GOD'S FIRES by Patricia Anthony


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 Alien-contact yarn set somewhere near 1667 (Anthony doesn't actually tell us) in Portugal, a country still implacably dominated by the Inquisition: from the cutting-edge author of Cradle of Splendor (1996), etc. The action takes place over a 13-day period. When reports of angelic abductions and holy visions emanate from a small village, the circuit Inquisitor, Father Manoel Pessoa, is soon on hand to sift the evidence: Maria Elena Teixeira, though demonstrably still a virgin, claims to have been impregnated, then later aborted, by angels; Marta Castanheda sees visions of the Virgin Mary and has received a secret message from her. Then a large silver ``acorn'' crashes in a nearby field; three creatures- -angels?--emerge, one evidently dead, and are taken into custody. The dead one's body fails to corrupt and may even possess healing properties. News of the affair spreads, drawing the young and feeble-minded but curious King Afonso; bravely, he enters the acorn and speaks to--God?--within. Last upon the scene comes the gluttonous Monsignor Gomes, Inquisitor-General of Lisbon, whose only concerns are about how to stamp out without mercy any whiff of heresy or dismiss the occurrence as attempted Spanish meddling in Portuguese affairs. Pessoa's lover, Berenice, tries to help the girls, but she already has a reputation as a witch and is swiftly condemned. Gomes decides, regardless of the evidence, that everyone is guilty and must be burned, including the creatures, and orders the acorn interred along with its dying God. Whether tragedy or black farce, Anthony's thought-provoking and unforgettable story grows inevitably out of its impeccable historical context, with power enough to reach out across the centuries and disturb the present.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-441-00407-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Ace/Berkley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1997


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