is not yet done with me.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Mary Doria Russell’s sequel to The Sparrow is another thoughtful, thought-provoking book, well-crafted and dynamic. I felt immediately reconnected to the characters I had left behind far too long ago. If there were anything I would have had differently, it would have been to have read this book immediately after reading The Sparrow. They are so interconnected that they are almost the same book, seamlessly continued. We find Emilio Sandoz where we left him, on earth and struggling with his relati Mary Doria Russell’s sequel to The Sparrow is another thoughtful, thought-provoking book, well-crafted and dynamic. I felt immediately reconnected to the characters I had left behind far too long ago. If there were anything I would have had differently, it would have been to have read this book immediately after reading The Sparrow. They are so interconnected that they are almost the same book, seamlessly continued. We find Emilio Sandoz where we left him, on earth and struggling with his relationship to God, his fellow man, the fate of those he has left on Rakhat and how to live a life devoid of the faith he has so long trusted and relied upon. If there is one theme that I believe recurs over and over again in these books, it is the theme of faith. How much of what happens to us is God’s doing, how much has purpose, how much is our failure to listen closely enough and understand God’s voice when he is speaking to us? There is a moment toward the end of the book when one of the priests makes an observance that I believe sums up what we are meant to take away from this story: “There’s a passage in Deuteronomy--God tells Moses, ‘No one can see My face, but I will protect you with My hand until I have passed by you, and then I will remove My hand and you will see My back.’ Remember that? Emilio nodded, listening. “Well, I always thought that was a physical metaphor,” John said, “but, you know--I wonder now if it isn’t really about time? Maybe that was God’s way of telling us that we can never know His intentions, but as time goes on...we’ll understand. We’ll see where He was: we’ll see His back.” I had personally never thought about that passage in that way, so it had a profound impact upon me and I saw it immediately as the core truth, a tenet of faith. And, what can thrill more than to find a core truth in the pages of a book? I will not expound on the story that is here, other than to say it is riveting and perhaps as allegorical as Pilgrim’s Progress without ever seeming to be so. I could relate so much of what happens to events we have seen time and again here on earth. I could feel the anguish and confusion of Sandoz, who has given wholly of himself and feels that God has rejected his offering. It is the feeling that sparked the hatred in Cain to kill Abel, it is the most basic of needs--to have our love returned, it is the thing that makes us human and can make us inhumane. If you have not read The Sparrow, I cannot urge you strongly enough to do so. If you read The Sparrow, you will read Children of God. Who could leave Sandoz without knowing his fate?

  14. 5 out of 5

    David

    "The Sparrow" is a hard act to follow, and Russell doesn't quite match the brilliance of the earlier book in this sequel. Her evident desire to tie up all the loose ends and leave no one unaccounted for is a distinct handicap, as some parts of the book are too obviously there for that purpose only. Just as she did in the first book, Russell takes on the big questions of spirituality, morality, the challenge to faith posed by an apparently capricious God, against a backdrop of extreme psychologic "The Sparrow" is a hard act to follow, and Russell doesn't quite match the brilliance of the earlier book in this sequel. Her evident desire to tie up all the loose ends and leave no one unaccounted for is a distinct handicap, as some parts of the book are too obviously there for that purpose only. Just as she did in the first book, Russell takes on the big questions of spirituality, morality, the challenge to faith posed by an apparently capricious God, against a backdrop of extreme psychological upheaval (in Emilio's case) and the cataclysmic social and political changes triggered by the earlier mission to Rakhat. She does a better job than I had anticipated, but the inherent predictability of certain story arcs dooms the sequel to be less exciting than the original. It doesn't help that the crew members on the return trip are considerably less interesting than the original gang. I'll forgive her the hokiness of the plot device used to get Emilio on an outbound vessel for a second time. But a major reason that "Children of God" is less compelling than "The Sparrow" is that Emilio is really the only character worth caring about, and his ultimate fate, though emotionally satisfying, is entirely predictable (Spoiler: His return visit to Rakhat allows him to realize a certain capacity for forgiveness, which gives him a degree of peace. Which of course gives nothing away - given that she went to the trouble of writing a second book so as not to leave us with the brutal image of Emilio tortured and despairing, there's no other possible outcome for the second book.) Though it doesn't match the brilliance of "The Sparrow", it's still well worth reading - Russell is still smart, thought-provoking and well able to tell a good story, skillfully and with finesse.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mike (the Paladin)

