Summary and book reviews of The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

The Book of Strange New Things

A Novel

by Michel Faber

The Book of Strange New Things
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2014, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2015, 480 pages

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Book Summary

A monumental, genre-defying novel over ten years in the making, Michel Faber's 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.

THY WILL BE DONE
1
FORTY MINUTES LATER
HE WAS UP IN THE SKY.

I was going to say something," he said.

"So say it," she said.

He was quiet, keeping his eyes on the road. In the darkness of the city's outskirts, there was nothing to see except the tail-lights of other cars in the distance, the endless unfurling roll of tarmac, the giant utilitarian fixtures of the motorway.

"God may be disappointed in me for even thinking it," he said.

"Well," she sighed, "He knows already, so you may as well tell me."

He glanced at her face, to judge what mood she was in as she said this, but the top half of her head, including her eyes, was veiled in a shadow cast by the edge of the windscreen. The bottom half of her face was lunar bright. The sight of her cheek, lips and chin—so intimately familiar to him, so much a part of life as he had known it—made him feel a sharp grief at the thought of losing her.

"The world looks nicer with man-made lights," he said.

They ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The Book of Strange New Things is a literary novel with elements of science fiction. Do you consider it more one genre than the other? Does it fall into any other categories?

  2. Peter and Bea's marriage is at the heart of The Book of Strange New Things. How does the evolution of their relationship help drive the action of the book? Do you think their letters reveal the full breadth of their experiences apart?

  3. While Peter is away ministering to the Oasans, Bea's world is torn by calamity. As Peter struggles to remain connected to her, he is challenged by both their physical and emotional distance. Do you think he overcomes this?

  4. The Book of Strange New Things raises significant questions about our ability to feel compassion ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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).   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Full Review Members Only (1116 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

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.

Kirkus Reviews

What would Jesus do if he wore a space helmet? A profoundly religious exploration of inner turmoil, and one sure to irk the Pat Robertson crowd in its insistence on the primacy of humanity.

Author Blurb David Mitchell
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.

Author Blurb Philip Pullman
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.

Author Blurb David Benioff
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.

Reader Reviews

Candace B. (Grand Island, NY)

Wow !
I just finished this book 5 minutes ago and am wishing there was a sequel I could start right now. I am not a fan of science fiction but this book was far beyond what I expected. The story was engrossing with believable characters and so many themes ...   Read More

Amy H. (Benbrook, TX)

Nothing like it!
I thoroughly enjoyed this read. It took a few chapters for me to get in sync with the pace of the story and slow character development, but i love Faber's writing style and unique description of events and things and "people" (or "Jesus lovers") ...   Read More

Jan T. (Leona Valley, CA)

The Book of Strange New Things
Michel Faber is genius. This masterpiece explores faith in the context of religion, marriage, friendship and humanity. The author's seamlessly ability transcends traditional genres in telling the tale of a marriage complicated by distance and faith...   Read More

Ruthie A. (Summit, NJ)

Thought Provoking Not Really Sci-Fi!
I loved The Crimson, The Petal and the White, but this book is as different as two books could be! This is also a book I might not have picked up had I known what it was about - not a Sci-Fi fan, nor would the religion heavy theme have attracted me. ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Michel Faber

Michel FaberMichel Faber is considered Dutch in the Netherlands, which is where he was born; Australian in Australia, because he lived there for so long; and Scottish in Scotland, where he emigrated with his wife and family in 2003. To say this award-winning writer is revered is an understatement.

Born in 1960 in The Hague, Faber studied Dutch, Philosophy, Rhetoric, and English Language at Melbourne University. After graduating in 1980 he took various jobs such as a cleaner, pickle packer and guinea pig for medical research until he decided to train as a nurse in Sydney. He practiced nursing until 1993 when he and his family moved to Scotland. It was there that his wife encouraged him to submit his writing – a practice that he had engaged in ...

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