‘The Book of Strange New Things’ by Michel Faber – Bringing Our Religion to Another Planet

‘The Book of Strange New Things’ by Michel Faber   (2014) – 500 pages



‘The Book of Strange New Things’, the new novel by Michel Faber, is much different from his ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’ which had a Victorian setting.  ‘Strange New Things’ mostly takes place in some unspecified future time on the planet Oasis.   A man called Peter travels there in order to bring Christianity to the sentient creatures who live there.  ‘The Book of Strange New Things’ is what these aliens call the Bible.

The novel itself is almost as big as a Bible, weighing in at 500 large gold-leafed pages.

Perhaps the best way to give you an idea of what this novel is like is to quote Peter’s description of these alien Oasan creatures.

 ‘Here was a face that was nothing like a face. Instead, it was a massive whitish-pink walnut kernel. Or no: even more, it resembled a placenta with two foetuses – maybe three-months-old twins, hairless and blind – nestled head to head, knee to forehead. Their swollen heads constituted the Oasan’s clefted cheeks, their spindly arms and webbed feet merged into a tangle of translucent flesh that might contain – in some form unrecognisable to him – a mouth, nose, eyes’. 

 Peter knew the Oasans had some sort of viewing units instead of eyes, but he couldn’t figure out where they were located.  The aliens have difficulty speaking sibilants.  Compared to the creatures one usually finds in science fiction, these are rather drab, ‘gentle, kind, humble, hard-working people’.

Peter keeps in frequent written communication with his wife Bea back on Earth via a device called the Shoot   Bea lets him know that things are falling apart on Earth with earthquakes and floods and other natural and man-made calamities devastating large areas of the world.

One of the reviewers on ‘GoodReads’, Mary Lins, wrote in regard to this novel that ‘I know I will be thinking about it for the next few days’.  Well I completed the book several days ago, and I have not thought about it since.  Michel Faber is a strong storyteller, and the story was quite interesting while I was reading it.  However I did not get any startling or original ideas or insights from the novel.  The Christian evangelizing was old hat even if it was on another planet.   It seemed like Faber made the landscape and the creatures of this planet Oasis as drab and commonplace as possible.

I must admit that science fiction is not a genre I often read, but I did like Michel Faber’s first sci-fi novel ‘Under the Skin’ a lot, and ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’ was wonderful.  In ‘Strange New Things’ there just did not seem to be enough story to warrant all the writing.

For me, the pay-off did not match the time and effort spent on ‘The Book of Strange New Things’.


3 responses to this post.

  1. I’m often tempted by literary science fiction, but now will switch this firmly from our Christmas list to library reserve. I haven’t read Faber’s previous books, and this one has been so touted that I’ve longed to read it but also been wary. Usually I do better with realistic novels.


  2. […] Update 18/1/15 Also see Tony’s thoughts at Tony’s Book World. […]


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