The Book of Strange New Things eBook É Book of

The Book of Strange New Things eBook É Book of

The Book of Strange New Things [PDF / Epub] ☂ The Book of Strange New Things By Michel Faber – Larringtonlifecoaching.co.uk Alternate cover for ISBN 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 m Alternate cover of Strange Epub µ for ISBN 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, The Book PDF \ 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 Book of Strange PDF Ê 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.


10 thoughts on “The Book of Strange New Things

  1. Sam Quixote Sam Quixote says:

    Sometime in the future, humanity has discovered they are not alone in the universe on a distant planet named Oasis dwells a race of supremely ugly aliens their faces are described as two foetuses fused together and they LOVE Jeebus So much so that they re withholding food from the handful of human colonists on their planet until they get a replacement missionary Enter Peter Leigh, a former homeless junkie thief turned born again Christian minister selected by the USIC Corporation to be s Sometime in the future, humanity has discovered they are not alone in the universe on a distant planet named Oasis dwells a race of supremely ugly aliens their faces are described as two foetuses fused together and they LOVE Jeebus So much so that they re withholding food from the handful of human colonists on their planet until they get a replacement missionary Enter Peter Leigh, a former homeless junkie thief turned born again Christian minister selected by the USIC Corporation to be sent to Oasis and preach from the Bible, which the Oasans refer to as The Book of Strange New Things But why are the Oasans so enamoured with Christianity And what happened to their last minister That s the setup for Michel Faber s latest doorstopper sized novel, and it s actually quite enticing and original seeming at first Except that summary is misleading because this book is actually about how long distance relationships don t work I know pick your jaw up off the floor because that s revelatory information, right But that is essentially the whole book which wouldn t be so bad if I cared a bit about either Peter or his wife Bea but I didn t Peter heads to Oasis while Bea remains on Earth Things go well for Peter the Oasans are receptive and he enjoys his time on the planet things for badly for Bea as the world around her falls apart China invades the Middle East and ends up controlling their oil supply, global supermarket chains go bankrupt, freak weather decimates countries, wars erupt, governments topple, it s the complete and total collapse of Western civilisation Make no mistake though The Book of Strange New Things is an utterly tedious read Beyond the novelty of meeting the Oasans, there s nothing much to them They re around five feet tall, they re ugly, they re a very simple, agrarian based culture, and many of them believe the word of God completely Little is added to this knowledge as the novel progresses The only conflict Peter encounters is trying to make the Bible stories work for his new flock as they have trouble pronouncing s and t in their tongue as well as understanding some of the imagery they don t have sheep or fish so wouldn t know what stories involving them would mean , so he rewrites them to make it easier for them to speak and grasp He doesn t have to try to convert them as a large number are already devout Christians and he doesn t encounter the ones who aren t Easier and easier He gets on with his fellow humans on the USIC base for the most part They re a gentle but soulless bunch consumed with work they are the best in the professions engineering, geology, biology, medicine, etc A giant read evil corporation behind this space endeavour Never seen that in a sci fi alien story The only thing missing was the meat head soldier archetype but there are no weapons or fighting in the book so they re absent Wondering where the drama story here is There isn t any Maybe you re thinking Oasis is some wonderful vista paradise like Pandora in Avatar Think again It s a completely flat landscape with no discernible features The Oasans are completely isolated besides some weird duck creatures who appear a couple times so how did they evolve exactly , their simple huts, and their fields of whiteflower which they grow to trade for medicine with the humans I don t need the landscape to be extraordinary I just wish Faber would give me something, anything, than nothing This is barely genre writing Because it s set on an alien planet doesn t make it sci fi, or at least it s not a good representation of that genre s heights despite the way some readers look down upon sci fi as a lesser genre Good sci fi is imaginative The Book of Strange Things is not Peter s wife Bea, though extremely whiny and annoying, tells Peter and the reader through her emails sent via the Shoot why did they rename a computer, a Shoot What was wrong with computer of troubles on Earth, which I mentioned earlier These emails are the only real conflict in the book by the way.It seems that her story would ve been muchinteresting to read than Peter s Instead we re subjected to the most monotonous non story ever Peter telling the Oasans some Bible stories Peter helping them harvest the whiteflower crop Peter trying to learn their language Peter having trouble sleeping and looking at the stars Peter walking across a flat landscape drinking melon flavoured water Peter staring blankly at nothing This book is nearly 600 pages long Cut out the tedious crap and you ll have a mediocre 100 150 page novel instead of an awful 600 page one And speaking of Bea s increasingly difficult life on doomed Earth, USIC do their best to censor their off world staff from news of Earth s collapse by ripping out pages of magazines newspapers arriving at the base but they don t censor Bea s emails even though they have the capability to do so Her emails contain the most damning information I will say that Faber s prose is for the most part clear and accessible He may not be able to tell a tight, fast moving story any, but he can still write quite well And I did like some scenes in the book, particularly with the former minister who went native, and Grainger, the USIC pharmacist, as she fell apart on Oasis I had her and Peter pegged to have a rushed, embarrassing affair though Faber thankfully steered clear of that though he did everything he could to hint at its possibility And I liked how many of the USIC characters were named after Marvel Comics writers from the Silver Age, in particular Jakob Kurtzberg, the missing former minister, who mirrors the real name of Jack Kirby technically a Golden Age creator Who was Jack Kirby, non comics reader Creator of much of the Marvel Universe Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Fantastic Four and the X Men to name a few and a preacher of a kind himself who lived in the stars Faber s look at Christianity is just not insightful What do we learn That Bea converted Peter when he was a troubled criminal He bought into the religion and became a personable minister Away from his wife, her troubles overwhelm her and she loses her faith And Also, how easy is it to write a devout Christian character Jesus saves God has a plan for everything Trust in the Bible and our Lord he shall provide etc This isn t great writing or characterisation.The Christian overtones to the story were too on the nose and weren t enough to redeem it The book has 28 chapters like the Gospel of Matthew which is repeatedly referenced , Peter is bitten by an animal, seeming to die in the eyes of the Oasans and return a la Christ after the crucifixion not really but to the Oasans perhaps , the walking through the wilderness with Grainger temptation Does Peter become like Christ to them Is this how Christ was to us an alien Is this how religions start Maybe some people will be blown away by these aspects of the book but I could not care less I was beaten into apathy at this point by the slug like pacing As there s no real story the book doesn t build to a big finish, or any kind of finish at all really, and simply ends It couldn t bedissatisfying or anticlimactic Faber s Strange New Things is a deeply unimaginative novel The sci fi element is poorly conceived and uninteresting Oasis and the Oasans could not bedull The book drags on for hundreds of pages without a plot, with barely any character development, and with hardly a thing happening to break up the boredom The whole Earth s collapse felt forced, done because Bea s life needed to get worse so that she and Peter could fight via email, not because it was convincing on any level I mean, China invading the Middle East what I ve enjoyed Faber s work over the years from Under the Skin to The Fire Gospel to his short stories in Some Rain Must Fall, but The Book of Strange New Things is gimmicky and horribly boring It s far too long with much too little substance Arguably this is his worst novel I can see why he s saying he s giving up on writing anyof them seeing how uninspired this one turned out Unlike the Oasans and the Bible, most people will havethan enough of this book long before its end It was a real struggle to get there and not really worth it Side note there s some question among some reviewers as to why the Oasans would so readily accept Christianity though Faber does explain this in the book Here s why, and it s actually one of the few parts of the novel I liked view spoiler If humans are cut, the wound stops bleeding, scabs over, the platelets in our blood do their work, maybe some pus follows, but we soon heal If an Oasan is cut, and the cut becomes infected, they die Their bodies are completely defenceless Christianity preaches healing and rebirth The Oasans are a race who cannot heal naturally and take everything literally so they would embrace Christianity s message of healing as a solution to their plight hide spoiler


