February 3, 2015

Review: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

The Book of Strange New Things
Author: Michel Faber
Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction/Speculative Fiction
Release Date: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Hogarth
Source: Blogging For Books Program


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.


The Book of Strange New Things is unlike anything I have ever read or even come across before. It is truly original and can't be bound by mere genre labels or even reviews. This book is more of an experience than a story - each reader will interpret and react to this novel differently and on a wholly personal level. I never thought that a work of fiction would have such a profound impact on my way of thinking. There's no real way for me to give a true review of this book because I have no words to describe how I felt and what I thought during reading it.

The story itself is as fascinating and intriguing as it is heartbreaking and thought-provoking. The main character of the book is a man named Peter who is deeply grounded in his faith. He's given the opportunity of a lifetime when offered a position that will take him galaxies away from Earth - to a new planet and new people. Peter's intrigued by the mysterious company - USIC - that's overseeing everything that's being done. He's also fascinated by the native people that inhabit the new land; they seem friendly enough but suffer from hunger and a deadly illness. Peter begins to teach them lessons from his Bible, and essentially becomes their minister - and they his congregation. Peter feels like he's doing God's work and what he's meant to do. Until letters from his wife, Bea, start describing the terrible things happening back on Earth. Natural disasters are ripping apart the planet and governments are falling to the ground. It's become incredibly dangerous at home and Bea - who is a woman devoted to her faith, like her husband - is starting to waver in her trust in God and her faith. The distance between the two - literally galaxies - is causing a huge strain on their relationship with each other and with God. Peter's trying to help the people in this strange place while Bea is on Earth struggling to stay alive. Will their love for one another, along with their faith and devotion, save them? Will Peter return home to save Bea - or will he stay and continue to help the natives that are becoming his people?

There is a ton of things happening in the book - both on the surface within the text as well as important topics layered underneath. If you take the story at face value and nothing more, you'd find a remarkable tale of space exploration, alien life forms, tragedy, and love - among many other things. It's a great science fiction novel with accessible characters and a compelling story line. However, if you take the story along with the underlying topics and questions that arise from it all - then you'll have an experience that leaves you blown away with your mind spinning and questioning almost every important facet in your life. I know that sounds like a bit much - maybe even a little overboard - to say about a book of fiction. Like I said earlier - everyone will have a different experience with the book. It may be just a great science fiction novel for some, while others might not take to it at all and won't finish reading it. Some will be left with thought provoking questions about heavy topics in life such as love, faith, religion, family, responsibility - and so much more. I could continue on in my ramblings about what I liked about the story - how the characters were written or how well the author created the worlds contained within the pages, but none of that will really tell you what I thought about it. Those are usually some of the important questions to ask about a book, but in this case - they become less relevant. I guess what I'm trying to say is that, for me at least, this was so much more than a novel. It was a literary masterpiece that has several different layers and various ways of affecting the reader. It's one of those titles that you know you're going to read again - probably more than just once - to understand it a little better each time and pick up on things you may have missed before - and, most of all, because it deserves to be thought about and re-read several times. I highly recommend this book to readers of all types of genres - it goes above and beyond any ordinary novel and is really in a class of its own making.

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