    I'm not sure I like the appellations "good or bad" for this book and its predecessor. It can't really be said (I don't believe) that these books are "enjoyable". Still, they are good and I recommend them highly. You may not want to "re-read" these as they are or can be somewaht painful in some ways if you identify with any of the characters. BUT, they will I believe touch you. The topics dealt with here are ones that will I believe at least provoke thought. I can't say how they will hit each read I'm not sure I like the appellations "good or bad" for this book and its predecessor. It can't really be said (I don't believe) that these books are "enjoyable". Still, they are good and I recommend them highly. You may not want to "re-read" these as they are or can be somewaht painful in some ways if you identify with any of the characters. BUT, they will I believe touch you. The topics dealt with here are ones that will I believe at least provoke thought. I can't say how they will hit each reader. There are ideas and thoughts that are (at least peripherially) looked at from an attempted Christian perspective. The main character is a Roman Catholic and his life is what it is due to his experiences in The Sparrow. I won't say Christians will find anything here that they haven't considered before, but they will find it discussed in a different vehicle. I'm not sure it's correct to say I "liked"it, but I will say it's worthwhile.

  16. 4 out of 5

    El

    It's been a few days since I finished reading this book, which is unusual for me since normally I like to write my reviews immediately upon finishing. I needed a few days for this one. Partly because I've been terribly busy with life and work, but also because I almost didn't care enough to write a review. That sounds more harsh than I mean it to, but remember I also didn't care too much about The Sparrow (except that it actually made me fairly angry); this book made me less angry, but there wer It's been a few days since I finished reading this book, which is unusual for me since normally I like to write my reviews immediately upon finishing. I needed a few days for this one. Partly because I've been terribly busy with life and work, but also because I almost didn't care enough to write a review. That sounds more harsh than I mean it to, but remember I also didn't care too much about The Sparrow (except that it actually made me fairly angry); this book made me less angry, but there were still annoyances. What made The Sparrow so good, the reason that people return to time after time when they say they loved it, is that there is so much emotion behind the story. It is an emotional story, for regular people, I guess, whose hearts aren't all crispy fried inside. I could appreciate what the author was doing, but was so bugged by some of the other stuff that I couldn't get past. Now come the spoiler-like-things, so tread carefully. Spoilers also relate to The Sparrow, so if you haven't read that one either, then you shouldn't read these: (view spoiler)[First and foremost, can we just talk real quick about how Sofia didn't die in The Sparrow? Did anyone else get that on their first reading? I didn't. I thought it was pretty well state that Sofia was killed with the others, that Emilio was the only survivor, that there was a blood-bath. So for us to find out in the sequel that, huzzah, Sofia survived, and aren't we all so happy? just felt a bit... forced. Like there needed to be something else to this story, so let's bring back someone that everyone thought was dead. This may just be me, so be it. It just didn't work for me. I didn't mind so much that her son, Isaac, has autism. I thought that was well-written and interesting as far as "twists" go, and the fact that Sofia got pregnant under such questionable circumstances anyway made me wonder if her offspring would have a disability or disorder. This is answered in the form of autism. I could have done without someone making some comment about Isaac not being a "normal" child - I understand the book was written in the late 90s, but it took place far into the future - one would think there would be more education and acceptance in the future. Imagine characters that don't call children with autism abnormal. As far as Emilio, he continues to be the strongest character as far as I'm concerned. There were these other characters back on Earth with him that I don't think I could differentiate between if you threatened my life, so I found that frustrating... and unnecessary. I'm not sure I could tell you the importance of some of them. Their traits could have been wrapped up into one character instead of two or three, and nothing would have been lost by doing so. A large annoyance actually came in the form of Gina, Emilio's new love interest. So, so unnecessary. I get the point but it's not an effort I felt needed to be made. In addition, Gina has a kid (who is at least lucky enough to have a bad-ass name like Celestina); more tugging at the heart-strings, right? Anytime there's a child involved, there's going to be more emotional baggage for the reader, right? So there's Celestina. And Isaac. And Supaari also had a kid (or whatever they call their offspring). So there are all these kids in this story, and I hate that. That's like Full House bringing in those freaking twin boys because Mary-Kate and Ashley were getting too old to hold their own as the "cute kids" on the show. Every long-running show does something stupid like bringing fresh-faced kids on to help with ratings, and it's usually the kiss of death. It's unfortunate, yet it continues to happen - it bugs me just as much when it happens in literature because it's even less necessary since we can't see any of the characters anyway, there's nothing lost by not bringing in cute kids. The need to bring Emilio back to Rakhat... ugh. It was pretty intense in the first book where they were all like "Yeah, that sucked for you, man, but we need you to suck that up and go back. We're doing it anyway, kthx." And here they beat him up and make him go. I understand the author felt there was no other way to reasonably get Emilio to agree (based on the interview at the back of my copy) but it just felt like a cop-out way to get him there. And then they get there, and... what was the purpose again? Lastly, I didn't like the focus on Supaari and perspectives from him, Ha'anala, or any other inhabitant of Rakhat. The most I read from their perspective, the more I felt I was reading from Jar-Jar Binks' perspective. Twitching ears, smacking each other with their tails... nope. Just didn't work for me. I know that's something that would work for many readers, I know it's not atypical for science fiction, but just because these books are less sci-fi than fiction-based-on-mostly-historical-events-on-Earth-but-put-on-another-planet, the characterizations of these inhabitants were irritating for me to read. (hide spoiler)] I can't say I liked this any more or any less than The Sparrow. I think there was an emotional distance in this book that didn't exist in The Sparrow, but in both there were the occasional dip into melodrama (think soap opera) that would sometimes make me want to roll my eyes. I continued to find the philosophical/religious talks interesting, though I disagree with other readers that these books were not preachy. I felt The Sparrow was fine and non-preachy, but there was a different tone in Children of God that made me give a frustrated sigh once in a while. I am glad to finally have read these books. I wish I had enjoyed them as much as everyone else; as previously stated, what worked for me really worked, and what didn't work for me really didn't work. I wouldn't discourage anyone from reading either (and Children of God has a fantastic first chapter or two that focus on getting readers up to speed in case you forgot anything since reading The Sparrow), but would definitely say that these books are not for everyone.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Appel

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I confess I was initially braced to be disappointed in Children of God -- partly because I am generally suspicious of sequels and also because the first novel in the sequence, The Sparrow, although brilliant, ran far afield from my usual interest in canonical literature. But Russell once again exceeded expectations, winning me over with his careful and innovative prose, her impressive erudition, and her gift for telling an old-fashioned compelling story. The Story picks up as Jesuit space-travele I confess I was initially braced to be disappointed in Children of God -- partly because I am generally suspicious of sequels and also because the first novel in the sequence, The Sparrow, although brilliant, ran far afield from my usual interest in canonical literature. But Russell once again exceeded expectations, winning me over with his careful and innovative prose, her impressive erudition, and her gift for telling an old-fashioned compelling story. The Story picks up as Jesuit space-traveler Emilio Sandoz recovers on Earth after an ill-fated voyage to the planet Rakhat. Without summarizing the plot, which is already well-captured in many other reviews, I will emphasize that the story-line never feels forced, as sequels often do, and that either the author planned the second volume while writing the first or proved adept at re-imagining events from the first novel to weave into the second. For instance, Sandoz intervenes to help a family of African refugees early in his career (in novel one); when he returns to Earth many years later (in novel two), one of those refugees has been elected Pope. The novel is peppered with wisdom, philosophical morsels that are easy to read through, but also offer a basis for reflection when read closely, such as: "I always thought it was a tactical mistake for God to love us in the aggregate, when Satan is willing to make a special effort to seduce each of us separately." "If anything could prove the existence of the soul...it was the utter emptiness of a corpse." Or even the Runa proverb that rain falls on everyone but lightning only strikes a few. (Spoiler: Reading this during a pandemic, the reference the the plague at the end of the volume was both prescient and unsettling.) I am not sure if one can read this as a stand-alone novel, but for readers who enjoyed the Sparrow, this is a worthwhile second act. If anything, Russell's skills as a writer are even sharper in "Children of God" and her philosophical and theological inquires force a serious reader to reflect even more deeply.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    4.0 to 4.5 stars. Not quite as emotionally powerful (I should say devastating) as the Sparrow, the first book in the series which I highly recommend to everyone, this is an excellent sequel that brings the epic story of Emilo Sandoz to a very satisfying conclusion. While the basic plot can be described as a "first ontact" with an alien race, both books are really about how a person can keep faith in God when confronted with horrific events. It is the age old question "How could a loving God allo 4.0 to 4.5 stars. Not quite as emotionally powerful (I should say devastating) as the Sparrow, the first book in the series which I highly recommend to everyone, this is an excellent sequel that brings the epic story of Emilo Sandoz to a very satisfying conclusion. While the basic plot can be described as a "first ontact" with an alien race, both books are really about how a person can keep faith in God when confronted with horrific events. It is the age old question "How could a loving God allow such horrible things to happen to good people." Highly recommended!!! Nominee: Hugo Award Best Novel Nominee: British Science Fiction Award Nominee: Locus Award Best SF Novel (7th)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Fran

    The amazing sequel to The Sparrow, reviewed earlier (the one I have affectionately referred to as Jesuits in Space.) I won't give away how The Sparrow ended, but suffice it to say that I couldn't imagine a sequel being possible to write or bearable to read. Something convinced me to pick up Children of God, though, and it was just as intellectually fascinating, just as emotionally wrenching, just as exciting. A stay-up-all-night-reading book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Vegan

