|The Book of Strange New Things
""I was going to say something," he said."
It begins with Peter, a devoted man of faith, as he is called to the mission of a lifetime, one that takes him galaxies away from his wife, Bea. Peter becomes immersed in the mysteries of an astonishing new environment, overseen by an enigmatic corporation known only as USIC. His work introduces him to a seemingly friendly native population struggling with a dangerous illness and hungry for Peter’s teachings—his Bible is their “book of strange new things.” But Peter is rattled when Bea’s letters from home become increasingly desperate: typhoons and earthquakes are devastating whole countries, and governments are crumbling. Bea’s faith, once the guiding light of their lives, begins to falter.
Suddenly, a separation measured by an otherworldly distance, and defined both by one newly discovered world and another in a state of collapse, is threatened by an ever-widening gulf that is much less quantifiable. While Peter is reconciling the needs of his congregation with the desires of his strange employer, Bea is struggling for survival. Their trials lay bare a profound meditation on faith, love tested beyond endurance, and our responsibility to those closest to us.
Marked by the same bravura storytelling and precise language that made The Crimson Petal and the White such an international success, The Book of Strange New Things is extraordinary, mesmerizing, and replete with emotional complexity and genuine pathos.
Another five star book this year! And yet, I was so reluctant to like this book. Why? Because the main character is a Pastor and the whole story follows him to another planet where he preaches the word of God to the inhabitants. I love anything spacey and science fictiony, much of this book screams "read me!" based on that but the other part went into this book with a weary eye due to the religious tones. All I can say is that NOT once did I roll my eyes or get too annoyed with Peter, the Pastor. It probably helped that Michel Faber is an excellent writer who can cover you with a soft 'word-blanket'. I felt so comfortable reading this book, to the point where I didn't want it to end. Most of the time, while reading a book, I find myself thinking of the next one (especially if the book dips into a low/boring section). My guess is that this book didn't have a boring part, can that happen?! I was captured from start to finish.
Peter, the Pastor, has agreed (and selected) to undertake a mission on a strange planet leaving his wife Beatrice behind. What I liked about his character was that you saw him evolve during his journey, at first being the typical born-again Christian but developing into a man who opens his eyes a little more, becomes more inquisitive and takes a closer look at the unknown. I really loved that. I'm not sure if the Author is religious, but woah... was he able to write a transformation within a complicated human being. I would think that planetary travel and alien interaction are not usually the plot devices used to discuss a meaty topic such as religion. I think this might have been the only book I've read that took on the controversial topic of religion in a VERY different way, one that actually welcomed me and probably will/would many others who feel comforted by looking at things from a skewed perspective.
The Book of Strange New Things brings up so many questions and I kept asking myself how I would deal with being on a planet light years away, far from home and family. The community surrounding Peter, both the humans and the aliens are examined with a very fine comb, with amazing intellect and writing. I know this will be a book I'll be raving about for a very long time. The aliens, dubbed "Oasans" by Peter, are so imaginative and realistic. I truly believe if another planet or aliens exist, this could very well be what they would look and act like. The interaction between the Oasans and the humans is really believable as well, even though I'd hope we'd be more apt to interact with a different intelligent species... I think too many deep fears and questions get in the way. It's not often you get a pairing of philosophy and science fiction combined with fantastic literary writing, this book is just a winner. I have to caution those who don't like weird, strange concepts though... you might not appreciate it as much as I did. I'd hate to send you down a yellow brick road when science fiction and fantasy don't tickle your fancy. Do I think that this could be mildly sci-fi? Yes, and maybe that could be enough to coax some weary folks to test the genre, maybe Faber is the perfect person to take you across that border into fantasy land.
P.S. - Faber also thanks Marvel comics in the acknowledgements, which warmed my heart to him quite a bit. Who does that? He thanks an entire community of writers and publishers as a whole? I'll tell you who, Michel Faber and I love him for it.
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