Book Review: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

Title: The Book of Strange New Things
Author: Michel Faber
Published: 2014
Genre: Adult Literary Fiction

Synopsis: The Book of Strange New Things is a mind-blowing work that fearlessly tackles the search for meaning in an unfathomable universe. It concerns Peter and Beatrice, whose marriage is tested when Peter travels as a missionary, spreading the Gospel to a faraway land, and Beatrice is left to deal with troubles at home. In the most extraordinary and spellbinding ways, it deals with faith-religious faith, to be sure, but also faith in oneself, faith in salvation and faith in those we love. Riveting, mysterious and eye-opening, Faber’s latest novel is sure to be one of the most read and discussed books of 2014.

My Rating: red-starred-starred-star 1/2

This tome was part of my #tometopple challenge and it met the adult, 500 pages read in a week challenge so yeah for me!!

Now, let’s get on to the review of this strange little book.

The story of The Book of Strange New Things is about Father Peter, chosen among thousands to be a missionary in space, his job will be to minister to the alien population on this new planet. Behind he leaves Beatrice his devoted wife and Jacob his loving cat.

This is, without doubt, a slow read. This is not a book for the action lovers, the tension seekers, the mystery dwellers. This is a slow book about a man fully convinced it is God’s will that he minister to his new flock. Now, this book is a bit ambiguous in its intent, I’ll try to explain myself. Peter is not the most likable character, actually I’m fairy certain many times Faber rolled his eyes while writing him. He’s… he’s like many self-righteous Christians I’ve met and he can be pretty insufferable most of the time. However there’s a small part of you that roots for him despite his wholesome ignorance and often utter stupid manner of thinking, you root that he somehow becomes human and becomes understandable.

The story consist of Peter landing in planet weirdo, meeting the humans there and visiting the settlement of aliens he calls the Osans. While everything is going GREAT for dear Father Peter everything is going wrong wrong wrong for poor Beatrice and he discovers this through a way sort of email that keeps them in communication.

I enjoyed this book enough. Not enough to love it but enough to understand it and appreciate where Faber was coming from. This is my first Faber novel and actually left me wanting to explore more of his work just for the sake of comparison. Now you might be wondering, I’m not religious – I wouldn’t like this book. Well, I’m as un-religious as it comes seeing as I write for an atheist blog yet I grew up a Christian and I understood Peter’s mentality as the mentality of many born-again Christians. He’s genuine in his belief and I don’t think Faber is criticizing his faith but I don’t think this is a book that will be enjoyed by staunch believers. I don’t think it’s written as a praise for that belief/mentality and you might not like the direction Faber took as the book progresses. I think Faber presents you with both sides of the equation and let’s you make up your own mind but despite it all this book is more about marriage, what holds a marriage together and what makes it fall apart. It’s also about humanity and the type of people that adjust to certain environments and the types that do not.

I enjoyed the story, I enjoyed Beatrice and I enjoyed Grainger. I wholly disliked Peter and the Osans gave me the biggest creeps. The whole compound settlement gave me the creeps. Again, I think this is intentionally done by Faber. I did feel that this book lacked a poignant a’ha moment that would’ve made it all come together. I also felt it lacked urgency (again probably done intentionally but I felt it was a detriment) and it lacked emotional attachment from me because I disliked Peter so much but perhaps that’s what Faber wanted me to feel in that case – bravo!

 

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