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The Book of Strange New Things by Michel…
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The Book of Strange New Things (2014)

by Michel Faber

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Showing 1-5 of 86 (next | show all)
I have quite mixed views on this book. I couldn't put it down, found it very readable and compelling, but in the end I think it fell short. There is so much going on that is fascinating, the weird alien culture that Peter goes to live with, the collapse of social order and environment back on Earth, but it kind of fizzles out and never quite makes sense. Peter is pretty awful - self obsessed, selfish, as well as casually racist and sexist about his colleagues. I hope this is intentional, as he is constantly going on about how good he is with other people. Though to be fair he's pretty good at accepting the actual aliens, the most moving parts of the book are related to them. I guess for me it just started well but then didn't deliver on its initial promise, it became less convincing. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Jan 19, 2019 |
The novel follows Peter, a minister chosen by a somewhat shadowy organization to be sent to a foreign planet to minister to the native population of that planet. A good deal of the story is devoted to his concerns about leaving his wife behind and to her letters to him detailing the deteriorating situation on Earth and her increasing crises of mental health and religious faith.

I hoped to enjoy this novel, as it involves three things I usually find deeply compelling in fiction--explorations of other cultures, intimate relationships between people, and explorations of faith--and at first I thought I would. For the first two hundred or so pages, I was drawn to the story, even if upon thinking about it I couldn't really say why. But ultimately it was a huge disappointment. Virtually none of the characters come alive on the page (and for a while their dullness seems like it is going to be a plot point--as if something about the planet or something the organization is doing is sapping them of their vitality or individualism, but no); Peter is a drip; his wife comes off as a whiny, selfish, manipulative shrew (and yet, we are supposed to care deeply about the health of the relationship between her and Peter?); the novel is deeply uninterested in explaining even basic premise-y things (when is this taking place? what planet has Peter traveled to? why is the organization that sent him so close-lipped?); and almost none of the plotty questions I had while reading were ever answered. While I found the read a little unsettling, I would call this book depressed rather than depressing. If it were a person, I suspect I might comment that its affect was off.

The comparison to Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow is probably inevitable given the shared subject matter of the two novels, and the comparison is entirely in Russell's favor as far as I'm concerned. I recommend you read that instead. ( )
  lycomayflower | Jan 7, 2019 |
This is a very long book with not much happening - very anti-climactic. Some of the main themes running through the book were done well, like the portrayal of the main character's relationship with his wife, but there were a lot of questions running throughout as though they mattered, and then they just fell to the wayside. ( )
  3njennn | Nov 25, 2018 |
I loved Faber's book [b:The Crimson Petal and the White|40200|The Crimson Petal and the White|Michel Faber|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1408937589s/40200.jpg|1210026] and this book is as different as a book could possibly be. Somewhat Sci-Fi, it is an insightful novel that reminded me of [b:State of Wonder|9118135|State of Wonder|Ann Patchett|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327362401s/9118135.jpg|14893776] in many ways. I will not summarize here, many others have done so very well.

While many reviewers have focused on the religious aspects of the novel, I was more taken with the sociological aspects. I felt like an anthropologist reading and observing the interactions between the characters, and the civilizations in Faber's work. The novel surprised me as it never took a predictable path and yet every aspect rang true. It is one thing to write believable human characters, even believable feline characters, but to write of "other-wordly" beings, and stay far away from stereotypes, to make them fully realized, is a feat.

Faber is making statements in the novel, they are not subtle, but he is not hitting the reader over the head. He guides us to realizations, to conclusions, and does so with subtlety. His near-future Earth feels likely, if not inevitable.

This was not a perfect read. It took me too long to get into the book, At page 156 I was ready to put it aside, however it was a free book in exchange for an honest review. I am very glad I continued for quickly after that the book clicked with me and I could not put it down. At times I felt the descriptions were overly detailed or repeated - the rain; I get it!! Small quibbles, this is a really interesting read! ( )
  Rdra1962 | Aug 1, 2018 |
Every once in awhile you come across an amazing novel that leaves you begging for more long after the final page has been read. Michel Faber's 'The Book of Strange New Things' is one such book.

On the surface, 'The Book of Strange New Things' is the story of a Christian missionary, Peter, who has been selected to travel to a newly identified planet many light years from our own to teach the Gospel to its alien inhabitants. But a deeper read reveals that this book is about so much more than that. It's about isolation, communication, long-distance relationships, and the things we sacrifice for those we love.

As a whole, I fell in love with the empty flatland of Oasis and the people, both native and alien, who inhabited it. This book took me nearly a month to finish because I kept having to stop and sit with the narrative and my feelings on it. In fact, there were moments so on the nose that I had to put the book down to take a breath and remind myself that this is only a work of fiction.

Though I really wanted to, I can't give 'The Book of Strange New Things' five stars as I did feel there were times when the narrative dragged on or felt a bit repetitive. I enjoy navel-gazing as much as the next person, but it becomes tedious when over-employed.

Fans of Michel Faber's work have said that 'The Book of Strange New Things' is probably his weakest novel, but I still found so much to love about it. Would definitely recommend to fans of science fiction with a literary twist. 4 out of 5 Stars. ( )
  MeganAngela | May 28, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 86 (next | show all)
As someone who harbors a fondness for science fiction and thirsts for more complex treatment of religion in contemporary novels, I relished every chance to cloister myself away with “The Book of Strange New Things.” If it feels more contemplative 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.
added by zhejw | editWashington Post, Ron Charles (Nov 25, 2014)
 
Since the critical and commercial triumph of Hilary Mantel, the historical novel is newly respectable. One hopes that Michel Faber can do something similar for speculative writing. Defiantly unclassifiable, “The Book of Strange New Things” is, among other things, a rebuke to the credo of literary seriousness for which there is no higher art than a Norwegian man taking pains to describe his breakfast cereal. As well as the literature of authenticity, Faber reminds us, there is a literature of enchantment, which invites the reader to participate in the not-real in order to wake from a dream of reality to the ineffability, strangeness and brevity of life on Earth.
added by zhejw | editNew York Times, Marcel Theroux (Oct 30, 2014)
 
...like the best sci-fi or fantasy, the novel is really an examination of humanity. It is also a powerful and, one suspects, personal meditation on the limitations of the flesh, and the capacity of either love or faith to endure extreme pressure. Startlingly tender and bold in conception, it offers a bleak vision of our future that also holds fast to the hope that, in Larkin’s phrase, “what will survive of us is love”.
added by _Zoe_ | editThe Guardian, Stephanie Merritt (Oct 26, 2014)
 
The book isn’t without a few niggling problems.... But the genuinely inquisitive and searching story in The Book of Strange New Things ultimately trumps such minor logistical concerns. This is a novel of big ideas by a writer of unusual intelligence and lucidity, and it lingers in the mind after the final page is turned.
added by _Zoe_ | editThe Independent, Doug Johnstone (Oct 25, 2014)
 
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Book description
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.
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"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" --… (more)

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