What strange things do you believe in?

Michel Faber: The Book of Strange New Things

A genre-free work that convinces with a unique story idea, but is a little lengthy.

 

What connects two people, even if they live light years apart? Pastor Peter Leigh is sent on the journey of his life: he is supposed to proselytize the inhabitants on a planet several galaxies away. While Peter quickly gets used to the peculiarities of the alien planet, his wife Bea experiences a tragic time on earth. In their messages to one another, they try to keep their love going. How can they bridge this enormous distance that a relationship has never been exposed to before in order to save their love and their life together? (to the publisher's website)

A mysterious golden letter arrived in my mailbox a while ago, a letter from a Peter who seems to be in a crazy place. Then later the resolution: It is about Michel Fabers New novel long awaited by his fans "The Book of Strange New Things". A beautiful cover, an incredibly interesting and original story, but the length of this book with its almost 700 pages put me off. But the Kein & Aber Verlag was apparently so convinced that I would like this tome, because a short time after the golden letter I found the little Klops waiting in the mailbox. I can already anticipate this much: How good that I was “forced” to read a little! 🙂 The basic idea of ​​the story is also quickly summarized: A pastor named Peter is supposed to leave his wife Bea, his cat Joshua and above all his home planet behind to proselytize on a strange planet called Oasis. The aliens living there already know Jesus and the Bible (the "Book of Strange New Things"), but the previous priests have disappeared and Peter is supposed to be the replacement. Exciting questions come straight to my mind after the first few pages: What does the planet look like, like the aliens? How can Peter communicate with them? Why do aliens on a strange planet need religion? And will Bea take Peter's absence? And did Jesus also die for the sins of the Oasians, can a religion simply be transferred to another species on a distant planet?

His whole life - he understood this when the facades of the unknown city loomed before him, hoards of unimaginable miracles - his whole life culminated in this moment.

Michel Faber's work cannot really be assigned to any genre, which is why no German publisher initially took pity on publishing his book. Too religious, too esoteric, too much science fiction. But it's not really sci-fi, any more than a religious guide. "The Book of Strange New Things" is very difficult to pigeonhole, and that makes this book - besides the fantastically original story - something special. The author tells the story of Peter and Bea and their "long-distance relationship" so emotionally charged that the reader has to be really excited. When Peter and the aliens finally met for the first time, I was so absorbed in the story that I wasn't bothered by their nature at first. But after 300, 400 pages, questions arise: Why are these aliens interested in a religion from Earth? How is it that the aliens can speak some English - how long has this mission been going? What can a Christian God offer the oasis? Unfortunately, these questions remain unanswered, and Peter doesn't seem to be surprised why this need exists.

I like Faber's narrative style, atmospheric (sometimes somewhat lengthy) descriptions of the scenery create a vivid picture of Oasis and the people who work and live there. Peter and Bea are round characters, each of them receives a comprehensive background story, and the impression arises that they could be real people. We learn that before Peter became a pastor, he was homeless, drug addict, and alcoholic, and that love for God turned his life 180 degrees. Although I am an atheist, I enjoyed reading about his path in life and how faith in God helped him to change his life for the better. That he became a pastor therefore seems plausible. In general, everything about Michel Faber's world seems realistic to me, even the strange planet, even if there is a kind of “dancing rain” there that seems a bit surreal. But on the other hand: What do we already know about alien planets in distant galaxies and their physics and environment? Right, not much. Therefore it does not seem at all implausible to me that there can be a planet without lakes and seas, on which life nevertheless originated. Faber is doing everything right here, and yet I had the feeling that he was taking too much time to get to the heart of his story. 680 pages are really long, and how many visits by Peter to the oasis do you have to find out about?

In the end, it bothered me most that there were no real answers to my questions - at no point does Peter wonder whether Christianity is suitable for the Oasians, although during the mediation of the individual passages he notices that the aliens are not for certain things Having words and not understanding concepts that are everyday for us, but does not come into doubt whether his work on Oasis makes sense at all.

"We fear death," confirmed friend one. “But fear doesn't keep life in the body when life is over. Nothing can keep life in the body. Only the Lord God. "

Conclusion: Michel Faber has presented a really thick work that cannot be clearly assigned to any genre. The unique story of the couple, separated by many light years, is fascinating and captivating - but not all 690 pages long. The new world is interesting and one would like to find out more about it, but this is only granted to the reader and the protagonist in the last quarter. The motives of USIC, the leading company, only gradually become clear, which creates a nice arc of tension towards the end. However, “The Book of Strange New Things” is not suitable for everyone - those who like to struggle with religious topics or slow, descriptive literature that is not one of their favorite things may have less fun with Faber's work. However, if you are in the mood for an interstellar adventure, want to get to know a new species and appreciate the aspect of a love relationship from afar, you may find your next favorite book here. I give 3 ½ stars because too many questions remained unanswered and were not critically questioned.

Michel Faber, The Book of Strange New Things. No buts Hardcover book with dust jacket, 688 pages ISBN: 9783036957791 Published: 16.03.18

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