    I am so glad that Mary Doria Russell continued with the story from The Sparrow. I was so happy to see some of the characters from that book in this one. It’s my favorite kind of science fiction: character driven and thought provoking. This one had me sobbing at the end. This is a fascinating study of human and other sentient being psychology and cultural and social anthropology, which is how I saw it what with my predilections, and because my personal philosophy differs from many of these charact I am so glad that Mary Doria Russell continued with the story from The Sparrow. I was so happy to see some of the characters from that book in this one. It’s my favorite kind of science fiction: character driven and thought provoking. This one had me sobbing at the end. This is a fascinating study of human and other sentient being psychology and cultural and social anthropology, which is how I saw it what with my predilections, and because my personal philosophy differs from many of these characters and from most people, I did not see it as a story about G-d or religion. I do like that the author has converted to Judaism and I do like the references to Judaism in the book, a lot. It was particularly moving to read about this subject when the events are taking place on another planet with humans and two sentient species native to the foreign planet. She writes very interesting characters although in this book I felt as though the plot got bogged down at a few points and it took me some time to warm up to many of the new characters. I felt impatient occasionally which did not happen with The Sparrow. I also feel outrage that (unless I missed it?) a certain character did not tell another something that would have been of great solace to him and that also would have also been better for the story, I think. This book could work as a stand alone book but I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who hasn’t read The Sparrow. I don’t think this book is as well crafted as The Sparrow but I can’t conceive of reading The Sparrow without finding how this story continues and what happens with the characters and their descendents. I now think of these two as one book. As a vegan both these two Mary Doria Russell books gave me much “food for thought” and I think that was even more so with Children of God than it was with The Sparrow. If I wasn’t reading this as a continuation of The Sparrow it would have probably received only 3 and maybe only 2 stars from me.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cat

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This sequel to the wonderful 'The Sparrow' was not only a letdown, but obliterated the moral and spiritual themes of Russell's earlier novel. Whereas at the end of 'The Sparrow', you are left with the raw and often violent repercussions of first contact with new civilisations, 'Children of God' feels like an argument in favour of the Monroe Doctrine. Never mind that an entire species has almost been annhilated via a civil war. Never mind that the delicate ecology of a planet has been catastrophi This sequel to the wonderful 'The Sparrow' was not only a letdown, but obliterated the moral and spiritual themes of Russell's earlier novel. Whereas at the end of 'The Sparrow', you are left with the raw and often violent repercussions of first contact with new civilisations, 'Children of God' feels like an argument in favour of the Monroe Doctrine. Never mind that an entire species has almost been annhilated via a civil war. Never mind that the delicate ecology of a planet has been catastrophically changed. Never mind that all this has resulted from the Jesuits spiritual quest. We're apparently supposed to be happy that Sandoz has found peace??? I just found it all flawed, both plotwise and morally. I found the Sparrow posed a lot of questions around issues of belief and spirituality and Children of God, in trying to answer them, leaves the reader with a sense of moral bankruptcy. The two stars are a nod to 'the Sparrow' and to Emilio Sandoz who is a great character.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rita

    Children of God is an answer to a prayer afterThe Sparrow. Both books are beautiful but neither one can be read as stand alone books. The Sparrow must be read first followed as closely as possible by Children of God. Mary Doria Russell creates a marvellous new universe. These books could be categorized as either science fiction or fantasy but it's really irrelevant. What mattered to me was the awe that I felt after finishing them. Children of God is an answer to a prayer afterThe Sparrow. Both books are beautiful but neither one can be read as stand alone books. The Sparrow must be read first followed as closely as possible by Children of God. Mary Doria Russell creates a marvellous new universe. These books could be categorized as either science fiction or fantasy but it's really irrelevant. What mattered to me was the awe that I felt after finishing them.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Book Concierge

