In January, I had the chance to read Michel Faber’s latest novel The Book of Strange New Things which Canongate sent me in exchange for an honest review. I can’t thank them enough for this gem of a book – inside and out.
When Peter Leigh is chosen to be the new minister on a planet in another galaxy he and his wife Bea are sure that this is the Will of God and a chance to spread The Word. Unfortunately, Bea has to stay on Earth because she didn’t pass the selection process. As Peter’s contract is limited to a few years and the two of them can communicate through a long-distance messaging system, Bea agrees that Peter should go. What the two of them don’t know is that the physical distance is accompanied by an even bigger emotional distance that threatens their relationship.
I was a little concerned about Peter being a Christian missionary, but this book is not about religion. It is about freedom, friendship, and trust. When Peter arrives on Oasis, he is a very obedient Christian who never strays from the path. This also makes him open to embrace other peoples like the Oasans, the natives whose priest he is to become. Soon, Peter decides to live with them and that changes him as well as some of the Oasans.
Speaking of the Oasans: We all know all sorts of aliens from various movies we’ve seen. The Oasans are different and they are very hard to picture, probably because our brains aren’t capable to do so ;). With his description, Michel Faber does the best anyone can do to make them imaginable by the human brain. To Peter’s eyes, and to those of the other humans on Oasis, they all look the same except for their differently-colored robes. They also hardly show any feelings or signs of personality, which basically makes them indistinguishable until you get to know them better. But when the Oasans and Peter finally warm up to each other, Michel Faber’s brilliant characterization of this unique people becomes visible.
Even though The Book of Strange New Things is almost 600 pages long it never feels like it. Michel Faber transports you right into this engaging, gripping and simply mind-blowing story about a man who does something most of us wouldn’t have the guts to do.