The Book Of Strange New Things

Faith: the fi­nal fron­tier

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Books - Nic Clarke

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.

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