  2. Will Byrnes Will Byrnes says:

    Of course, everybody on earth had the power to reshape reality It was one of the things Peter and Beatrice talked about a lot The challenge of getting people to grasp that life was only as grim and confining as you perceived it to be The challenge of getting people to see that all the immutable facts of existence were not so immutable after all Sustaining a relationship over a long distance presents serious challenges I tried it once or twice in my twenties Of course that was back bef Of course, everybody on earth had the power to reshape reality It was one of the things Peter and Beatrice talked about a lot The challenge of getting people to grasp that life was only as grim and confining as you perceived it to be The challenge of getting people to see that all the immutable facts of existence were not so immutable after all Sustaining a relationship over a long distance presents serious challenges I tried it once or twice in my twenties Of course that was back before the invention of the wheel, when communications technology lacked the immediacy of Facetime, Skyping, texting, instant messenger, even cell phones and e mail And calling long distance entailed costs far in excess of what one might incur today Distance, it turns out, did not make the hearts involved grow fonder Pastor Peter Leigh and his wife, Bea, face some of the challenges many of us did back in the distant past Of course they are already married, which has to boost one s commitment to keeping in touch or not, depending But the distances involved make my New York to London, or DC, or New Hampshire connections seem paltry in comparison Instead of hundreds or thousands of miles, try trillions And despite the scientific advance that allows spacecraft to cover vast distances by jumping through worm holes, the communication tech is a lotlike Pony Express than Star Trek cell phones communicators One might think that is probably not such a big deal to Peter, as he did not possess a television and was not interested in reading magazines or newspapers, but the loss of connection to Bea is a big deal, particularly as existential concerns are a clear and present issue for both Peter had been recruited by the mysterious USIC corporation we never learn what the letters stand for to minister to the locals on a planet named Oasis They refer to the bible as The Book of Strange New Things Although he wanted Bea to come with him, she was not given an imprimatur by the selection committee, so he is off to spread The Word, solo.There is a trinity of material relationships involved Peter interacts with the residents of the USIC base, somethan others Alexandra Grainger is his handler, and some dynamic tension develops between the two He has dealings with other USIC staff, but it is spread lightly across the group He communicates with Bea through a poor excuse for e mail com tech It is called a Shoot But seems it might have been better called a Toss It is limited to text only, for one Messages have to pass the censor before being transmitted, and there is no certainty when the message will get through Peter s communications with Bea consist primarily of her describing the accelerating collapse of economies, of civilization itself on Earth, spurred by large dollops of natural catastrophe Makes one want to hurry home, no The third interaction is Peter with the locals, or as the Terran sorts refer to them, Oasans The residents of the planet Oasis are humanoid, although looking not much like us, at least the us one sees without the benefit of hallucinogens Here is a description, which is presented about one fifth the way in, but if you prefer to wait until you read the book, I am putting it under a view spoiler Here was a face that was nothing like a face Instead it was a massive whitish pink walnut kernel Or no even , it resembled a placenta with two fetuses maybe three month old twins, hairless and blind nestled head to head, knee to knee Their swollen heads constituted the Oasan s clefted forehead, so to speak their puny ribbed backs formed his cheeks, their spindly arms and webbed feet merged in a tangle of translucent flesh that might contain in some form unrecognizable to him a mouth, nose, eyes hide spoiler shield Somehow they or at least a sizeable portion of the local populace manifest an intense desire to better know a savior Did they arrive at this need through some sort of divine revelation Was it prompted by the prior cleric, say, the intriguingly named Jacob Kurtzberg I found myself wondering about the state of his health A quote from Desmond Tutu also ran across my mental crawl When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land They said Let us pray We closed our eyes When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land Fittingly, I suppose, Peter does not question the origin of the locals interest in Jesus and the bible, opting to take the purity of their interest on faith Much of the story is on how Peter goes about establishing his church on Oasis, how he gets to know and feel for the locals, and what he learns about the physical environment in which he is living He is trying his best to be the rock on which this church is built The Oasans have a culture, a community, but they are very unlike humans At the time I was hatching the book, I was very wearied by all the hidden agendas and neuroses of human beings I think that one of the reasons I made up the Oasans was that it was like a fantasy of being able to hang out with people who were totally benign and totally un ego driven The Oasans, on another level though they are a bit like sheep, or bees in a hive Human beings are wonderfully various and distinctive and memorable and a lot of what makes them that way is their dysfunctions and their neuroses you can t have one without the other from Faber interview on The Awl.comThe environment that Faber concocts for Oasis is, despite a gross similarity to the planet we all know and litter on, quite different Maybe it takesexploration, but where are the mountains, rivers, lakes, oceans, forests It does seem like a pretty lightly seeded rock for the most part But it has some interesting characteristics, mostly having to do with how water cycles through, and how the local flora is transformed into edibles There is also a lower life form that offers some surprises when it appears in numbers Michel Faber from New Republic.comI am no particular fan of religion, but I found Peter to be a very engaging, honest, sincere sort He is possessed of a powerful faith, which tends toward the bromitic, but he seems a pretty good guy and it is easy to get past differing belief systems to wish him well, not only in his attempts to fulfill his mission on Oasis, but in his struggle to sustain his marriage It was Bea, after all, who had found a drunk, homeless Peter hitting bottom in the hospital in which she was working as a nurse, and resurrected his spirit with a bit of the old time religion It is no wonder that he clings to his beliefs like his old self might have to the last available bottle The loneliness of the long distance missionary was fueled, after the writing had begun, by a dire event I didn t know that Eva Faber s wife was going to be diagnosed with cancer, but it certainly ending up being suffused with the anticipation of loss The book s about many other kinds of loss as well It certainly seemed to me that the devastation being reported on earth might have been intended to echo damage to Peter and Bea s marriage And also might be a literary projection of the damage disease was wreaking on Faber s wife The book is hardly short at 500 pages I found it slow going, although Faber manages to infuse enough tension and mystery into his tale to keep you turning the pages How will Peter and Bea manage Will Peter ever be able to go home Why is earth going to hell Will there be a home to go back to What s the deal with the Oasans, and why did they get all religious Are they really serene or is there a dark side Why did the Oasans pick up and leave their town when USIC arrived, setting up a greater distance away Are they hiding something or merely trying to maintain a comfortable margin What happened to Kurtzberg Why does a corporation employ a missionary Home figures large as a theme Some of the base employees see themselvesas French Foreign Legion types, unconnected to place, than most of us might be Is home a location, a community, a state of mind, a relationship Much thought goes into figuring out the right thing to do in difficult situations, which makes this tale one of moral and not merely physical survival Biblical and religious imagery appears with some frequency One cannot but think of Noah when Bea is reporting on incessant rain, and biblical end times certainly pop to mind as she describes the natural catastrophes that seem to be occurring on a daily basis Peter s time with the locals, and being out of touch with base, reminds one of earlier, lengthy sojourns in the desert The locals have a ritual that seemed quite resonant with earthly communion.This is not an action adventure novel, jam packed with a new danger every chapter, car chases, gun battles It is about survival, personal, emotional and big picture You will get through it, but will not inhale it There is enough to savor that taking one s time will be rewarding Posted 2 20 15Book Published 10 28 2014 Trade Paperback 6 30 15 EXTRA STUFFLinks to the author s personal website Check out the video on his bonus material page His FB connection was last updated in 2011, so I left it out, and I did not find a twitter account for him.Dutch born Faber was inspired by the creative geniuses of Marvel Comics as a kid, and in the acknowledgments section, mentions that all the surnames used in the book are based on those of the Marvel artists He adds that the character Jacob Kurtzberg has a lot to do with Jack Kirby.There are several musical numbers mentioned in the book here is a link to one, Patsy Cline singing Walking After MidnightThere is a very interesting interview with Faber in TheAwl.com In this link to BookBrowse, there is a video of Faber talking about this book, a text interview with Zachary Wagman, Faber s editor and a 2003 text interview with FaberOctober 7, 2017 Although it aired in March 2017, I only recently September 2017 discovered when subscribing toPrime that a series had been or was being made of this book The title is Oasis, which may actually be a better title than that of the book Sadly, only a single, pilot episode has been shown I do not know, but presume, that other episodes have been produced, but have, for whatever reason, not yet been aired At least I hope that is the case The pilot was quite good, capturing much of the core of the book I very much hoped there would be further episodes ready to roll, and that a second season if the first does not complete the story arc would be in the works Alas, it died on the vine, with only the single episode Here is a wiki about the show.Richard Madden, late of his Robb Stark role you know where, plays the lead image from