    Audiobook performed by Anna Fields In the sequel to Russell’s stellar The Sparrow , Father Emilio Sandoz has made significant progress in recovering from his injuries suffered on the first mission to the planet Rakhat. His body may be healed but his soul is still in turmoil, and the last thing he wants is to return to the place where all other members of the mission met their deaths. But then …. Once again Russell gives us a morality play in a science fiction setting. I marvel at how richly ima Audiobook performed by Anna Fields In the sequel to Russell’s stellar The Sparrow , Father Emilio Sandoz has made significant progress in recovering from his injuries suffered on the first mission to the planet Rakhat. His body may be healed but his soul is still in turmoil, and the last thing he wants is to return to the place where all other members of the mission met their deaths. But then …. Once again Russell gives us a morality play in a science fiction setting. I marvel at how richly imagined and intricately detailed the world of Rakhat and its inter-dependent species are. We learn what those first explorers – as well as the Runa and Jana’ata – misunderstood about these new cultures and how small mistakes led to devastating consequences. Russell shows that the influence of the humans, despite their original intention to merely observe, has drastically changed the natural balance that had existed and even led to civil war. Even more than the first book, Russell plays with time and location, moving back and forth between Earth and Rakhat, between the “present” and the future. Time is relative, after all. This is a difficult technique to pull of and Russell does is marvelously well. However … there is one segment where she takes the characters into the future to have one of the Jana’ata explain what had happened when the humans were still traveling. This automatically lessens some of the suspense because we know the humans live. Was this done to give us hope? To reinforce the message that bad things can happen to good people? I found it jarring and felt I had missed something important until I recognized the jump in time. This novel is also much more philosophical than her first book. The characters have significant conversations about their purpose and beliefs; they consider and are sometimes forced to listen to “the other side of the story,” changing their (and the reader’s) initial impressions of what has happened and why. And, as is suggested by the title, the story is very spiritual. I am reminded of the closing lines of John Gillespie Magee Jr’s poem High Flight “And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod The high untrespassed sanctity of space, Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.” It’s a fascinating story, and gave me much to think about, so why not 5 stars? Somehow the novel lacked the impact of Russell’s first work. I think that was because too much time was spent on the civil war and various Runa and Jana’ata characters, and less time was spent with Sandoz and Mendes. THAT was the story I really wanted to know about and I felt a little disappointed in how little of the novel involved them. Additionally, as a sequel I cannot really recommend it to everyone I meet … you must have read The Sparrow first. Anna Fields does a marvelous job performing the audio book. She has good pacing and her ease with pronouncing all those different names and foreign phrases is admirable. Her gift for voices and dialect makes it very easy to differentiate the many characters (mostly male) in the novel. Makes me wonder if Russell had the potential for audio in mind when she created the multi-cultural cast of characters.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sara T

    I didn't hate this book, but it was a bit of a letdown after The Sparrow. I really enjoy Russell's writing, so I had high hopes for this one. To be honest, though, it comes off like she was writing fanfiction about her own work. (Spoiler Alert) Like "Author's Note: This is a fic where Sofia actually didn't die and she lives on Rakhat and Emilio is going to get married then he gets kidnapped and taken back and there's like this huge ass war on Rakhat. Please R and R!" I really admired Russell's no I didn't hate this book, but it was a bit of a letdown after The Sparrow. I really enjoy Russell's writing, so I had high hopes for this one. To be honest, though, it comes off like she was writing fanfiction about her own work. (Spoiler Alert) Like "Author's Note: This is a fic where Sofia actually didn't die and she lives on Rakhat and Emilio is going to get married then he gets kidnapped and taken back and there's like this huge ass war on Rakhat. Please R and R!" I really admired Russell's non-linear style in book 1, but here she jumps around so much that it's honestly hard to determine what happened when. The characters themselves don't exactly fit in with the characterization from The Sparrow. Sofia is the most problematic - in The Sparrow, she was a semi-devout Jew, at least devout enough to travel to Israel for a mikveh and she mentions at least once "the ashes of the six million." And she was a survivor of the "Second Kurdish War." In Children of God, she basically authors genocide. No joke. Given her background and apparent concern for the Holocaust, for this character to incite a war with a little 'final solution to the Jana'ata problem' on the side makes no logical sense. Despite Sofia's strong sympathy with the Runao, one would think that a Jewish character who had survived a war wouldn't, let's see now, behave exactly like Hitler. Unless this was some kind of very poorly rendered metaphor/life lesson of which I've missed the point entirely. The idea that a handful of humans could cause such upheaval on Rakhat is rather blatant imperialism. Despite their professed politically correct sensitivity that all on Earth will have reached by the 2016, the characters from the Sparrow and Children of God have no respect for the Rakhati way of doing business (ie Jana'ata eating the Runao. The Runao are basically cool with this until the humans show up). The humans manipulate intelligent beings (capable of transmitting signals to Earth when Earth can't figure out how to transmit signals to them) into doing "World War II Except With Aliens" and completely reversing a society that has been established since time immemorial. Yeah. And then...Heeeerrre they come to save the daaaaaayyyyy!!! Another Jesuit mission!! Emilio Sandoz who gets some kind of redemption or something! Reunited and it feels to good to play Simon Wiesenthal to Sofia "Himmler" Mendes. When those 'stupid aliens' epicfail and the Jana'ata are nearly extinct, the new crop of Jesuits fixes everything and everyone lives in peace and harmony, the end. And there's some kind of boring subplot with Sofia's autistic son. It doesn't have much to do with the book, aside from letting Russell's camera stay mostly on the humans. Honestly, it's not a terrible book. If you loved The Sparrow, you might like Children of God. It's nice to catch up with the few characters that remain, and Russell does tie up all the loose plot threads neatly, if not satisfactorily.

