A.L. Burgess Jr.’s novel, Children of Na, tells the story of an alien consciousness desperate to escape slavery on its home planet. He is reborn on Earth and is a slave yet again. In his second quest for freedom, he falls through time and is buried until a fugitive Russian scientist being held by Nazis discovers his spacecraft. The scientist is all that can save the creature and its technology from being used to enslave the world.
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While the story may sound complicated, it reads quite well and has a comprehensive flow. The way it is told makes sense. The characters are easily recognizable and individual so it is easy to keep track of who is speaking, their back stories, etc. While it does seem like a stretch for the author to use both 1840s plantation America and the Russian Steppes during WWII as settings, he pulls it off well. Science fiction fans will likely find much to appreciate in this novel.
“Kizzy thought for a moment. ‘I did always like the name Silas.’ ‘Woo-wee, that’s a fine name for this here Lord’s child,’ Brister praised. ‘I like that name too,’ Honey beamed. ‘I guess Silas it is,’ Kizzy said.”
One thing that may challenge readers is the ethnic and racial stereotypes that seem to dominate the characters. The alien is, of course, brilliant, while the slaves all speak with a Gone with the Wind-style diction. They have no “learnin’,” and either follow their “Massah” or act predictably rebellious. Likewise, the Germans and Russians are all about the fatherland and their vodka. While it works for the story, the stereotypical treatment of ethnicity may limit the appeal of this novel. The author would have served the story better by relying on more accurate or original depictions of his characters.
Overall, this is an exciting and carefully thought out sci-fi novel and if read in that context then the stereotypes seem less offensive.
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