  3. Rick Riordan Rick Riordan says:

    An adult sci fi novel with an intriguing premise Mankind has reached its first extraterrestrial world, Oasis, and the giant corporation USIC is working hard to build a colony there while economic and climatic conditions on earth continue to deteriorate There s one hitch to their plans the natives of Oasis want a preacher They ve had a limited introduction to the Christian faith, but after their first human pastor mysteriously goes missing, they refuse to provide food to the human settlers un An adult sci fi novel with an intriguing premise Mankind has reached its first extraterrestrial world, Oasis, and the giant corporation USIC is working hard to build a colony there while economic and climatic conditions on earth continue to deteriorate There s one hitch to their plans the natives of Oasis want a preacher They ve had a limited introduction to the Christian faith, but after their first human pastor mysteriously goes missing, they refuse to provide food to the human settlers until a new preacher arrives to replace him Peter Leigh steps up to take the job, leaving behind his wife Bea in England to become an interstellar missionary When Peter gets to Oasis, we know something is not right Why have two colonists disappeared Why are the natives so intent on learning about the Christian gospel And why is USIC censoring news and correspondence between Earth and Oasis As Peter and Bea write back and forth to one another, sharing what is happening on the two planets, the story becomes both painful and compelling And when you find out the answers to some of the novel s central mysteriesWell, I won t give anything away, but the answers pack a punch


