The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

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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.

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28 thoughts on “The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber”

    1. If I had read it in 2014, I’m sure it would have been one of my favorites as well. What an incredible story, and how true he kept to the tenets of Christianity: love, forgive, and focus on Jesus. It was just beautiful, and I’m glad you loved it, too.

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    1. Although I read, and relished, The Crimson Petal and The White, I have not read Under The Skin. I don’t even know what that’s about, but I will look it up (i.e, probably order it for my kindle). The Crimson Petal and The White was nothing like this one, it was a Victorian age love story with a prostitute, but that just shows how wonderfully diverse, and talented, Michael Faber is.

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  1. Thanks for highlighting this book. I’ve seen it around but didn’t know what it was about. I’ll have to check it out. Somehow it kind of reminds me of THE SPARROW.

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    1. Heidi, be prepared that along with the faith is some weird Sci-fi stuff, and a theme bordering on apocalyptic (if not fully there), but it is a wonderful message. I think you will find it as significant as I did.

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  2. I loved this book too! I’m so pleased that you found it as powerful as I did. I haven’t read ‘Under the Skin’ either. Fingers crossed we both enjoy it as much as this one.

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  3. I am looking for a new book and of course thought of your blog first! I think I will try this one! i hope you are doing well..it’s been a while since I visited….life has been a bit difficult. But I am so glad to read your blog once again…like visiting a good friend! 🙂

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    1. Sara,so good to see you here again! And, this is an apt book for you to land on first as it addresses our faith so wonderfully. I’m sorry life has been difficult, though I surely enjoyed your Thankful Thursday post, some years are like that. I hope you’re on to better days soon.

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  4. I have this on my list to get to. It was almost one of the books I got as a after Christmas purchase, but it didn’t make the cut in the end… Just so behind on books I want to get! But, I definitely want to get it soon!

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    1. Oh, who doesn’t have a pile of “want to get in” books?! (Much better title than to be read.) I’ve pushed Don Quixote off to the side as all these library books came in at once, and then I am reading The Sound of the Mountain to get in for Tony’s discussion. So, we’ll get to our stacks as we can.

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  5. I love this author’s writing and can’t wait to try this one. Crimson Petal and the White is an all time favorite.

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    1. I know, I loved it, too! I just downloaded it on the kindle, and I just may read it this winter. So atmospheric, so romantic in its own way…

      This is nothing like Sugar, but it is very, very wonderful.

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    1. I have read what Faber was going through, with his partner of 26 years and wife since 2004 dying of terminal cancer. (And he’s a year younger than I!) I think it makes the story all the more poignant, and all the more tender. He said he wanted it to be the saddest story he’d ever written, which I’m sure it is. But sanest was not the overwhelming emotion I was left with. Instead I felt a relentless hope.

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    1. Yes, Sci-fi is my least favorite genre, or at least a tie between that and Romance, but he made it work in his story.

      I’ve been ruminating why he made the characters in another Galaxy the ones who believes so fervently, and I’ve almost decided that they had to be other than human to have such a childlike faith as adults.

      Anyway, you just may like it after all.

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      1. There’s definitely room for a sequel here. What do the Oasans really believe about the nature of Eternal Life, does Peter ever find Bea again and why do they need drugs for diabetes, antibiotics and plain old paracetamol? I wasn’t completely convinced that the book was totally pro Christianity. Some level of irony perhaps?

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