REVIEW: The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber

The Book of Strange New Things
Michael Faber
NetGalley ARC (e-book)

I received an electronic copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. I received no compensation for this.

I had to think about this story before I was ready to write a review. I liked the mix of faith, religion, and science fiction. At first, I was a little concerned that it might be one of those books that shoves religion in your face, but it wasn’t. In fact, it was intriguing to see how faith and religion played a role and changed throughout the story.

Let’s back up for a minute: Set in the future, The Book of Strange New Things is the story of Peter Leigh, an evangelist who gets hand-picked to go on a mission to bring the Word of God to an alien race. (However, let’s remember that Peter and the other people from Earth are the real aliens, visiting a distant planet — a distinction Peter is quick to point out after his arrival there). The idea of the space travel is a fascinating one, and even more mind-blowing is that they had developed a form of communication between this distant planet and Earth. Peter and his wife were able to email each other! As I mentioned, I was a little hesitant that this book might be too preachy, but it was not. Religion and faith were almost like other characters to the story. (In reading reviews on Goodreads, there was one post that I thought did a great job of summarizing the story without giving away too much detail. Check it out here.)

Being able to read the correspondence between Peter and his wife was good because you could see how their relationship was affected by their separate experiences, distance, and time. Their relationship and faith were put to the test. You could feel Peter’s helplessness when he heard bad news about home (home=planet Earth). You could see his struggle to be able to sympathize when he was so far away and unaffected.

Peter’s relationship with the natives, called the Oasans, is a really cool aspect of the story. I liked how the author showed symbols when they were speaking; a good reminder that though they were learning English, they were still not human. The Oasans were such a humble, gentle race and I thought they were really interesting characters.

The cast of characters was colorful, especially the natives (no pun intended — if you read it, you’ll understand why I say that).

I wish the story went on a bit longer than where it ended because I would have liked to see what happened next. I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I will not say more than that.

After taking time to think about it, I would recommend this book.

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