Review: The Book of Strange New Things
What a strange couple of months. I read 10 books in June. In July I read 2, and I’ve only read 2 again so far in August. Somebody it seems has stolen my reading mojo. I plan to steal it back though pretty soon – I’ll have little choice; I move into my new house in a few days but my internet and Sky television and in fact most of my furniture will all be a week or so behind me. I figure that if all I have in my (shiny new) house for a while is my bed and my Kindle then I’ll have plenty of time to catch up on some reading and consequently some blogging.
For now though I really want to talk about Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things because oh my goodness did I love that book. SO MUCH AMAZING YOU GUYS. I’ve wanted to read it since it’s hardback publication, but I didn’t because well, we all know I have this thing about hardback books especially the larger ones like this one. I could have got it on the Kindle I know, but I didn’t and I don’t know why other than sometimes I just kind of have this instinct to have an actual physical copy of something in my hands. Sometimes I just feel way ahead of time that an ebook just won’t cut it. So, I waited like the patient girl I am (and stop laughing right now because ‘patient’ is totally an accurate description of me, thanks very much) for the paperback publication.
And then I fell in love.
This is the kind of book that makes you feel things. All the things. It’s the kind of book that gets under your skin and gets you right in the gut and you’re just aware the whole time you’re reading it that you’re reading something amazing and then you finish it, and you kind of don’t know what that is. Does that make sense? Like, I finished this book and was totally and utterly bowled over but not I’m here and I’m trying to explain why. And I kind of don’t know how.
Faber is an extraordinary writer, or rather his writing in The Book of Strange New Things feels to me to be extraordinary; I haven’t actually read his other stuff. Yet. This book makes me want to, so badly. His use of language is so stunning it makes me want to cry a little (seduce me with pretty words), the imagery is beautiful, the characterisation breathtaking, the whole thing just out-of-this-world kind of good. AND THAT IS NOT EVEN A PUN.
Buy why Josephine, I hear you ask; don’t just tell us it’s fabulous, tell us why.
Well. I loved the whole premise of this and what Faber did with it. Looooved it. This book was (is) an incredible exploration of religion, one that I think would appeal to you whatever your beliefs – I recommend this book to you whether you’re a firm believer in any kind of higher power or whether you’re an atheist. I do. I just want you to read it, whoever you are. Go forth. The way Peter goes about teaching the inhabitants of this planet about God and Jesus – they’re so receptive and so hungry for knowledge that it’s almost too easy - juxtaposed alongside his wife, left behind at home with nothing but her own faith to guide her and struggling, is so damn clever. So clever and so moving and so good.
It’s a book a refreshingly flawed protagonist - and I won’t lie here, there were at times I wanted to get hold of Peter and shake him oh my goodness - and also it’s a really clever take on the whole sci-fi thing. Science fiction is a thing here, obviously, and it’s a big thing because let’s be real the very premise of this book is a dude trying to spread the word of God to aliens, but it’s not the thing, you know? This isn’t a book about aliens or about space travel or any of that stuff, not really. It’s not a book you should shy away from because ‘science fiction is not your thing.’ It’s a book about human nature, about morality and faith and relationships and love with an ending that will make your heart stutter in your chest.
Oh my goodness the ending. I had a conversation with Jen whilst walking along Regent’s Canal with a latte when I was about halfway through this book, and that coloured I think, the way I looked at certain elements of the whole thing, specifically Peter’s relationship with his wife Bea who has been left behind on earth but you know, I think the ending of this book would have gotten me in the same way regardless. It hit me like a sucker punch, a beautiful beautiful sucker punch.
I believed in this book. I did. And it’s set on another planet. This guy is telling bible stories to a species without faces who speak a language he can’t even begin to comprehend and I believed in it. Every word. I can’t stop thinking about it. I want to shove it in the face of everyone I know and say READ THIS DAMN THING WILL YOU and if that doesn’t tell you something, well, I’m afraid I don’t know what else to do.
It is, quite simply, The Book of Strange New Things.