Original publish date: 6 December 2014
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
A science fiction story that prominently features religion. It seems like an incredibly incongruous notion, yet that’s one of the most intriguing things about Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things.
Peter Leigh is the pastor chosen by USIC to travel to space to a new planet, Oasis, where USIC is establishing a colony in the territory. In leaving Earth and his life, Peter has to leave his wife, Bea, who is the nurse who introduced him to God in the first place. The natives of Oasis, Oasans as Peter calls them, have heard of the Bible and call it “The Book of Strange New Things,” and they are quite eager for Peter’s teachings. Each USIC selected staff member on Oasis has a specific skill set and job to do, the most seemingly superfluous of which would seem to be Peter’s role as pastor, but his role has much gravity and their livelihoods are dependent upon him.
The concept of this novel were quite intriguing once the aspect of sci-fi became involved. The religious aspect of the story wasn’t something that ranked too highly on my radar because of my personal views, but I was intrigued with its coupling with the more traditional sci-fi aspects incorporated into the novel. The format of the novel was fitting with the religious component: it was epistolary in nature back and forth between Peter and Bea as they communicated between their two worlds that grew increasingly disparate. Without spoiling what is ultimately revealed about USIC through Peter’s experiences and perspective, I found this concept a startling, yet plausible reality.
I didn’t really enjoy or connect with the characters all that much; while they did provide a realistic portrayal of the various states of human nature, it was, at times, a bit too much with a rather heavy hand–and don’t get me started on my disdain for Bea. With the bouncing between English and American idioms and words, it was odd at times and I’m not sure how I feel about it for consistency’s sake.
Overall, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars.