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The Child Goddess
Louise Marley
Ace, 324 pages

The Child Goddess
Louise Marley
Louise Marley has been a classical concert and opera singer for 15 years. She sings with the Seattle Symphony, has concertized in Russia and Italy, and is alto soloist at St. James Cathedral in Seattle. She holds a Master's Degree in Voice. Her novels include the trilogy The Singers of Nevya and The Terrorists of Irustan.

Louise Marley Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Maquisarde
SF Site Review: The Maquisarde
SF Site Review: The Glass Harmonica
SF Site Review: The Glass Harmonica
SF Site Review: The Terrorists of Irustan
Glass Music

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

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When ExtraSolar Corporation begins building a hydrogen retrieval facility on the planet Virimund, it seems an ideal site -- a planet almost entirely covered in ocean and uninhabited.  So hydro workers exploring some islands are taken completely by surprise when they're attacked by a group of stick and rock-wielding children -- apparently the descendants of a lost Sikassa colony that left Earth three centuries before.

The workers retrieve a wounded girl, Oa, and transport her to Earth, where she unwittingly becomes the centre of a controversy.  Should her people be considered indigenous and thus owners of Virimund?  At stake is ExtraSolar's hugely expensive power facility, critical to human expansion in that part of the galaxy.

Mother Isabel Burke, Catholic priest and anthropologist, is selected as an impartial guardian for the girl.  Isabel's own goals are clear -- she intends to learn about Oa and her culture, and advocate for the lone child.  But from the very first moment, Isabel comes under huge pressure to make decisions against Oa's interests, especially as it becomes clear that the girl's blood carries an alien virus which could change the future of humanity.

The Child Goddess is another very strong novel from Seattle musician and writer, Louise Marley, whose previous novel, The Glass Harmonica, shared the 2001 Endeavour Award with The Telling, by Ursula K. Le Guin. Marley's greatest strength as a writer is in exploring the human dimension of technology and change, and once again she excels in this.

Isabel Burke is an unusual protagonist for an SF novel, being both a scientist and a Catholic priest sworn to celibacy.  She's no cardboard saint, either, but rather a flawed human, struggling to maintain her faith and her vows despite having fallen in love with Dr. Simon Edwards, a colleague and political ally who she can't avoid. Through her eyes, Oa's, and several other viewpoint characters, Marley explores questions of faith, life, death, and the nature of love.

Less successful than the characterization is the single, somewhat simplistic story thread.  Marley maintains the mystery of Oa's background until almost the end of the novel, but at the cost of making Isabel a poor anthropologist and the others characters pretty dim-witted.  Readers will have figured out the virus and its vector long before the protagonist gets there; nonetheless there is plenty of emotional tension to keep the story moving.

Overall, this is another very strong novel, and a probable contender for the 2004 Endeavour.

Copyright © 2004 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at http://www.donna-mcmahon.com/.


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