  4. Jessica Woodbury Jessica Woodbury says:

    This book is mesmerizing I couldn t stop reading it And when it was over I felt like I d just finished something amazing, but I also felt like I wasn t sure if I understood what I experienced I even re read it a couple months later and enjoyed it evenI am deeply impressed by Faber s book and the fact that it centers around a man of faith As someone who has lived with and without religion in my life, I do find it odd that it does not play a greater role in art and literature Faber le This book is mesmerizing I couldn t stop reading it And when it was over I felt like I d just finished something amazing, but I also felt like I wasn t sure if I understood what I experienced I even re read it a couple months later and enjoyed it evenI am deeply impressed by Faber s book and the fact that it centers around a man of faith As someone who has lived with and without religion in my life, I do find it odd that it does not play a greater role in art and literature Faber lets his protagonist have strengths and flaws,than that, Peter has a consistent philosophy of religion and morality The flaws are perhapsobvious to the reader than to Peter himself especially when it comes to his relationship with his wife but that s part of what makes the book interesting It s also a book with a great deal about religion that is unlikely to offend or annoy people who are religious or people who are not It is Peter s character that is this way, not any statement the author is making pro or con.This is also a great example of how good literary fiction can combine a variety of genres Yes, there is a good element of science fiction here Peter is to be the pastor to an alien community on another planet some time in the not too distant future The alien race are mysterious and fascinating, and their full nature is never completely explained Of course not That would be too pat for a book that concerns itself with deeper questions.Even though there are science fiction elements here, like the best sci fi it is not about space travel or aliens It is about morality, relationships, innocence, and so muchIt s very possible that you ll finish this book feeling the same mix of confusion and wonder that I did, which had me thinking initially this would be a 4 star review But it s not a book I ll forget any time soon and theI thought about how the book impressed me, theI realized it was something truly unique and worthy of a full 5 stars


  5. Cecily Cecily says:

    Alienation We re the aliens here. This book can easily be mis taken as generic sci fi, exploring the impact of colonialism on the existing inhabitants, as well as the newcomers in the near future, a Christian minister leaves his beloved wife and travels through hyperspace to a human colony on another planet, where his role is to evangelise to alien beings.That is the medium, but it s not the message The message isn t even the Biblical one that saved Peter from drugs and homelessness, and led Alienation We re the aliens here. This book can easily be mis taken as generic sci fi, exploring the impact of colonialism on the existing inhabitants, as well as the newcomers in the near future, a Christian minister leaves his beloved wife and travels through hyperspace to a human colony on another planet, where his role is to evangelise to alien beings.That is the medium, but it s not the message The message isn t even the Biblical one that saved Peter from drugs and homelessness, and led him to this mission There is no message.This is not a preachy book, even though it s about a preacher Rather than a message, it s an open minded, open ended exploration of separation, dislocation, translation, miscommunication, God, faith, truth, addiction, madness, scars, healing the technique of Jesus , loss, and what it means to be human Alienation, in every sense, of every sense.It is profound and disturbing without being horrific It s a slowly told story that s nevertheless a page turner Like physics, it focuses on the big Bea s situation on Earth and the small Peter s on planet Oasis Ultimately, there are few answers is that like physics, too There was a red button on the wall labelled EMERGENCY, but no button labelled BEWILDERMENT. Alienation by Miscommunication He opened his mouth to reply, but found the part of his brain where he went to fetch the answers was filled with incomprehensible babble. Most of us take language for granted, except when we re abroad, or if we have an impairment But there are many ways to be misunderstood Problems with language of all kinds are at the heart of the alienation pumped through the veins of this book Although some of the examples seem extreme, they all have implications for ordinary lives on Earth.Oasans have no identifiable eyes, no readable facial expressions, and no discernible variations of intonation to indicate their mood Peter can t tell what gender they are or even how many genders they have They look so similar, the only way he can distinguish them is by the unique colour of each one s garments hooded robe, soft boots, and gloves although eventually, he can recognise some by their voices Of course, he finds this bewildering, with very little idea of how he s being received and understood But on the phone, online, or if talking to a woman in a burqa, we cope without facial expressions and body language The Oasans language sounded like a field of brittle reeds and rain sodden lettuces being cleared by a machete Some can speak reasonable English, though they all struggle to pronounce T and S sounds They are reluctant for Peter to learn their language, let alone translate the Bible into it In foreign phrases, exotic power lurked.Thus Peter embarks on a Bible paraphrase in English that omits T and S sounds as much as possible, as well as eliminating things they have no experience of, such as fish, sheep, and money But can truth survive through multiple translations and paraphrases, conducted over millennia, through the lenses of different cultures Peter notes that the Old Testament phrase for of old or long ago is closer to from afar , which is apt for an intergalactic missionary Distance, reliance on technology, and consequent time delays, are a huge source of alienation and misunderstanding Much of the story is epistolary messages between Peter and Bea and the gradual, but seemingly inevitable increase in misunderstanding foreshadows their deepening alienation from each other.Alienation from Others He was not ready to face her, not even through the veil of the written word He needed to adjust to the complicated trivia of human intercourse. When communication is impaired, relationships change, invariably for the worse If you re alienated from one group, perhaps the only way is to integrate with others What then is otherness Who is the alien USIC, the corporation that created and runs the colony, is suitably mysterious, as is the base on planet Oasis, and its bland, unemotional staff There is rudimentary email, but no internet or phones not even phones within the base , photography is not practicable , and there are no locks on personal quarters.The planet itself has a strange climate and beauty that only Peter appreciates, and the native inhabitants are welcoming, but mysterious, strange and new The result is a benign but sinister setting, veiled in secrecy and evasion, that numbs the mind.Some aspects are gradually revealed, but much of importance is never explained If this is sci fi, it s very light on the sci , and even on the socio political angle It s the medium, not the message.One striking feature is that Peter comments on the presumed race of everyone literally everyone he encounters And yet he s by far the most accepting of the Oasans Maybe he s excessively difference aware, rather than anything worse, though variations in pigment aside, humans were all part of the same species and some dubious observations about gender and sexuality don t really clarify matters Maybe it s just another aspect of his own otherness Alienation from Self The pain of useless empathy. When you ve lost your partner, home, culture, language, food, and climate, and you re even doubting your faith, what s left but your sanity And how can you keep that in the absence of the others Watching a disintegrating mind is probably the most painful vicarious experience, as anyone who s had a loved one with Alzheimer s or mental illness knows The helplessness of the observer, and the seeming inevitability of the decline is agony I m not suggesting that applies in all cases, with all conditions For me, that was the most powerful aspect of the book It is gradual, unsentimental, sympathetic, powerful Faber wrote it while his wife was dying, but he s not, and never has been, religious He asks where God is when tragedy strikes, but suggests no answer.QuotesLong Distance Relationship via Email I miss living through the visible moments of life with you To his wife, these messages were already history To him, they were a frozen present His heart and mind were trapped in his body, and his body was here The rains were indescribable but seeing them would leave a mark on him that would not be left on her Humid Climate The rain wasn t falling in straight lines, it was dancing elegant arcs a leisurely sweeping from one side of the sky to the other He was enveloped in a moist warm breeze, a swirling balm The air lapped against his cheeks, tickled his ears, flowed over his lips and hands The air here was a presence, a presence so palpable that he was tempted to believe he could let himself fall and the air would simply catch him like a pillow As it nuzzled his skin it almost promised that it would The air currents, so similar to water currents, could not move silently, but must churn and hiss like ocean waves The warm air embraced them with balmy enthusiasm The moist atmosphere was enjoyable but also an assault the way the air immediately ran up the sleeves of his shirt, licked his eyelids and ears, dampened his chest They truly were rains, plural The air all around him was ecstatic with water, bursting with it Silvery lariats of droplets lashed against the ground, lashed against him Oasans The Oasan settlement wasn t what you d call a city More like a suburb, erected in the middle of a wasteland Where the S should have been, there was a noise like a ripe fruit being thumbed into two halves King James Bible verses were like a particularly mellow alcoholic drink , whereas Peter s paraphrases were like local home brew, a moonshine compromise So maybe he shouldn t dilute its strangeness Trying to explain the Oasans is like trying to explain what a smell looks like or what a sound tastes like.Corporate Outpost and its Personnel The bigger the company, the less you can figure out what it does A curious absence of any image that evoked a specific, currently existing spot on Earth, or a passionate emotion That, of a corridor plastered in a wide variety of posters You cannot create a thriving community, let alone a new civilisation, by putting together a bunch of people who are no fucking troubleYou want to build Paradise, you gotta build it on war, on blood, on envy, on naked greed Her boringness was so perfect that it had transcended itself to become a kind of eccentricity He did not lose his temper He had no temper to lose That was his tragedy, and his mark of dignity too His calmness had impressed them Without knowing it, he d always been an honorary alien Other The pungent odour of Tartaglione s loneliness dispelled some of the fog in Peter s brain Scars were not suffering but triumph triumph against decay, triumph against death not a disfigurement, a miracle Belief was a place that people didn t leave until they absolutely must The Oasans had been keen to follow him to the Kingdom of Heaven, but they weren t keen to follow him into the valley of doubt Easter Eggs The Book of Strange New Things is what the Oasans call the Bible However, in Faber s short story collection, Some Rain Must Fall published in 1998 and reviewed HERE , there s a piece called Toy Story, about God s childhood It includes the line His eyes would goggle at the strange new things he found there in the abandoned universe bottled gases which plumed out in the shape of a star when smashed free, huge fluffs of sliver fibre spilling out of the bins like foam enigmatically specific crystal implements and broken engines of paradox Perhaps in a nod to Under The Skin, reviewed HERE, on the second page, Peter and Bea discuss whether to pick up a hitchhiker.One of the characters is called Billy Graham but not the minister In the Acknowledgements, Faber says many of the names are from, or loosely based on, Marvel Comics, but surely Billy Graham conjures an early televangelist in most people s minds I wonder if the ubiquitous and multi purpose whiteflower is a nod to the Wompom of Flanders and Swann Lyrics HERE and FS singing it HERE.For a very different take on the missionary experience, as suggested by Caroline in the comments, see Barbara Kingsolver s The Poisonwood Bible, reviewed HERE.Picture source for man in space suit in ruined church


