One reviewer referred to this book as Jesuits in Space: Part 2. It made me laugh. And this was appropriate, because this book makes me smile. And I smile because it’s fantastic! If you haven’t read the prequel, The Sparrow, run right out and get it. And then, when you are finished, read Children of God.
In the previous novel, first contact is made with a planet outside of our solar system. The people selected to travel to the planet Rakhat include members of the Society of Jesus – Jesuit priests. Only one member of this group makes it back to earth, Father Emilio Sandoz, and the trauma he suffered while on the planet has shaken his faith. For readers, we are confronted with the age old question, why does God allow bad things to happen? Father Emilio’s question was one step further because he believes he experienced the rapture of God on the planet. If God did, in fact, orchestrate the rapture, then He also orchestrated the suffering. Either God exists and causes pain, or he does not exist at all.
Mary Doria Russell does not disappoint her fans in this second book. Again, I am always so impressed with her research. From the science of the mission, to the Jewish and Catholic faiths presented, she is spot on. My only complaint was her method of getting Emilio Sandoz to go back to Rakhat. I didn’t think it was believable, but she did comment (and apologize) for it in the author’s notes. She simply could not think of any other feasible way to get Sandoz to go back. She’s probably right, and I accept her apology.
When asked about the theme of this novel, Russell points out the obvious – “Don’t make assumptions.” Communication is tricky and we rely so much on what we think we know, to define the world around us. Russell points out that in life, as with our understanding of God, the only thing we can be sure of is that we don’t know nearly as much as thought we did.
Brilliant novel, and I highly recommend it!
5 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1998