Full disclosure: I was mourning a very recent loss when I read Michel Faber's latest (and I'm told, last) novel, so the effect it had on me may have been amplified by my own grief. Still, this book carved a hole in me the way really good books do, and I don't think it's just because I happened to be sad at the time. Through a narrative I probably would have avoided, were it not for the ravings of my coworkers, Faber lands a solid emotional punch, rendering faith, despair, wonder, and longing with equal skill. It's a preternaturally beautiful story, and if it is indeed Faber's last novel, a lovely note on which to end his career. Recommended By Tove H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A monumental, genre-defying novel that David Mitchell calls "Michel Faber’s second masterpiece," The Book of Strange New Things
is a masterwork from a writer in full command of his many talents.
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.
"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." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“[A] masterpiece” Cosmopolitan
“Spellbinding, heartbreaking and mind-bending....This is very much a book that rewards re-reading; its subtle echoes and wisps of allusion reverberate across the text....The Book Of Strange New Things is Faber’s strongest, most plangent and most intellectually gleeful novel. It is affecting as much as it is challenging....Bold, brave, brilliant....It’s also, by the way, the most wonderful love story.” Scottish Review of Books
“Brilliant, and disquieting....Faber’s novel is entirely true to itself and wonderfully original. It makes a fine update to Walter M. Miller Jr.’s Canticle for Leibowitz, with some Marilynne Robinson-like homespun theology thrown in for good measure....A profoundly religious exploration of inner turmoil.” Kirkus (starred review)
“A marvelously creative and intricate novel, thought-provoking and arresting.” Booklist
“The Book of Strange New Things is Michel Faber’s second masterpiece, every bit as luminescent and memorable as The Crimson Petal and the White. It is a portrait of a living, breathing relationship, frayed by distance; it’s an enquiry into the mountains faith can move and the mountains faith can’t move. It is maniacally gripping and vibrant with wit. I didn’t so much read The Book of Strange New Things as inhabit it.” David Mitchell
“Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things certainly lives up to its title. Faber, as he showed in Under the Skin, does strangeness brilliantly. I can’t remember being so continually and unfailingly surprised by any book for a long time, and part of the surprise is the tenderness and delicacy with which he shows an emotional relationship developing in one direction while withering in another. I found it completely compelling and believable, and admired it enormously.” Philip Pullman
"At the heart of The Book of Strange New Things is one question: Whom — or what — do you love, and what are you willing to do for that love (or not willing)? The result is a novel of marvel and wonderment with a narrative engine like a locomotive." Yann Martel
“Weird and disturbing, like any work of genius, this novel haunted me for the seven nights I spent reading it, and haunts me still. A story of faith that will mesmerize believers and non-believers alike, a story of love in the face of the Apocalypse, a story of humanity set in an alien world — The Book of Strange New Things is desperately beautiful, sad, and unforgettable.” David Benioff
About the Author
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.