  25. 4 out of 5

    MA

    I am re-reading this for probably the 6th time since I first picked it up in high school, too bored to wait for my English teacher's copy of the preceding book (The Sparrow) to be available. (Pro-tip: Read Children of God first. You are less likely to try to throw yourself off a tall building as MDR takes all the joy out of life with a poignancy GRRM only dreams of. Also, Children of God is an absolutely amazing book in its own right, but it is very different than The Sparrow. If you come to it I am re-reading this for probably the 6th time since I first picked it up in high school, too bored to wait for my English teacher's copy of the preceding book (The Sparrow) to be available. (Pro-tip: Read Children of God first. You are less likely to try to throw yourself off a tall building as MDR takes all the joy out of life with a poignancy GRRM only dreams of. Also, Children of God is an absolutely amazing book in its own right, but it is very different than The Sparrow. If you come to it expecting more of the same, you will be very disappointed. On the other hand, The Sparrow will still knock your socks off after reading Children of God. If you just can't stand spoilers, and have to read things in order, I recommend taking a long break between The Sparrow and Children of God, so that all the characters feel like old friends you forgot you'd lost.) Every time I pick it up again, I walk around saying, "I forgot how GOOD this book is!" to anyone who doesn't run away fast enough. Have you ever heard the saying, "Draw a monster. What makes it a monster?" That's the question asked here, on a sweeping, global scale that is also deeply personal. The dialogue alone is worth 7/5 stars. If you come away from Children of God anything but completely besotted with Supaari, Emilio, Sofia, John Candotti, Gina, and really *everyone else*, then I am so, so sorry for you. (Another reason to read this book first: If you know how amazing Supaari is while you read The Sparrow, it is even MORE powerful. I think this review says it well.) There is a great deal of heartbreak in Children of God, but it is the kind that makes you feel like a better person afterward, and I have tried to giggle and sob simultaneously so many times it's a miracle I have survived loving this for so long. Children of God continues the Jesuits In Space story of the disastrous first encounter between earthlings and extraterrestrials told in The Sparrow. With a sense of humor that is dry, piercing, and tender, Russell delves deeper into ruin than any other book I've ever read. She deftly takes each character's world apart, wipes them off, and sends them back into the ring. All the protagonists want to kill each other. There are no bad guys. No, that's not true. There's a bad guy. You'll be glad he's there so there's at least SOMEWHERE you can point your pain and rage. He's not really that important, except when he is. This book is smart and searching, and inspiring without being preachy. If you want a book that will make you struggle, and love the struggle, read this one. And buy an extra copy, because you're going to want to inflict it on all your friends, too.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Teri Drake-Floyd

    I never, ever, ever do this, only once in a very rare blue moon, but I'm putting this one down. I read the majority of it, but the events that transpire in the book had me so in my feelings that I literally just don't want to even finish it. I'm a writer, dammit. I know all about putting your darlings through the ringer for the good of the narrative. I've read some really hard books; I'm no stranger to a story that pierces your heart. But this one...I just can't. Emilio Sandoz has already been t I never, ever, ever do this, only once in a very rare blue moon, but I'm putting this one down. I read the majority of it, but the events that transpire in the book had me so in my feelings that I literally just don't want to even finish it. I'm a writer, dammit. I know all about putting your darlings through the ringer for the good of the narrative. I've read some really hard books; I'm no stranger to a story that pierces your heart. But this one...I just can't. Emilio Sandoz has already been through it all. (SPOILERS AHOY) Abused as a child, he's seen everyone he's ever loved die, he's survived horrific wounds to his hands that literally almost killed him, he endured what essentially boils down to bestiality gang rape, and accidentally kills a child he loved as his own. He makes it back home only to suffer invasive and debasing questions from his brotherhood all in the name of "finding his faith again" and becoming okay, even though he can never truly be okay again. He suffers from pain and crisis of faith and nightmares and his life is literally hell. After all of that...finally. He finds love. And man, it was wonderful. I think maybe Russell made the love story between Emilio and Gina TOO good because it contained a line I found so beautiful I had to snap a picture and share with a friend: "She held in the tension just before movement, about to walk back toward the house. Later she would think, If I had turned away, I'd have missed the moment he fell in love." I wish I'd written that line. It was perfect. And then a few short pages later Emilio Sandoz is being kidnapped and sent back to Rakhat against his will, before even having the chance to marry the woman who has redeemed his life and who is carrying a child he'll never know. So I put it down in disgust. In one fell swoop, I lost interest in reading the rest of the novel. I was even willing to overlook what seemed like tacked on storylines (Sofia alive? Well, okay. Even the description of her son, Isaac as being "not normal" I could stomach, though it rankled. Supaari's explanations as to why he did what he did to Emilio when the first book's vague but practical recounting of class, hierarchy and breeding laws made it perfectly clear why? Okay.) that were wrapped up so poignantly in the first book that they were unnecessary. But to drag Emilio through more suffering...nah, man. I can't do it. I'll come back to this book later, maybe. But this character resonated with me so much that I don't want to see him suffer anymore.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Robert Delikat

