Children of God by Mary Doria Russell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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.
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