Book jacket summaries can offer an intriguing glimpse of the riches within its contents or have the opposite effect. A poor summary will result in a reader thrusting a book back on a shelf in the blink of an eye. The teaser for The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber left me somewhere in the middle.
Strange New Things is about Peter, a man of God who is given an incredible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Through a mysterious corporation known only as USIC, Peter travels to a distant galaxy in order to be a pastor missionary to the USIC employees and the native population on another planet. As he makes great strides in his work, Peter becomes rattled when the missives from his wife back on Earth detail horrifying events happening across the Earth and her own faltering faith.
Based on this summary, I would have passed on reading Faber’s latest work but I was intrigued by the premise. Normally, I’m not a fan of science fiction; I couldn’t see how science fiction and evangelism would go together in a story but Faber captured my interest.
I have never read anything like this work before. The 496 page book flew by; I devoured each chapter with a strong desire to know what would happen next. Faber has crafted a brilliant story full of wonderful details, emotions and complexity. I have a tendency to skim or even skip lengthy setting descriptions but not with Faber. His precise writing brings the planetary location vividly to the reader’s mind. Somehow the author married faith and science fiction together in a brilliant fashion.
The Book of Strange New Things is entertaining, heartrending and thought-provoking.
Update: A story in the New York Times shares Faber plans to stop writing novels, “I felt that I had one more book in me that could be special and sincere and extraordinary, and that that would be enough”. I hope in time Faber will find he has more stories to craft. But if he does not, The Book of Strange New Things can serve as a wonderful final piece of his work and should not be missed.