Review Room

Book reviews and miscellanous thoughts

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

Written By: amodini - Nov• 18•15

This is not going to read like a review because it is not one. Because I could not finish this book.

However I feel compelled to tell you why I had to give up on it more than half way in. And before that I must submit to a little ranting. About how I’m having trust issues. With book reviewers. You hear about this book and it’s got glowing reviews and then I can’t even force myself to finish it. It seems like all the books are so overly hyped these days – you are never quite sure whether to actually trust the review. I might have to start using Amazon reviews and judge the book by the naysayers.

This audiobook is long; more than 18 hours of listening time. I gave up sometime after the 10th hour. Not to say that I hated the book or it was atrocious – no. It wasn’t bad. It started with a great premise – that of a young pastor, Peter Leigh, going to another planet to spread his message of religious faith to the indigenous population. He’s been chosen after a rigorous set of interviews (we’re talking days here) by a mysterious corporation called USIC. He’s leaving behind his wife Bea, and their cat Joshua, but we assume that he will return to them.

This new planet, Oasis, is in another galaxy (there is a “jump” involved in the travel) and has a human colony living in sealed bunker-like buildings which keep out the cloyingly humid atmosphere. The native population live in their own settlement, and are short, thin, robed-and-cowled. Sorta humanoid except for their faces which Peter describes as looking like two fetuses, side by side. Peter, impatient to spread the word of God, goes to live among the Oasans, and finds them hungry for religion and scripture from “The Book of Strange New Things” – the Bible.

And that’s as far as I got. At this point the book is fairly slow-paced and plodding. I picked this up because of the sci-fi premise, and while the world-building is interesting, the pace is so slow that it felt more like alien anthropological non-fiction. I just couldn’t take the non-happening and any more of the descriptive detail of the Oasan’s life.

This book sounds similar to Mary Doria Russell’s “The Sparrow”, which I finished and liked. They are very different though, as is the world-building. This one spouted a lot of religion :-). Faber is no doubt a very skilled writer, because even with much of Peter’s inner musing in the throes of philosophical detail, the book is interesting. I’m not sure I’ll listen to his work again though if all his books feature the non-plot like this one.

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