  6. Paul Bryant Paul Bryant says:

    I made a note at the 200 page mark I wouldn t say the story so far is implausible, just like the captain of the Titanic didn t say that the thing directly ahead was a bloody gigantic iceberg But I have so many questions about what s going on here which Mr Faber is straight facedly refusing to either acknowledge or answer that I may explode However by the end of the 584th page new, happier thoughts had formed Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of an extremely dubious plot, II made a note at the 200 page mark I wouldn t say the story so far is implausible, just like the captain of the Titanic didn t say that the thing directly ahead was a bloody gigantic iceberg But I have so many questions about what s going on here which Mr Faber is straight facedly refusing to either acknowledge or answer that I may explode However by the end of the 584th page new, happier thoughts had formed Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of an extremely dubious plot, I will fear no disappointment for Michel Faber art with me his brain and his humanity, not to mention his plain, compelling prose style, they comfort me.And yes, my faith was justified, all my list of major complaints about the plot were met and answered and my doubts melted away The Book of New Strange Things appears for the first 200 pages to be like an SF story written by an earnest 19 year old in 1959 because the premise casually brushes aside a thousand problems.We can grant the first major plot points here that a few decades into the future someone has invented a way of travelling to other solar systems, that a habitable planet has been found, with breathable air, and that a faceless American corporation with undisclosed motives is exploiting this new world, and that the world is already inhabited by the first alien race humans have come across So far so standard SF But then the corporation selects a happy clappy Christian minister to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the aliens And the novel is his story And the title is what the aliens call the Bible So these problems present themselves How come the aliens don t already have a religion How come the UN or the American government or about a thousand major scientific organisations aren t freaking out saying you can t just send a Christian missionary to aliens clamouring to be allowed to make anthropologically sensitive approaches to the aliens because the approach in this book by our priest is exactly the same as Victorians used in darkest Africa in the 1850s and we surely have learned a few things, no But it seems all Earth organisations have deemed the first contact with aliens to be of minor importance, to be left to amateurs How come our irritating priest is given no briefings about the race, its situation, its economy, language, whether there are any diseases to catch, dangerous life forms, nothing He hasn t even seen a photo of them It s just like the aliens are over there, we ll drop you off then you re kind of on your own You ll be fine As I say, an earnest young SF wannabe writer would have written just such a story and ignored just such issues in 1959 But Michel hasn t ignored them at all Everything has an answer, it just takes a while to get there The story goes at approximately 23 miles an hour And it s hypnotic Once you start, when you re not reading The Book of Strange New Things you re all, aw, gee, why do we have to work, eat, sleep and socialise again Can t I skip all that for a few days The aliens are pretty good and pretty alien too They do have legs and arms and a torso and a head, but their heads look like two foetuses stuck together, they have no discernible eyes, they have an orifice from which they try to speak in English but they have great trouble with consonants like t, s, sh, ch, th, so their version of the Lord s Prayer sounds likeGive u squelch thi slurp day our daily bread.And forgive u squelch our tre slurp pas quelch se squelch,A slurp we forgive them that tres squelch pas slurp again schlurp u squelch The aliens are by far the most sympathetic characters in this tale of alienation where misunderstandings and communication breakdowns are always just a few inches below the surface Do the aliens have the first idea of what Christianity means Well, are Christians agreed on what Christ meant And Peter, did you and Bea ever have that miraculous mutual understanding you thought you did, given how quickly things unravel when there s a few hundred light years between you A satisfyingly uneasy read about love in various forms, faith in various forms, what makes life worth living, cats, rain and the coming demise of supermarkets which restored my faith in the big long novel Michel, I schlurp you


