I never expected this book to reflect Christianity. Of course, the cover puts me in mind of Michelangelo’s fresco of God’s hand touching man’s in The Creation of Adam. And the edges of the pages are gilt, resembling a finely made, leather-bound Bible. But, it’s the content which surprised me most of all.
Peter is chosen by the USIC to make the Jump from Earth to Oasis as a Christian missionary. He leaves behind his beloved wife, Bea, and the family cat, Joshua, to mind things at home. To mind the church they have established in England. They now communicate via emails transmitted through the Shoot.
The native inhabitants of Oasis, the Oaseans, are eager to receive him. They are hungry for the Bible, which they call The Book of Strange New Things. They are tireless in their work to build a church. And they are vague about why the two men who came before him, Kurtzberg and Tartaglione, have since left; we know not where.
There is a disturbing element to this story, an underlying tension which mingles with the Bible verses I know so well. Why are the female and male hands on the cover reaching so longingly toward each other? Why are these strange Oaseans so eager for the Word, and the boxes of medicine which USIC provides for them? Can Peter stay away from Earth with each new terrifying email he receives from his wife about how the stores are empty, the market has fallen, and thieves abound?
In this strange and wonderful book, which is part Sci-fi, part Fantasy, and part reality, I found the most wonderful tribute to faith I have ever read in a secular book. I was constantly surprised, expecting Michel Faber to take a verse and turn it on its ear, as Stephen King and Josua Ferris are wont to do, but no. Throughout the novel, until the very last page, the text is true to God’s Word. It is edifying and hopeful to be reminded that, while life as we know it may crumble apart, He is with us always, even unto the end of the world.
I will not forget this novel, the tender yet unswerving faith of the Oseans, and the grace with which Michel Faber offers us his story. I want to thank him, somehow, with all my heart.