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The Book of Strange New Things: A Novel Paperback – June 30, 2015
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“Defiantly unclassifiable. . . . The Book of Strange New Things squeezes its genre ingredients to yield a meditation on suffering, love and the origins of religious faith. . . . Faber reminds us there is a literature of enchantment, which invites the reader to participate in the not-real in order to wake from a dream of reality to the ineffability, strangeness, and brevity of life on Earth.” —Marcel Theroux, The New York Times Book Review (cover review)
“Provocative, unsettling.” —People
“Profoundly moving. . . . . A vivid portrait of a distant galaxy, reinforced by a narrative that is deeply, emotionally evocative.” —USA Today
“Elegant. . . . A lovely, thought-provoking meditation on love and faith and the never-ending mysteries of the natural world.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Eerie and ambitious. . . . Faber is a genuinely gifted storyteller and his novel gains resonance and tidal force in its final third.” —The New York Times
“Faber illustrates, movingly, the impossibility of adequate communication in the face of life-changing experience. . . . Rich and memorable.” —The New Yorker
“The Book of Strange New Things will blow you away…Powerful… Even beyond its power as a story of cross-cultural encounters, and the questions it makes you ask about the place of humanity in the universe, Book of Strange New Things is also worth reading as a great personal story of a man and his wife, as their relationship faces the ultimate test..Fantastic.”—io9.com
“Fascinating…Poignant…Remarkable… Despite its bizarre setting and all the elements of an interplanetary opera, this is a novel of profound spiritual intimacy…. I relished every chance to cloister myself away with “The Book of Strange New Things”…[It] offers exactly what I crave: a state of mingled familiarity and alienness that leaves us with questions we can’t answer — or forget.”—Ron Charles, Washington Post
“One of the best books I’ve ever read. . . . It’s a love story, and the last line destroyed me.” —Emily St. John Mandel, The Millions
“Faber's great strength, trotted out right from the opening pages — this ability to write believable, lovely, flawed and inept characters. To animate his creations by exposing their great loves and human frailties, and to make us want, somehow, to follow along behind them…Faber tells a beautifully human story of love, loss, faith and the sometimes uncrossable distances between people.”—NPR.org, “All Things Considered”
“Harrowing, wrenching. . . . A bold and unexpected work of beauty. . . . Faber’s sincerity keeps The Book of Strange New Things honest, and his talent steers him away from cliché.” —The New Republic
“A wonderful adventure story, a quasi-science fiction tale and a probing examination of a marriage. . . . A truly strange and wonderful novel. . . . Please read Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things. You won't regret it.”—Cleveland Plain-Dealer
“[A] masterpiece” —Cosmopolitan
“I would almost like to say, ‘Read this book,’ and leave it with that. Because its charms, and they are considerable, are so tied with discovering what the heck is going on. That challenges a reviewer, because almost anything I tell you will spoil a moment of discovery…the writing is such a pleasure.”—Dallas Morning News
“A bracing, rewarding read.”—Kansas City Star
“[Faber] approaches this interplanetary saga as an expert genre traveler. . . . [His] potent new amalgam of sci-fi and spirituality puts him within rocket range of David Mitchell.” —New York
“Intergalactic in scope.” —Reuters
“This is a big novel . . . but the reader is pulled through it at some pace by the gothic sense of anxiety that pervades and taints every element. . . . Astonishing and deeply affecting.” —The Guardian
“A novel so full of ideas, so charged by plot, so odd and wonderful, and written with astonishing emotional precision. There are some novels that come along every now and again, when writing a review seems superfluous and all one wants to do is to grab someone by the shoulders and say: “Look, just read the damn thing!” This is one of them. Michel Faber always has had an astonishing ability to make the strange believable and the alien real, but in this thoughtful, deeply moving page-turner, he excels himself.” —The Scotsman
“A hugely serious story about the testing of religious faith. . . . When [Peter’s] spiritual crisis does indeed hit it is as gripping as any thriller. . . . A work of originality and insight.” —The Times
“A moving human drama disguised as a gripping science fiction tale. . . . Magnificently bold and addictive. . . . A book quite unlike any other I've ever read.” —The Sunday Times
“Faber’s new novel grapples with [what it means to be human] in unusually direct terms. . . . The fascination of [his] prose style is its lack of sensationalism. His voice on the page is serene and oddly innocent. . . . One might call The Book of Strange New Things sci-fi, speculative fiction, literary fiction—or maybe just welcome it, thankfully, with a ‘Never before now.’” —The Independent (UK)
“Contemporary literary fiction rarely provides a Victorian-length magical mystery tour along the trail of breathtaking narrative…[yet] Michel Faber’s vast new storytelling extravaganza, The Book of Strange New Things, is that kind of novel. It embodies a wondrous and sorrowful experience you don’t just read, but live.”—Toronto Star
“Spellbinding, heartbreaking and mind-bending. . . . This is very much a book that rewards re-reading; its subtle echoes and wisps of allusion reverberate across the text. . . . The Book Of Strange New Things is Faber’s strongest, most plangent and most intellectually gleeful novel. It is affecting as much as it is challenging. . . . Bold, brave, brilliant. . . . It’s also, by the way, the most wonderful love story.” —Scottish Review of Books
“Brilliant, and disquieting. . . . Faber’s novel is entirely true to itself and wonderfully original. It makes a fine update to Walter M. Miller Jr.’s Canticle for Leibowitz, with some Marilynne Robinson-like homespun theology thrown in for good measure. . . . A profoundly religious exploration of inner turmoil.” —Kirkus (starred review)