  7. Ron Charles Ron Charles says:

    At the end of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus tells his disciples, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature For a while now, evangelicals have had to restrict their preaching to creatures on this planet, but someday, who knows Will the heathens of Andromeda embrace the good news about a man who was nailed to a cross a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I can remember debating that essential question late at night as an undergrad at my little Christian college in Illino At the end of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus tells his disciples, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature For a while now, evangelicals have had to restrict their preaching to creatures on this planet, but someday, who knows Will the heathens of Andromeda embrace the good news about a man who was nailed to a cross a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I can remember debating that essential question late at night as an undergrad at my little Christian college in Illinois We were a wild bunch The issue of extraterrestrial proselytizing has attracted some attention from notable science fiction writers, too Captain Kirk wasinterested in spreading his seed than the Gospel, but Trekkies will remember Episode 54, when the intrepid crew of the Starship Enterprise stumbled upon Son worshipers on a distant planet And farpowerfully, Mary Doria Russell wrote her first novel, The Sparrow, about a Jesuit priest who travels four light years away for the glory of God.The latest story to boldly go into this final frontier of theological speculation comes from Michel Faber, a Dutch born writer who lives in Scotland Best known for The Crimson Petal and the White 2002 , which took place in the Victorian era, Faber now launches us into the future, when interplanetary travel is almost routine.For all its galactic wonders, The Book of Strange New Things is a subtle, meditative novel that winds familiar space alien tropes around terrestrial reflections on faith and devotion The story opens with Peter Leigh s last night on Earth He has already completed the difficult steps from drug addict to man of God Now, he s ready for one giant leap The pastor of a small church in England, he has been chosen from thousands of applicants to pursue the most important missionary calling since the Apostles had ventured forth to conquer Rome His job classified as urgent is to serve as Minister Christian to Indigenous Population of a planet called Oasis.Faber seems largely uninterested in the technical apparatus of science fiction The spaceship, the physics of the Jump, the physiology of inanimate suspension, along with the scientific breakthroughs that would be necessary to support such a voyage he constructs all these details from an old refrigerator box with some tempera paint, like the special effects in an early episode of Dr Who But that spottiness gradually comes to reflect Peter s own lack of attention to the fallen world His sponsor is USIC, a shadowy multinational corporation about which Peter shows little interest I don t really follow politics, he confesses I don t have access to social media None of those temporal distractions are relevant to his eternal vocation God will guide me, he tells his nervous wife before shooting into the heavens.Once the good pastor arrives in the new world, the novel sinks into its setting in fascinating ways, most cleverly by resisting our expectations of this impossibly alien place Oasis appears almost without form, and void It s a dark, moist tundra, marked by searing temperatures and ferocious, magical rainstorms The earthlings headquarters, too, are suspiciously bland There was something weird about the USIC personnel, Peter thinks, but they treat him with cheery deference and give him a sparse room from which he can exchange e mail but no photos with his wife As she describes Earth falling into environmental and political ruin, he responds sporadically with perfunctory expressions of concern More than a poignant demonstration of why long distance relationships never work, their correspondence suggests the dark side of Peter s ministry No matter what calamities his wife outlines, the crisis that interests him is always the one in which he gets to play the savior.Strikingly, The Book of Strange New Things isn t a story of first contact Peter s new colleagues have been trading drugs and food with the aliens for years Indeed, he s the replacement for an earlier minister who went native and vanished Yet as Peter heads off wearing his Pauline sandals and robe, he knows nothing about the creatures he s meant to serve This world s indigenous inhabitants, thriving or otherwise, were scarcely mentioned in USIC s literature, Faber writes, except for fastidious assurances that nothing was planned or implemented without their full and informed consent Of course, we read that bland corporate assurance with the dismal history of exploration and Christian mission work crying in our minds Columbus brought salvation and smallpox the first Thanksgiving feast began with grace but eventually gave way to war and a trail of tears Despite raising these concerns about exploitation, though, the novel remains focused on Peter s sweet interaction with the beings of Oasis They re a delicate, private race, mostly humanoid, except for their faces, which look like a pile of entrails They don t like to be touched No problem.Faber s most remarkable creation is not just the aliens physiology but their whole unearthly culture, with aspirations, concerns and customs that we can t possibly fathom Their murmuring voices sound like wet bracken being crushed underfoot Their language, which has no consonants, is transcribed throughout the book in a kind of Cyrillic script.Expecting skepticism and doubt, or at least monolithic barriers of foreignness, Peter finds instead scores of faithful Oasans eagerly waiting for him These gentle souls can t get enough stories about the technique of Jesus They insist Peter readfrom the Bible, which they call the book of strange new things The gold edged pages of this novel are a clever sanctifying touch by the publisher What could beseductive for a minister than to be embraced by a community of such loving congregants The Oasans thirst for the Word exceeds anything Peter has experienced perhaps it even exceeds his own enthusiasm Peter had a good feeling about his ministry here, Faber writes God was taking a special interest in the way things were panning out Classic sci fi puts us on guard in pleasant situations like this Soylent Green is people but Faber has somethingsubtle and mournful in mind It takes a while to realize that, despite its bizarre setting and all the elements of an interplanetary opera, this is a novel of profound spiritual intimacy Peter knows the Bible well, and if you do, too, you ll see that he experiences everything through the fabric of its metaphors and parables He prays like someone who actually believes, which in literary fiction is farexotic than a space alien with a hamburger face But there s something naive and self centered about his devotion The purity of the Oasans belief in the Gospel that he preaches will test his faith in a way he never expected.As someone who harbors a fondness for science fiction and thirsts forcomplex treatment of religion in contemporary novels, I relished every chance to cloister myself away with The Book of Strange New Things If it feelscontemplative than propulsive, if Faber repeatedly thwarts his own dramatic premises, he also offers exactly what I crave a state of mingled familiarity and alienness that leaves us with questions we can t answer or forget This review first appeared in The Washington Post http www.washingtonpost.com enterta


