Review: The Book of Strange New Things

The Book of Strange New Things
The Book of Strange New Things

By Michel Faber
(Hogarth, Hardcover, 9780553418842, October 2014, 512pp.)

The Short of It:

It’s all strange and new and in my opinion, wonderful.

The Rest of It:

After a lifetime of drug addiction and a series of very bad choices, Peter Leigh finally pulls himself together. He finds his soul mate, marries her and becomes a pastor for the local church. Scrubbed of his sin and living what could be called a simple but good life, Peter applies for a position that will take him far, far away from his wife, Bea.

Peter has been chosen to travel to another planet. His mission is to share the word of God with the Oasans, who at times seem to possess human characteristics but look nothing like the humans he’s tended to in the past. Oddly enough, Peter enjoys his assignment on Oasis and takes great pleasure in getting to know its people but he finds that over time, he is beginning to lose sense of reality.

In the mean time, his pregnant wife Bea, is back home trying to live in a world that is falling apart. Climate change, natural disasters and an ever-increasing sense of panic have caused her to lose faith in God and this upsets Peter greatly. Their only form of communication is through The Shoot, which is a very primitive and not always reliable form of text messaging and it’s through these messages that we get the bulk of who Peter is and what he holds dear.

I told another blogger early on, that this book reminded me of The Sparrow, and it does but mostly because it involves an expedition to an unknown planet, is heavy on religious themes and also involves an alien race quite different from our own. The tone is completely different here. More upbeat, and dare I say it? Hopeful.

What makes this novel come alive, are the descriptive passages. I was mesmerized by all that was going on, no matter how mundane. In Faber’s hands, it’s all new and worthy of exploration. I literally hung on every word, which is why it took me so long to read it. But for some reason, the time it took to read it was not important. There are questions to be answered and truthfully, many are not answered by the end of the book, but the “what ifs” pull you through the narrative effortlessly.

I find myself pondering this book daily. I finished it a few days ago, but it keeps coming back to me. Peter’s dilemma of wanting to be in two places at once and us as readers knowing that Earth’s current state is anything but ideal. I finished this when the announcement was made on the news that California has about a year’s worth of water left. A year’s worth! That’s it. What will we do?

That said, The Book of Strange New Things is a powerful, yet quiet read. I don’t recall many of you reading it. Perhaps its 500+ pages discouraged you but there is so much to sink your teeth into. It’s definitely worth your time.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Edelweiss.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

22 thoughts on “Review: The Book of Strange New Things”

    1. The space travel piece was kind of underplayed. Arriving on a new planet would be remarkable, except the other scientists were already there so it was almost common place to have people coming and going. The pastor in this novel is actually the second pastor to have served there so the ground work was already there. What startled me was how Earth was falling apart while he was there. It was almost as if being there was better. 

  1. I’m glad to read your comparison to The Sparrow. I had that thought too when I first heard about this book. And good to know that it is a bit more hopeful. I’ll keep this one in mind.

    And the water. Seriously? I hadn’t heard that. Praying for rain?

    1. And they just cut our imported water by 30%. It’s very scary right now. I can skip the grass watering, but not watering the hillside makes my home a fire danger with our 105-110 degree summers. 

  2. The reviews all around have been positive, I guess I held off because of the size mostly and the fact I was gearing up for A Little Life, 700+ pp.

  3. I am embarrassed to admit that I did not know about this one. Thank you sharing, I rather suspect that I’ll enjoy it (should I ever find the time to read it, lol). Wonderful review.

    1. The author who wrote this one, is best known for The Crimson Petal and the White. I did not read that one but I know of it from several folks who loved it. 

  4. I’ve been curious about this one for quite some time, so I’m glad you posted about it. It sounds like something I would really enjoy. I’m putting it on my TBR pile ASAP. I love books that stay with you after you’ve put them away – those are usually the best ones 🙂 Glad you enjoyed this one so much.

    1. I think you would enjoy this one but it’s slow. You just have to know that there isn’t a lot of action. It’s a thinking book for sure. 

  5. I’ve avoided this one more for the space travel aspect than it’s length. That usually turns me off, but glad it worked for you. If I do decide to go the space travel route, it might be The Martian.

  6. covering my ears, shouting “blahblahblahblahblah” so I hear nothing! see nothing! (I just know I want to read this and I don’t want to know a thing.)

  7. I’d not heard of this one until I read your review. If it’s kind of like The Sparrow but less bleak, then I bet I’d like it. (And I hear you on the California water situation. It wasn’t until moving here a year and a half ago that I’ve lived in a place where environmental issues are so immediately a problem. It’s scary to think about.)

  8. I definitely want to read this one. The fact that it’s got space travel and an alien planet in it makes it even better, and everything you wrote has me so intrigued. That’s terrible about the water situation in California, though.

  9. I picked up my copy today from the library. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Hope I like it, too.

  10. You definitely piqued my interest in this novel. Sounds like an exciting writer. But what did you think when you heard the author plans to retire from it? Odd eh? I will check it out.

  11. The Sparrow is my favorite book of all time and this one definitely intrigues me. I’ve been scared by the length but I really do want to read it.

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