BookBrowse Reviews The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

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The Book of Strange New Things

A Novel

by Michel Faber

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber X
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
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    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Oct 2014, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2015, 480 pages

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The Book of Strange New Things is a genre-defying novel set in a faraway galaxy and on a dystopian earth, but full of emotional truths for here and now.

BookBrowse readers were challenged and rewarded by Michel Faber's unusual and thought-provoking The Book of Strange New Things. Three-quarters of our reviewers rated it 4 or a 5 stars, but the remainder rated it average or below, or chose to opt out rather than read enough to be able to review it. What makes this genre-defying novel so compelling to some, but not to others?

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber is unlike anything I have read before. It is a wonderful story about faith, love, religion and responsibility (Ilyse B). Would you accept a new job in a place light years away from Earth? Where you had to leave all your family and friends behind? Where the natives understood some of your language but you couldn't understand one word of theirs? Where your co-workers barely noticed you? Even upon completion of the book, there are still a few unanswered questions. One thing is for sure, though. This book will not soon be forgotten (Anne G). Beautifully written, The Book of Strange New Things is difficult to categorize but, ultimately, it is a story of love transcending the boundaries of time and space. Peter, a Christian missionary must choose between the love he has for the natives on a very distant planet called Oasis, and his wife back on Earth. The choice, obviously, is not an easy one and Peter's struggles with it are heartfelt (Anna S). Read this book; you won't be sorry (Portia A).

Readers called The Book of Strange New Things one of the most original books they had ever read!

This story is like nothing I have read before. It is an adventure story, a character study, and a thought-provoking philosophical book (Sandra W). I am a fan of speculative fiction, and technically I guess you would say The Book of Strange New Things falls into that genre, but it's also a love story, a fish-out-of-water story, and it's also something of a mystery. It's very easy to read – it has a clean, direct, simple prose style, which I very much appreciate. That is not to say however, that the ideas or the atmosphere are simple. This was a great read, which has lingered in my thoughts ever since I finished it (Susan S). This is one of the most original books I have ever read. Don't miss this one! (Melissa M) I'm still not sure how I felt about combining the scriptures into a science-fiction novel. Therefore from a literary standpoint, I guess I'd have to say it was an interesting and well-written book. But on the concept, I guess my jury is still out (Jan M). I believe that each person who reads this book will take a special memory from it (Janis H).

They felt that this sci-fi story could have been predictable, but is anything but in Faber's capable hands:

This masterpiece explores faith in the context of religion, marriage, friendship and humanity. Michel Faber is a genius. He transcends traditional genres in telling the tale of a marriage complicated by distance and faith (Jan T). I am not a science-fiction reader, but this book was written in such a reader-friendly way that I had trouble putting it down (Amy M). The author takes the reader on a journey that at once is otherworldly and utterly accessible (Sarah H). This could have been a very predictable story - humans colonizing another planet, trying to force our values and religion on the inhabitants, wife left behind, and big Corp monetizing the future, but in Faber's deft hands it is anything but cookie-cutter. Faber makes statements in this novel about religion, about what we are doing to our planet, and about how we treat one another, but he uses a subtle hand. The near-future Earth Faber gives us feels realistic, if not inevitable (Ruthie A).

Some readers found some issues to critique in the book, but, overall, still recommend it:

In my opinion, the author could have been less descriptive as it was rather long. Its highlight was that it made me think what would I do, and not all books do that for me (Caryl B). Michel Faber created a world and led me through it, but left me with too many unanswered questions. I kept on wondering, "Where is this going?" (Barbara K) Well-written, thought-provoking, and hard to put down. It is a creative and intriguing story line, and the religious aspect was not too hard hitting. The ending was too abrupt for me unless there is a sequel in the works (Chris W)*. I simply could not get into this book! The premise was hard to accept & the characters felt strangely empty (Ginny B). I love the concept of this book but found myself struggling to get engaged. It seemed to wander a bit initially, and I was not sure in what direction I would ultimately be led. I am glad I stuck it out though because, when the story took off, it really took off and became a page-turner (Eileen L).

And, finally, our readers had strong ideas about who might like to read The Book of Strange New Things:

I don't know how to begin to review this book except to say it's thrilling, frightening, and compelling. I would recommend it as a "must-read" on anyone's book list (Chris H). This would be a very interesting book for a book group - it would prompt unique discussions from various view points, specifically right and wrong, good and evil, and the varying shades of human morality (Amy H). I do think this would provide interesting discussions for a book club or people who like sci-fi. Moving to another planet is a fascinating topic (Chris W). I'll definitely and highly recommend this book – it's good for readers of dystopia, for those who are interested in human nature when it is tested beyond its limits, and for those who just appreciate good writing, a very good story and the leaps of faith people must take in their life journeys (Nancy O).

*Editor's Note: Although we have no insider information on the topic, we think it unlikely that there will be a sequel as, while some readers felt the ending to be abrupt, the arc of the story is complete. Also in the years since Faber wrote his arguably best known book, The Crimson Petal and the White, he has been asked if he plans a sequel, to which he has always said no as he does not want to be labeled as a particular type of writer (see more about Faber in "Beyond the Book").

This review was originally published in October 2014, and has been updated for the June 2015 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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Beyond the Book:
  Michel Faber

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