  8. Joe Valdez Joe Valdez says:

    The Book of Strange New Things, the 2014 science fiction novel by Michel Faber, is one of those books that sealed me in a barrel, rolled me down a hill, off a cliff, into rapids and over a waterfall I feel dizzy having just been let out of the barrel by the author Faber jettisoned me across the galaxy to an alien planet but instead of painstakingly building a new world, relocated me to one where thethings change, thethey stay the same Instead of describing fantastic creatures, int The Book of Strange New Things, the 2014 science fiction novel by Michel Faber, is one of those books that sealed me in a barrel, rolled me down a hill, off a cliff, into rapids and over a waterfall I feel dizzy having just been let out of the barrel by the author Faber jettisoned me across the galaxy to an alien planet but instead of painstakingly building a new world, relocated me to one where thethings change, thethey stay the same Instead of describing fantastic creatures, intricate politics or elaborate technology, the book is restrained, enigmatic and pure.The story begins with a couple in their mid thirties en route to Hethrow Airport Peter Leigh is a pastor His wife Beatrice is accompanying him on the beginning of a Christian mission sponsored by a corporation they refer to as USIC Peter passes a hitchhiker and wants to give him a lift, but Beatrice implores her husband to pull off the road to make love to her in the backseat Peter does his best to make his wife happy but begins to realize the two of them are on different pages and dwells on his sexual performance under the conditions His mind on the journey ahead, he has no preconceived notions of what awaits him, though Beatrice shares her vision of how his mission will beginI see you standing on the shore of a huge lake It s night and the sky is full of stars On the water, there s hundreds of small fishing boats, bobbing up and down Each boat has at least one person in it, some have three or four, but I can t see any of them properly, it s too dark None of the boats are going anywhere, they ve all dropped anchor, because everyone is listening The air is so calm you don t even have to shout Your voice just carries over the water Peter stops in Florida and has one last conversation with Beatrice through a garbled cellular phone The reader is given a narrow aperture by which to view the world of the future Peter is bound for another planet to spread the gospel to the natives USIC has purchased Cape Canaveral The corporation subjects its job candidates to a rigorous psychological screening Peter recalls his interview in a London hotel, where a petite American and her team of interrogators pelted him with questions While Peter passed his interview and was awarded the mission, Beatrice, who d hoped to join her husband, failed She remains in England with their cat He promises to write her every day.Recovering from the hallucinogenic effects of the Jump, Peter tours the USIC base on a planet christened Oasis His contact is pharmacist Alex Grainger, a woman whose arms are covered with cutting scars from her youth He s introduced to the climate, with humidity that transforms his denim into a soggy dish rag Peter replaces his western clothes with an Arab dishdasha Grainger, whose tasks include deliveries of medicine to the Oasan settlement in a trade for food, is no help with questions about the people, as Peter calls them Aliens, she calls them, adding that they enjoy their privacy Peter learns that the previous pastor, Kurtzburg, disappeared, and a linguist named Tartaglione later followed suit, but the Oasans have insisted on a Christian pastor with some urgency The creature the person stood upright, but not tall Five foot three, maybe five foot four Funny how those imperial measurements inches, miles stubbornly refused to be left behind Anyway, he, or she, was delicate Small boned, narrow shouldered, an unassuming presence not at all the fearsome figure Peter had prepared himself to confront As foretold, a hood and monkish robes made of a pastel blue fabric disconcertingly like bathtowel covered almost all of the body, its hems brushing the toes of soft leather boots There was no swell of bosom, so Peter unaware that this was flimsy evidence on which to base a judgment, but unwilling to clutter his brain with unwieldy repetitions of he or she decided to think of the creature as male.Initially shocked that the Oasan s face resembles two fetuses, with no eyes, nose or mouth, Peter is elated that the envoy is hungry for the New Testament, which he she it refers to as The Book of Strange New Things Returning to the USIC base, Peter notes that there are no soldiers, no law enforcement, no supervisors of any kind the technicians simply work together to get the job done Communicating with Beatrice through interstellar email referred to as the Shoot, Peter learns that a tsunami has wiped out the Maldives Islands and killed three million, but no one on the base seems concerned There are no news broadcasts, only golden oldie tunes by the likes of Patsy Cline, Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby.On Grainger and Peter s next visit to the Oasan settlement, designated C 2, or referred to as Freaktown, Grainger leaves Peter with his hosts for five days He s greeted by seventy to eighty Oasans who serenade their new pastor with Amazing Grace His initial Oasan contact insists on being called Jesus Lover One, and the rest of the flock a subsequent Jesus Lover number Peter learns to distinguish his flock by the color of their robes personalities or physical appearances are indistinguishable He begins work on a translation of the New Testament which the Oasans can both recite and identify with easier Health and diet slip his mind, as does his life on Earth.Beatrice s messages to her husband reveal a world spinning out of control freak weather, economic collapse, food shortages, gang violence and she confides that she s pregnant Peter s replies become less frequent and shorter he badly wants to return to the field Grainger notices similarities in Peter s insular behavior with that of Kurtzburg and Tartaglione before they vanished She reveals that view spoiler USIC has screened its technicians to be calm, cool and collected zombies to make progress in building a suitable colony that Earth s super rich will be able to pay their way off of hide spoiler but that she passionately wants to return to be with her family Peter is confronted with a similar choice I ve been critical about science fiction or fantasy set on alien worlds, and with reason I can see how this novel might not feature enough derring do or interstellar titillation, depending on the reader s mood, but The Book of Strange New Things captivated me for several reasons 1 Faber doesn t fall in love with his technological, cultural or political musings of the future He doesn t detail how interstellar travel is possible He never even mentions the year In other words, he doesn t clutter the story with garnish His vision of the future seems like the present in most respects The same narrative economy holds true for Oasis Faber doesn t spend pages describing how the planet was discovered Aspects of the alien culture, as well as the culture of the USIC base, remain shrouded in mystery, with the right amount of information supplied at just the right time.2 Stories about extraterrestrials tend to be gloriously dumb to me This is okay for space opera like Star Trek, but stories reaching for plausibility fall apart once aliens start walking around and talking This holds true for abduction reports, by the way, as well as science fiction I can t imagine a conversation with an alien proceeding any differently than a conversation with a feral cat and most conversant ETs seem equally ridiculous Faber gets around this by withholding information on the Oasans The less revealed about the alien world, the less far fetched it all seems 3 Any novel that prompts me to stop every twenty pages to scribble down a nugget of wisdom or bit of wit is doing something right I love books that reveal the secrets of life or make a clever observation on it and one with the title The Book of Strange New Things didn t disappoint me Faber s handle on spirituality, matrimony and humanity are all appropriately thought provoking His dialogue is spare but strong His characters are enigmatic they re souls I wanted to get to know better 4 Atheism is a blinking red light in my life at the moment I m stopping and looking around TheI hear Neil deGrasse Tyson speak, theI want to roll past the blinking yellow light of agnosticism and ignore the religions of the world like billboards While Faber didn t change my spiritual views, he did make me see missionaries in a new light It occurs to me that many born again Christians like Peter and Beatrice were not always believers They re not walking caricatures These are wounded people whose recovery was made possible through indoctrination by the Gospel 5 Another mark of a great novel My sleep patterns were altered Faber generates an intense amount of suspense through Beatrice s messages to her husband, which not only hint at a world falling apart, but a marriage falling apart Again, we re only shown the tip of the iceberg My imagination was left free to roam with what was really going on beneath the surface, and before I could allow myself to nod off, I had to know how Peter and Beatrice s story would end This is what I want in a science fiction novel, not techno gimmicks so much, but a story.This is a hell of a story and one of my new favorite novels


