The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

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Rating: 5 / 5 stars
Format: ebook
Published: 28th October 2014
Amazon | Goodreads

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.

First of all I will say I got a copy of this book from Netgalley and I was only 25% through when I went out and bought a physical copy. I really enjoyed this book. It was a fascinating look at what could happen to religion if humans found life on another planet. But I have to admit I really liked the fact that you don’t have to be religious in any way to enjoy this.

It brings up so many moral questions. Is it right to preach to these aliens when they barely understand human language. Is it right to give them medicine when its not clear if the aliens even understand what its for. I couldn’t help but feel that these characters were breaking the Prime Directive in some way, even though its from Star Trek. One of the most interesting questions was brought up by one of the characters. Jesus died for our sins but did he die for these alien’s sins as well.

Not only is this book a really interesting look at religion its a fantastic science-fiction novel too. The main character Peter is able to communicate with his wife back on Earth via a messaging system and we find out that all sorts of natural disasters have been occurring back on Earth. So we also see how Peter is torn between teaching the aliens about Christianity and worrying about his relationship with his wife and everything that is happening back on Earth.

I really enjoyed this book. The only problem I had was that the ending was very anti-climactic. I was left with more questions than answers about the situation back on Earth. But still a good read.

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*I received a copy of this book from Hogarth in exchange for an honest review.


  • Lynn Love

    Michel Faber also wrote ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’, set in Victorian England about a girl called Sugar who works on the streets… Seems the guy can write about anything! This does sound fascinating- always good, a book that makes you think. I’ll look out for it.

  • moonike

    Sounds interesting, but I’ll be honest I could not else, but see parallels between Peter teaching religion (Christianity) to aliens and the same being done to natives the Americas or also Asian cultures and old pagan-tribes of Europe on Earth during different eras and using several different methods to do so.
    And the question that I got: what if they (aliens) had already a religion of their own, if yes, what was that like.. and the transition from one to the other, how did that go? Does the book make any mention of aliens having a religion prior Peter’s arrival?
    You’re right though, this book does raise questions, even your review on the book gives enough food for thought 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  • bluchickenninja

    Oh yeah there are definitely parallels to what happened here. I think that was mentioned in the book. I can’t remember. But yes.

    I think it said that these aliens had never really had a religion before. They were quite primitive, they don’t even have “electricity” and live in the moment. By that I mean they don’t really think about what happened in the past.

    Its funny but that is what made me think of the prime directive. These people are so primitive is it right to give them advanced technology. But yeah, you could have some really interesting discussions about this book.

  • Anonymous

    I read that one recently too. It’s remarkable how Faber brought those characters to life. They were so real and recognizable, and they were seriously questioning themselves and their mission and the questioning was real. Because otherwise it’s a story of miserable Christians in space and that kind of seems like the last thing you could write a novel about.

  • shazzameena

    I had taken note of your recommendation from this post and borrowed the book. Just finished it today. Really good and very thought provoking. Though, you’re right in saying that it left a lot of questions unanswered about what might have been happening on earth. I’m loving the books I read as a result of your recommendations. Keep up the good work.

      • shazzameena

        No, I haven’t read that one yet. But I’ll put it on the list. I’ve got a few more of your recommendations already on hold at the library…so I’ll have to get through those first 🙂

          • shazzameena

            I can’t remember which are yours and which are from another blog I follow….but I have ‘At the water’s edge’, ‘A spool of blue thread’, ‘The fault in our stars’, ‘All the light we cannot see’ and now ‘Station eleven’! I recently finished ‘The ocean at the end of the lane’ and ‘The rise and fall of great powers’ which i think you reviewed. Have you read ‘A Man Called Ove’?

          • bluchickenninja

            I don’t think I have read A Man Called Ove but it does sound good. I might get that! At The Water’s Edge is one I definitely reviewed, that was really good. I wasn’t a big fan of The Fault In Our Stars but I kind of got caught in the hype train when it was released so that might be why I didn’t like it. You need to tell me what you thought of All The Light We Cannot See, I’ve had that sitting on my shelf for nearly a year and I still haven’t read it!

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