    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 revie 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.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Collins

    This sequel to The Sparrow is worth reading, but I didn't enjoy it as much as the first book. It begins well enough but loses steam about halfway through. I liked the second revealing look at the events which occurred at the end of The Sparrow, even though the author cheats: it turns out that something you thought happened in the first book didn't really happen. The new characters aren't as well-developed as the original set, and I thought the aliens were more interesting when they were more myst This sequel to The Sparrow is worth reading, but I didn't enjoy it as much as the first book. It begins well enough but loses steam about halfway through. I liked the second revealing look at the events which occurred at the end of The Sparrow, even though the author cheats: it turns out that something you thought happened in the first book didn't really happen. The new characters aren't as well-developed as the original set, and I thought the aliens were more interesting when they were more mysterious. Don't expect a more realistic plot. The crew of this second Jesuit mission is even more ridiculous than the first one, and the alien society seems terribly fragile, such that a few bumbling humans can cause a planet-wide revolution. Emilio Sandoz is at the center of the story again, and at one point I felt that the author's treatment of him was verging on emotional pornography. How many more times was she going to give the man a glimpse of peace and then snatch it away? But I needn't have worried. The intensity faded pretty rapidly once the second mission arrived on Rakhat.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Para (wanderer)

    I was initially unsure whether I should read this book. I enjoyed The Sparrow very much (despite its flaws), but there were some...mixed opinions on the sequel and whether it completes the story or ruins it. Unfortunately, I think I have to side with the latter - perhaps not ruins, precisely, but doesn't add much and is inferior in more or less every way. And the ending actively made me angry. Read the first book and stop there, it stands alone just fine. We meant well, she thought, looking up I was initially unsure whether I should read this book. I enjoyed The Sparrow very much (despite its flaws), but there were some...mixed opinions on the sequel and whether it completes the story or ruins it. Unfortunately, I think I have to side with the latter - perhaps not ruins, precisely, but doesn't add much and is inferior in more or less every way. And the ending actively made me angry. Read the first book and stop there, it stands alone just fine. We meant well, she thought, looking up at a sky piled with cumulus clouds turning amethyst and indigo above the clearing. No one was deliberately evil. We all did the best we could. Even so, what a mess we made of everything... The Sparrow was not perfect, but it was whole. I can't say as much for Children of God. This is, as you can probably tell, going to be a bit of a rant. Children of God continues exactly where The Sparrow left off. Emilio is recovering from his ordeal as well as anyone could have hoped for. He's getting stronger and he slowly gets to the point where he's as healthy and happy as someone who went through as much trauma as he did can be. Of course, his superiors have other plans for him, regardless of what he thinks ot them. And so things get worse for him again. Much worse. At the same time, Rakhat isn't exactly calm either... While the first book was among the most interesting I've read when it comes to strucure, a reverse mystery where the outcome is known at the start with alternating past and present chapters, Children of God is just a mess. Chapters set on Earth, chapters set on Rakhat, with odd "when character A was talking to character B many years later, character B said..." interludes in between that just felt like infodump...yes, the author tried to do a similar thing with two timelines here, but it came off as clunky and awkward and at points forced. As did many of the plot points. In fact, "clunky and awkward and at points forced" describes most of the book. Where The Sparrow was tight and focused, Children of God was all over the damn place. I don't have an answer why I didn't like the plot or the ending other than "it just didn't feel right" but I guess that's as far as I can go without spoilers anyway. So there. At least the old humour was still present in places. For a hushed instant, [character] stared in blank astonishment and then blurted, "Jesus!" To which the Bishop of Rome replied, with unexpected humor, "No, only the Pope." The worldbuilding - something I had mild complaints with even before - was equally shoddy. I was never quite sure at what technological level Runa and Jana'ata were - most of the story mentions relatively little technology aside from the occasional mention of radio. At one point you get a feel that they still fight hand to hand, then suddenly out of nowhere artillery is mentioned when nothing gave that impression before. It seems very much of a "whatever is convenient for the plot" method. I wasn't too fond of how religion was handled either. In the previous book, yes, it was thematically important - a lot of characters are priests - but it was not pushy and I found it interesting to see things from a different perspective. Here it was much preachier and there was just...too