[Review] The Book Of Strange New Things

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m not gonna beat around the bush: I am terribly disappointed with this novel, and it hurts a little because of the time invested. Faber is a good writer, and this is a good novel, so please understand that. However, it isn’t the novel it bills itself to be. I was interested in this book because of the angle of exploring Christianity in a sci-fi setting, specifically taking the Gospel to an alien race. The title more than alludes to this theme, as it is the name by which the native Oasans, the SLM, know the Bible. The SLM turn out to be a missionary’s dream congregation, already devoted to Jesus wholeheartedly.

The whole preacher-to-an-alien-race angle, however, turns out to be only a vehicle to get the main character away from Earth so the novel can explore its main theme, alienation. As a study on alienation and the effects of long-distance relationships on the human psyche, Faber gives us a fantastic story, heartbreaking even, especially because we only get to know what’s going on from one side, the other being only interstellar emails. But, again, that’s not what the book bills itself to be, and not what I went in for. A great novel, just not the novel I wanted.

I am reminded that I still need to write a review for The Sparrow and the Hyperion Cantos books, as they also tackle the theme of the Judeo-Christian religion in a sci-fi setting in stunning and different ways.