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.