much of it for my profoundly non-religious self. I have never appreciated philosophical diatribes (some day I do need to write a rant on Malazan...) - and if nothing else, it bored me. I skimmed a lot. And that's not even considering the other things it has to say. It paradoxically feels both heavy-handed and yet I couldn't find what, exactly, was the point it tried to get across (though that may be just me?), if that makes sense. Then I read the appendix interview and got pissed all over again: Here, I had in mind the invasion of North America by European settlers. That was unquestionably a catastrophe for the native peoples of this continent, but at the same time, it was the best damned thing that ever happened to an awful lot of immigrants from around the world. Again: what the fuck? There's also an autistic character that is (in my opinion) handled pretty poorly. They fall into the common trope of disabled people who exist more for the benefit for other characters and are put on a pedestal of saintliness. It's not exactly inspiration porn, but I felt they weren't quite treated as a person. It rubbed me the wrong way. [character] didn’t understand heartache. Or regret or longing or divided loyalties. Or anger or shattered trust or betrayal. Such things had no clarity. They involved expectations of another’s behavior, and [character] had no such expectations. In fact, this book has precisely one redeeming quality that saved my kindle from having a most unfortunate collision with a wall, and his name is Emilio Sandoz. He remains one of my favourite characters and his POV was what got me through. I just plain like the guy - his resilience, his prickliness, his refusal to take any shit, his history - he has depth and three-dimensionality. For most of the book, I was conflicted - I hate the philosophical crap, I hate the structure, oh look Emilio chapter, yay, I hate philosophical crap, I hate the structure, etc. And I can't help but feel the clunkiness of the plot did him a disservice. Enjoyment: I think this pic describes it pretty well Execution: 2/5 Recommended to: those looking for books with heavy amounts of religion (more precisely Catholicism), those who thought Emilio hasn't suffered enough Not recommended to: non-religious folks, those who want good autism representation, content warnings: rape, discussions of suicide More reviews on my blog, To Other Worlds.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Children of God is the by-design sequel to The Sparrow. Should you pick up this book before having read The Sparrow, carefully take it out and place it carefully on the table/bookcase/floor and walk away as if it was filled with aging (and unstable) TNT. Locate a copy of The Sparrow and read it. Then and only then should you retrieve this book and commence to read it. You may not like either book, but you will thank me for this. Because this is a true sequel, it dovetails completely with The Sparr Children of God is the by-design sequel to The Sparrow. Should you pick up this book before having read The Sparrow, carefully take it out and place it carefully on the table/bookcase/floor and walk away as if it was filled with aging (and unstable) TNT. Locate a copy of The Sparrow and read it. Then and only then should you retrieve this book and commence to read it. You may not like either book, but you will thank me for this. Because this is a true sequel, it dovetails completely with The Sparrow. At least half of this book explains what happens at the end of its predecessor and how that affected the central character. The rest tells new stories and throws a zinger at you from the opening. Like the first novel, the book is split into different timelines and stories, but instead of being a clear before and after, it is all part of the “after”. Personally, I found the interleaved stories to flow more consistently than they did in The Sparrow, but there were still points at which I was frustrated by it. It settles down more (like the first novel) in the last quarter of the book. I am not going to write too much about the plot or contents of the book. It’s too easy to spoil things for another reader. I think that this book requires more fortitude and grit on the part of the reader because so much of the material is dark. Suffering, misery, abuse, and hatred are expressed and examined at great length. This isn’t gratuitous: they make the characters stronger and the novel depends on the depths of these emotions in order to create the story as we are meant to experience it. As usual, I have forestalled looking at anyone else’s review before composing this, but I have read that the author thinks that many people like this novel better than the first. I can’t say that is true for me. I liked the inventiveness that went into the first one; new languages, a culture and a whole world were created. In this novel we deal more with the frailness of humans and our beliefs as well as how one people overthrow another. Less is made up from the author’s mind, but she delves deeper into our psyche. I think both novels are powerful books well-written and full of ideas, but as they are so very different, there is no better or worse in an objective sense. At a personal level I am more in tune with the discovery of an ET world and the voyage to explore it. So I would say that I liked The Sparrow better on that basis. In any event, read The Sparrow and then read Children of God. Four-and-one-half (4.5) stars . As before, I am rounding it up for Goodreads.

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