“A marvelously creative and intricate novel, thought-provoking and arresting.” —Booklist
“A monumental, genre-defying novel over ten years in the making, Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things is a masterwork from a writer in full command of his many talents.”—Book Browse, Selected as a Top Book of 2014
“The book wears its strong premise and mixture of Biblical and SF tropes extremely well.”—Publishers Weekly
“At the heart of The Book of Strange New Things is one question: Whom—or what—do you love, and what are you willing to do for that love (or not willing)? The result is a novel of marvel and wonderment with a narrative engine like a locomotive.” —Yann Martel
“In my opinion The Book of Strange New Things is Michel Faber’s second masterpiece, quite different to The Crimson Petal and the White but every bit as luminescent and memorable. It is a portrait of a living, breathing relationship, frayed by distance. It is an enquiry into the mountains faith can move and the mountains faith can’t move. It is maniacally gripping. It is vibrant with wit and overcast with prescience and social commentary. Like all superlative science fiction, its real subject is that most mystifying of alien species, humanity. I didn’t so much read The Book of Strange New Things as inhabit it, the way you inhabited that handful of books which, as a kid, first got you hooked on this wonderful drug known as reading.” —David Mitchell
“Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things certainly lives up to its title. Faber, as he showed in Under the Skin, does strangeness brilliantly. I can’t remember being so continually and unfailingly surprised by any book for a long time, and part of the surprise is the tenderness and delicacy with which he shows an emotional relationship developing in one direction while withering in another. I found it completely compelling and believable, and admired it enormously.” —Philip Pullman
“Weird and disturbing, like any work of genius, this novel haunted me for the seven nights I spent reading it, and haunts me still. A story of faith that will mesmerize believers and non-believers alike, a story of love in the face of the Apocalypse, a story of humanity set in an alien world—The Book of Strange New Things is desperately beautiful, sad, and unforgettable.” —David Benioff
“Intriguing…both painful and compelling. And when you find out the answers to some of the novel's central mysteries . . . Well, I won't give anything away, but the answers pack a punch.”—Rick Riordan
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
MICHEL FABER is the internationally bestselling and critically acclaimed author of The Crimson Petal and the White, Under the Skin—shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award—and several other books. Faber has won many short story awards and his writing has appeared in Granta, The O. Henry Prize Stories, among others. He lives in Scotland.
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There are some themes here that I don't normally find very compelling, namely issues of faith and marital difficulties. But I found myself completely absorbed in Faber's creation, tearing through this hefty volume in a matter of days. The characters all felt very real to me, with vivid personalities and abundant flaws. There were times when I would have liked more detail about certain events, particularly Peter's early days among the natives, but ultimately the book as a whole comes together very well. Various mysteries are satisfactorily resolved. The only aspect of the story that I found somewhat unsatisfying was its open-endedness; there are hints about how everything may turn out, but we don't actually see it all through to the end. I can understand why Faber stopped where he did; important decisions have been made and events have been put in motion, so that it might actually have been anticlimactic to pursue each thread down to its final resolution. I just wasn't quite ready to leave this story yet, which might speak as much to its power as to anything else.
A word of warning: despite the central role of faith, this is definitely not what I would classify as "Christian fiction". It opens with a sex scene and contains plenty of profanity, along with descriptions of bodily functions, masturbation, etc. This is the sort of content that could have come across as gratuitous, but instead it adds an element of gritty realism. The religious message is also not entirely unwavering, which I appreciated as a non-Christian reader.
I'd like to say more about the plot and the various issues that arise in the course of Peter's mission, but I think it's best to approach the story without too much prior information and just allow yourself to get caught up in the flow. There are plenty of surprising elements here whose impact might be diminished by reading about them beforehand. Peter sets off on a journey into the unknown, and I'm very glad that I had an opportunity to travel along with him. I just wish I could do a better job of explaining why I liked this book so much; it's a powerful novel whose impact I can't seem to express in words. Reading it was a fully immersive experience.
I read this book because a colleague had recommended it, because I figured that the title's allusion to Milton's Satan implied the author had 'literary chops', and because David Mitchell gave it high praise. I loved Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas," though found the ending disappointing. (Looking back, I think there's a fair amount of thematic overlap between the two stories.) I found the ending to 'Strange New Things' similarly disappointing -- Faber is a good enough writer to keep one entertained, and his occasional cultural observations were interesting, but this book felt shallow throughout and the weak ending will only help me remember it as such. If I could give it 2.5 stars, I would, as I wouldn't recommend it but don't regret reading it.
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