God's Fires

Patricia Anthony, Author
Patricia Anthony, Author Ace Books $22.95 (370p) ISBN 978-0-441-00407-2
Reviewed on: 03/31/1997
Release date: 04/01/1997
Mass Market Paperbound - 384 pages - 978-0-441-00537-6
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In the village of Quintas in Portugal, they tell tales of spirits and mysterious lights in the sky. One young woman claims to have been impregnated by an angel. Another has seen a vision of the Blessed Virgin. A potato field is found to have grown to maturity in a single night. Father Manoel Pessoa, Jesuit and itinerant Inquisitor, hopes to get to the bottom of this mystery before it becomes necessary to conduct an auto-da-fe and consign some poor soul to the flames. It's too late, however. Things are already out of control. Pessoa himself sees the strange lights in the sky, one of which--a spaceship of course--crashes into a nearby hillside, leaving its crew of child-sized aliens marooned. Worse still, these events have attracted the attention of Afonso, the mentally retarded king of Portugal, who rides to Quintas and enters the disabled spaceship. There he mistakes the ship's artificial intelligence for God and, after it shows him a view of the heavens, proclaims that the Earth circles around the Sun, Galileo's dangerous heresy. The king's arrival is soon followed by that of the Inquisitor-General, a man eager to find heresy and punish it with fire. Anthony (Cradle of Splendor) has created a beautifully written speculative historical full of complex characters and difficult moral dilemmas. She offers no simple or pulpy solutions, no last-minute rescues. The aliens, silent and passive throughout, serve essentially as mirrors to the soul, the means by which Father Pessoa and his fellow human characters--as well as the readers of this powerful novel--discover important truths about themselves. (Apr.)
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