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
An emotionally atmospheric achievement, I felt as though the author was holding my hand through the entire book. Not only are all of the characters believable, but there is a hopefulness which, despite how fragile and volatile the situations are, threads its way through to the very end. Recommended By Aubrey W., 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.
"Defiantly unclassifiable....The Book of Strange New Things squeezes its genre ingredients to yield a meditation on suffering, love and the origins of religious faith....Faber reminds us there is a literature of enchantment, which invites the reader to participate in the not-real in order to wake from a dream of reality to the ineffability, strangeness, and brevity of life on Earth." Marcel Theroux, The New York Times Book Review (cover review)
"Eerie and ambitious....Faber is a genuinely gifted storyteller and his novel gains resonance and tidal force in its final third." The New York Times
"Faber illustrates, movingly, the impossibility of adequate communication in the face of life-changing experience....Rich and memorable." The New Yorker
"Fascinating...Poignant...Remarkable... Despite its bizarre setting and all the elements of an interplanetary opera, this is a novel of profound spiritual intimacy....I relished every chance to cloister myself away with The Book of Strange New Things...[It] offers exactly what I crave: a state of mingled familiarity and alienness that leaves us with questions we can't answer — or forget." Ron Charles, Washington Post
"A wonderful adventure story, a quasi-science fiction tale and a probing examination of a marriage....A truly strange and wonderful novel....Please read Michel Faber's The Book of Strange New Things. You won't regret it." Cleveland Plain-Dealer
"I would almost like to say, 'Read this book,' and leave it with that. Because its charms, and they are considerable, are so tied with discovering what the heck is going on. That challenges a reviewer, because almost anything I tell you will spoil a moment of discovery...the writing is such a pleasure." Dallas Morning News
"[Faber] approaches this interplanetary saga as an expert genre traveler....[His] potent new amalgam of sci-fi and spirituality puts him within rocket range of David Mitchell." New York
"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 wears its strong premise and mixture of Biblical and SF tropes extremely well." Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Michel Faber has written seven other books, including the highly acclaimed The Crimson Petal and the White, The Fahrenheit Twins and the Whitbread-shortlisted novel Under the Skin. The Apple, based on characters in The Crimson Petal and the White, was published in 2006. He has also written two novellas, The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps and The Courage Consort, and has won several short-story awards, including the Neil Gunn, Ian St James and Macallan. Born in Holland, brought up in Australia, he lives in the Scottish Highlands.