Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 254
Father Emilio Sandoz returns to Earth after having his hands permanently crippled and being held as a slave by the dominant, carnivorous species on the planet Rakhat. Believing himself to be the only surviving member of the original landing party sent by Earth’s Society of Jesus, Father Sandoz has resigned himself to spending the rest of his life in isolation at his mission, atoning for sins committed on Rakhat.
While recuperating on Earth, he meets Gina and her daughter, Celastina. Through their gentle ministering and regular visits, Sandoz finds himself beginning to heal despite himself and, eventually, falls in love. They make plans to get married and Sandoz puts in a petition to leave the Order.
However, the Church has other plans for Sandoz. The night he turns in his petition, a group of men burst into his room, beat and drug him senseless, and carry him out. He wakes up to find himself on board a ship traveling back to Rakhat, already too far away from Earth to send a message that would take less than a decade to reach Earth.
Apparently, the broadcasts from Rakhat that had originally attracted the Church’s attention had changed dramatically enough that the Society of Jesus had decided to send another ship to investigate. New evidence also surfaces that suggest that Sandoz was not the only survivor of the first expedition, and that drastic changes have happened to the planet’s balance of power between the two dominant species because of the ones left behind.
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