Let me preface this review with the fact that I am in no way religious at all – not even remotely. I don’t have a problem with religion or with religious people, it’s just not for me. Which is why I was a bit nervous about this book. It’s ostensibly about a preacher who gets sent to another planet to preach the word of God to a bunch of aliens. Naturally, I was a little worried that it would be a bit preachy or over the top with religion, but the religious elements were so masterful and subtle that I barely noticed they were there.
The Book of of Strange New Things is the story of Peter, an English preacher, who leaves his beloved wife and travels into space to teach the community known as the Oasans about Christianity. While he’s there, we learn, through a series of messages with his wife, Bea, that planet Earth is falling apart at a rapid pace, while Peter is coping with life on a strange planet.
I found this book completely fascinating and entrancing. Faber created a perfect balance of dystopian and sci fi elements with a literary bent – he is a beautiful writer, with outrageously varied talents – I can’t imagine a more different book to the other of his that I’ve read, The Crimson Petal and the White. He’s gone from prostitutes in Victorian England to preachers in space. While just the surface level plot of a preacher teaching a community of aliens would have been an interesting story on its own, adding the element of Earth suffering through a series of shocking disasters that Peter can do nothing about was genius.
If you enjoyed The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, then I would whole-heartedly recommend this book. Likewise, if you liked this one, then you definitely need to read The Sparrow.
All in all I really enjoyed The Book of Strange New Things and give it 4.5 out 5 preachers in outta space.