Children of God

by Mary Doria Russell

Review © 1998 by Laurie D. T. Mann

Recently, I reread The Sparrow. I laughed, I cried, it's even better the second time around.

So, on my back porch in our 75 degree March day I started in on the sequel, Children of God, which follows the continuing adventures of Father Emilio Sandoz and the intertwined relationship between the beings on the Earth and the beings on Rakhat. I liked the Rakhat sequences much better than the Earth sequences. The changes that the humans effected on Rakhat (both the deliberate ones and the not-so-deliberate ones) were very interesting to follow.

The Sparrow follows the broken Emilio's journey from wholeness to near-destruction during a first contact with a planet with two sentient species. Children of God explores Emilio's coming to terms with his different new life, and his inevitable return to Rakhat.

In many ways, I didn't find the story on Earth very compelling. We meet some interesting characters, but the meat of the book is in following the parallel story on Rakhat. Rakhat undergoes many changes in the years after its first contact with humans, some of them good, but many of them are not.

I wasn't sure what trick was going to be played on Emilio to get him back to Rakhat, I just had a bad feeling I wasn't going to like it. I'm not sure how you could have written around it, given how strongly Emilio didn't want to go and given the lack of transporter technology. ;->

The book is very well-written, but very serious and I missed the humor. The first book was really very funny in places and I found I didn't laugh nearly as often in the second. Much of Children of God felt like a meditation on the Old Testement, whereas much of The Sparrow felt like a meditation on the New.


I particularly liked the relationship, the family that Sofia and Supaari built because they only had each other. I enjoyed watching Isaac (Sofia's son) and H'ann'n (Supaari's daughter) grow up. In many ways, she was part of both species, with her ability to say (many times) "Isaac is my brother." This made her completely unlike her biological species, who only seemed to care how you were placed in a bloodline.

I loved the way Supaari turned his back on his people, and the way that miscommunications fueled so many of the problems in The Sparrow which then spilled over into Children of God. You could almost hear Dr. McCoy screaming in the background of the second book "See what happens when you violate the prime directive?"

Mary was nominated for the Campbell Award for best new writer and won at Bucconneer.