The Book of Strange New Things

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A monumental, genre-defying novel over ten years in the making, Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things is a masterwork from a writer in full command of his many talents.

It begins with Peter, a devoted man of faith, as he is called to the mission of a lifetime, one that takes him galaxies away from his wife, Bea. Peter becomes immersed in the mysteries of an astonishing new environment, overseen by an enigmatic corporation known only as USIC.   His work introduces him to a seemingly friendly native population struggling with a dangerous illness and hungry for Peter’s teachings—his Bible is their “book of strange new things.” But Peter is rattled when Bea’s letters from home become increasingly desperate: typhoons and earthquakes are devastating whole countries, and governments are crumbling.  Bea’s faith, once the guiding light of their lives, begins to falter.

Suddenly, a separation measured by an otherworldly distance, and defined both by one newly discovered world and another in a state of collapse, is threatened by an ever-widening gulf that is much less quantifiable.  While Peter is reconciling the needs of his congregation with the desires of his strange employer, Bea is struggling for survival.  Their trials lay bare a profound meditation on faith, love tested beyond endurance, and our responsibility to those closest to us.

Marked by the same bravura storytelling and precise language that made The Crimson Petal and the White such an international success, The Book of Strange New Things is extraordinary, mesmerizing, and replete with emotional complexity and genuine pathos.

Praise

The Book of Strange New Things is Michel Faber’s second masterpiece, every bit as luminescent and memorable as The Crimson Petal and the White.  It is a portrait of a living, breathing relationship, frayed by distance; it’s an enquiry into the mountains faith can move and the mountains faith can’t move.  It is maniacally gripping and vibrant with wit.  I didn’t so much read The Book of Strange New Things as inhabit it.” —David Mitchell

“Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things certainly lives up to its title.  Faber, as he showed in Under the Skin, does strangeness brilliantly. I can’t remember being so continually and unfailingly surprised by any book for a long time, and part of the surprise is the tenderness and delicacy with which he shows an emotional relationship developing in one direction while withering in another. I found it completely compelling and believable, and admired it enormously.” —Philip Pullman

"At the heart of The Book of Strange New Things is one question: Whom—or what—do you love, and what are you willing to do for that love (or not willing)? The result is a novel of marvel and wonderment with a narrative engine like a locomotive."—Yann Martel

“Weird and disturbing, like any work of genius, this novel haunted me for the seven nights I spent reading it, and haunts me still. A story of faith that will mesmerize believers and non-believers alike, a story of love in the face of the Apocalypse, a story of humanity set in an alien world—The Book of Strange New Things is desperately beautiful, sad, and unforgettable.” —David Benioff

“Brilliant, and disquieting. . . . Faber’s novel is entirely true to itself and wonderfully original. It makes a fine update to Walter M. Miller Jr.’s Canticle for Leibowitz, with some Marilynne Robinson-like homespun theology thrown in for good measure. . . . A profoundly religious exploration of inner turmoil.” —Kirkus (starred review)
 
“A marvelously creative and intricate novel, thought-provoking and arresting.” Booklist 
 
“The book wears its strong premise and mixture of Biblical and SF tropes extremely well.”Publishers Weekly

Reader's Guide

1. The Book of Strange New Things is a literary novel with elements of science fiction. Do you consider it more one genre than the other? Does it fall into any other categories?

2. Peter and Bea’s marriage is at the heart of The Book of Strange New Things. How does the evolution of their relationship help drive the action of the book? Do you think their letters reveal the full breadth of their experiences apart?

3. While Peter is away ministering to the Oasans, Bea’s world is torn by calamity. As Peter struggles to remain connected to her, he is challenged by both their physical and emotional distance. Do you think he overcomes this?

4. The Book of Strange New Things raises significant questions about our ability to feel compassion towards others, from strangers to those we love most deeply. How does Peter’s ability to show empathy change throughout the novel?

5. Peter’s coworkers on the USIC compound were chosen for the mission based on certain professional and psychological qualifications. What were these attributes, and does Peter share them?

6. Peter holds himself to a high ethical standard in both his marriage and his religious faith. How does this mission test his loyalty to both?

7. Before his religious epiphany, Peter was a drug addict and an alcoholic. After becoming a Christian, he channels these propensities into a singular focus on his faith. Could Peter’s religious dedication be another form of addiction?

8. Peter agrees to minister to the Oasans without having ever met them. How would you describe them as a group? Were they what you expected?

9. In Bea’s absence, Peter forms an emotional connection with his coworker, Alex Grainger. Is their developing friendship a threat to Peter’s relationship with Bea? Why or why not?

10. The Book of Strange New Things explores a variety of wide-ranging themes: love, fidelity, faith, and compassion. Of these, which do you think this book is ultimately about?

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