The Book Of Strange New Things
Faith: the final frontier
Release Date: OUT NOW!
592 pages | Hardback/ ebook Author: Michel Faber Publisher: Canongate
The idea of a missionary attempting to spread the good word among alien civilisations has produced some of SF’s most challenging novels. Like James Blish’s A Case Of Conscience and Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow, Michel Faber’s new novel – his first since satirical period drama The Crimson Petal And The White ( 2002) – explores the philosophical and emotional difficulties of exporting religion to strange new worlds.
Peter Leigh leaves behind his beloved wife, Beatrice, to become a chaplain to the native inhabitants of a distant planet. Secrets lurk behind the eyes of the human colonists who work for the corporation that recruited him, but Peter’s focus is elsewhere. How can he be sure his flock understands his message in the way he intends? Why is he losing memories of his past, and finding it harder and harder to bridge the gulf separating him and Beatrice?
This is a rewarding novel, which engages with big ideas and serves up mysteries while keeping human relationships front and centre. It’s also a generous one: while Peter ( our viewpoint character) is prone to spouting banal platitudes, can be clueless to the point of offensiveness, and has an attachment to his cat that breaks the twee barrier, the novel gives us space to see his fallibility as an essential part of his humanity.
Faber says that all his characters’ surnames are based on those of Marvel writers and inkers of the ’ 60s and ’ 70s.