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.