  9. Jason McKinney Jason McKinney says:

    UghI hated this I absolutely loved Under the Skin, but this was a huge disappointment It was endlessly tedious, the protagonist was not very likable and the plot itself just never really came together It s amazing because the reviews on GR have been largely glowing, but this was just a huge bust The Book of Strange New Things More like The Endless Book of Tedious Plot and Lame Characters.


  10. Violet wells Violet wells says:

    No surprise this gets an endorsement from David Mitchell because it s a fabulous feat of wiring exuberant entertainment into intelligent storytelling, a bit like the literary equivalent of Stephen Spielberg The secret of this novel s immense charm maybe is that appeals to the teenager inside In fact, when, towards the end, it loses some of its charm it s because it s stopped appealing to the teenager inside It s suddenly got a bit earnestly serious on us, it s forsaken its ironic mischief and No surprise this gets an endorsement from David Mitchell because it s a fabulous feat of wiring exuberant entertainment into intelligent storytelling, a bit like the literary equivalent of Stephen Spielberg The secret of this novel s immense charm maybe is that appeals to the teenager inside In fact, when, towards the end, it loses some of its charm it s because it s stopped appealing to the teenager inside It s suddenly got a bit earnestly serious on us, it s forsaken its ironic mischief and the adult inside isn t quite as willing to suspend disbelief and her critical faculties as the teenager It s hard not to feel cheated by the ending Probably because this is a novel that doesn t have an ending Or at least anything resembling a satisfactory one Just about everything is left to our imagination It ends on the note a sequel would begin I ve always struggled with SF usually because I weary of all the exposition, the attempts the writer makes to convince us his world is technologically and scientifically and culturally plausible Here Peter goes to an airport with his wife in much the manner all of us have arrived at an airport The fact that he s catching an interstellar shuttle is treated almost as a commonplace event and within a few pages he s arrived on the distant planet of Oasis but because of the easy, almost matter of fact way in which it s written we re able to take this colossal test on our ability to suspend disbelief in our stride with barely a raised eyebrow Peter has been sent to Oasis to spread the word of the gospel to the aliens who inhabit the planet His predecessor has mysteriously vanished At the USIC base, the shadowy corporation who employs him, there s immediately something subtly sinister afoot, a brooding Gothic atmosphere of skeletons waiting to come out of closets Without wanting to give much away, the first meeting with the aliens is as memorable and funny a scene as you re likely to read all year You could say, on the one hand, this is a novel about colonialism and the role of the missionary there s a lot of satire about rapacious exploitation of resources dressed up as benign altruism with the minister as the unknowing puppet But it s equally a novel about marriage, about the sometimes conflicting emotional spaces occupied by men and women Peter and his wife communicate with each other via interstellar email and these missives form a large part of the novel Life on planet earth is a growing crescendo of catastrophes, Armageddon just around the corner Peter and his wife Bea thus find themselves in growing conflict, unable to enter into the perspective of the other, both insisting on the primary importance of their own reality This conflict is humorously blown up into a kind of comic book absolutism What could beimportant than spreading the word of the Gospel to aliens What could beimportant than the end of the world as we know it A lot of this novel is about failures in communication, most humorously highlighted with Peter s attempts to rewrite Bible passages so the Oasans will be able to both understand and read them aloud they have an insurmountable problem pronouncing s and t, both of which are replaced when they speak by hieroglyphics in the text The Oasans also don t have recognisable faces and so, where Peter is concerned, are denied the most visual form of expression by which we communicate with each other Peter can t even work out which sex each of them are It s also worth mentioning that there s no criticism of the Christian faith in this novel Peter and his beliefs are treated with a generosity of spirit by Faber It s the politicisation of religion that comes in for both mockery and attack


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *