The Book of Strange New Things – Michael Faber

the-book-of-strange-new-thingsThe story:
Peter, a Christian missionary, is sent to spread the word and provide spiritual guidance to the native inhabitants of Oasis – a colony that’s been established on a planet light years away. He arrives in a new world that is the complete opposite of everything he’s imagined. At the same time, his wife Bea is left to face her own personal problems on an earth that is gradually falling apart.

My thoughts:
At the start of the book, Peter comes across as anxious, needy and reliant on Bea’s emotional support. Separated from Bea across an infinite chasm of time and space, and preoccupied with his mission and with building a new community with the Oasans, Peter cannot comprehend what she’s going through at home. He essentially abandons her in the time when she most needs him. As a character, he didn’t win me over.

The religious aspect of this book didn’t appeal to me at first, but as more of Peter’s past and the situation on Oasis are revealed it became more interesting. Rather than being the central focus of the book, people’s beliefs are used to expose their motivations, backgrounds and various character flaws.

People who like to read books that are full of action will be frustrated with this book. Nothing really happens. It’s all about Peter’s personal journey and presenting us with a frightening picture of a new future that doesn’t bode well for humanity.

Both the alien landscape of Oasis and the earth that Peter has left behind are terrifying in their own right. The relocated workers on Oasis have been selected for their missions precisely because of their ability to function alone. The result is an atmosphere that is isolating and devoid of passion and emotion. The ties that bind people together are severed, and the result is vaguely threatening and uncomfortable. On the other hand, Bea’s letters to Peter reveal an earth that is falling apart at the seams and descending into chaos. Generally, you’re left with a feeling that human life is poised right on the precipice of disaster and that no place is safe.

It’s left completely open for us as readers to determine what happens after the events of the book end, but I wanted to know more and I found this frustrating to say the least! I’d say this is a great one for book groups though, as there are so many aspects of this book to talk about and pick apart.

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