Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Book of Strange New Things

Faber, M. (2015). The Book of Strange New Things. New York: Hogarth

Adult / Science Fiction / Relationships

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars

Publisher Blurb: 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.


Hall Ways Review: I really like the concept/premise of this book and enjoyed how the story line unfolded.  It is very readable, and engaging -- I looked forward to each chapter.  

The writing is very good, and author Michael Faber does excellent world-building, allowing readers to visualize everything from the weird air on the planet to the tastes of things there -- it really appeals to all senses. Readers from the U.S. will likely notice differences in writing conventions, as the author is European. (Interestingly enough, even characters that weren't British seemed British to me, due to word/wording choices.)

I found it believable that both main character Peter and his wife were deeply devout and are well acquainted with the Bible, but I found their interpretations and explanations of passages off -- even odd. They really weren't relevant to the story and bogged down an already long story with unnecessary details. Also, everyone Peter works with on the planet is basically asexual -- there are no relationships,  though some joking about it -- but there's no explanation for why it was that way. 

The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, but the bottom line for Peter is that he needs to be with his wife even if it won't end well. There are a lot of things the readers just don't know about on earth and on the planet where he's been a missionary. An epilogue would have tidied-up some loose ends and helped readers get better resolutions. Could there be a sequel?

Thank you to Blogging for Books for providing me a print copy of this book in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give.  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dutch-born MICHEL FABER is the internationally bestselling and critically acclaimed author of The Crimson Petal and the White, Under the Skin—shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award—and several other books. Faber has won many short story awards and his writing has appeared in Granta, The O. Henry Prize Stories, among others.  He lives in Scotland.

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