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. Read more...
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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."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-07-21
- Reviewer: Staff
Faber’s (The Crimson Petal and the White) novel could at first be mistaken for another period piece, as a Christian missionary named Peter bids farewell to his devoted wife, Beatrice, and departs on a mission in foreign lands. Only gradually does the reader discover that the book is set in the far future, where half of what survives is owned by a shadowy company called USIC and that it is not the inhabitants of a mere continent whose souls Peter aims to save, but those of a whole new planet, known as Oasis. He finds willing converts in the alien Oasans—they are eager to learn each new lesson from the Bible, which they call The Book of Strange New Things—but his relations with his fellow human colonists are far rockier. What’s worse, Beatrice writes to Peter with grim reports of life back on Earth, where a series of calamities seems to signal the coming apocalypse; more devastating is her confession that she is pregnant with their child in an environment suddenly less hospitable to life than Oasis. Peter will come to question both the finer points of Scripture and his faith as he chooses between the old world and the new. Faber’s story isn’t eventful enough to support its length, and Beatice and Peter’s correspondence grows tiresome. But the book wears its strong premise and mixture of Biblical and SF tropes extremely well. (Oct.)
To infinity and beyond
BookPage Fiction Top Pick, November 2014
Michel Faber’s phenomenal The Book of Strange New Things is primed to become a classic on space, faith and, above all, devotion.
Faber made bestseller and awards lists with his Victorian novel The Crimson Petal and the White, and a film adaptation of an earlier work, Under the Skin, was recently released. In his latest, readers are introduced to Christian minister/reformed addict Peter Leigh. Peter has been selected as one of the very few to travel to the newly named planet Oasis. His mission: to preach the good word to a community of native aliens (Oasans) who are surprisingly desperate to learn from “the book of strange new things” (aka the Bible).
Despite his excitement over this extraordinary opportunity, Peter struggles with having to leave his beloved wife, Bea, back home in London. They are able to communicate only via a form of email known as The Shoot, and their messages take days to arrive. Peter immediately immerses himself in the Oasans’ community, returning to base only every five days—a timespan that equals weeks on Earth. Each time, he receives new bad news from Bea. Tsunamis have wiped out major islands, national banks have gone under, garbage men are on strike and earthquakes have wiped out small countries. With each day, Bea’s hysteria mounts, along with the public reaction to these traumas.
Peter is faced with a moral quandary: Should he return to Bea, and a potentially doomed planet? Or should he remain with the Oasans, slowly losing himself in their strange world? However, all is not what it appears in his new home, and Faber shines in examining Peter’s conflicting feelings over whether he is best suited to serve God or his wife. Those leery of science fiction should not skip this remarkable, magnetic book full of eloquent meditations on faith, devotion, commitment and humanity.