The Book of Strange New Things, by Michel Faber

I recently discovered that my favorite movie in recent years, Under the Skin, was based on a novel by Michel Faber. I’d never heard of him and decided to try this unusual, sci-fi drama.

The plot centers around a Christian Missionary, Peter, who is traveling to a distant world to minister to alien creatures. This sounds comical almost, and quite naive, but it fits the character well. The story is written in a very serious way, despite what the plot might make you think.

When Peter arrives on the alien world, after going to sleep on a ship and ‘jumping’ with some kind of space bending technology, he finds his task of spreading his religion to be easier than he imagined.

This part of the story, though, however interesting, is not the focus of the writing. The plot comes to center around Peter’s relationship with his wife and the world he left behind back on Earth. His focus on the things at hand on this new world, and the distance, both physical and emotional, are separating him from everyone and everything else.

I’ve said many times before that characters are vivid. By this I mean I can picture them clearly in my head, that I can imagine mannerisms and hear voice with ease. But these characters Faber has created are something even beyond that. They are so real that it feels they must have been based on actual people that Faber knew intimately. The personalities are so rich and deep, I found pieces of myself in almost each one.

The alien world, and the aliens themselves are also quite detailed and creative. I was able to imagine them quite clearly, which is often a problem for me in these kinds of stories. But even though the faces of these creatures were completely inhuman, Faber was somehow able to paint a clear image of them in my head.

This was a beautiful and deep story, and I very much enjoyed listening to it. The narrator did a great job as well. I love finding sci fi stories like this, where the focus is on characters and story, instead of action or explosions or war.

Despite my great enjoyment of this, the end was not very satisfying. Though many questions were answered, I felt it lacked a certain force, or meaning. But maybe that fits with the theme of the story. Its not about any specific event or struggle, but about life. Life goes on, and on, and things fall apart. And then they stop.

A great story and I recommend it to sci fi, or literary fans. Check it out!


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