Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things

16651_350_559_c1_c_c_0_0_1For many years, my dad Tom Konyndyk has been applying his incisive and thoughtful editorial eye to my book reviews and other creative pieces. He makes me a better writer. It has been a while since he’s published a review of his own. So it sure is neat to read his review of Michel Faber’s new novel The Book of Strange New Things. Here is an excerpt of this review–and you can read the full thing over at Christian Courier.

Well done, dad!

In a world where Christ believers are routinely castigated by skilled polemicists, respected scientists and internet trolls alike it is refreshing to happen upon a serious novel that treats Christian concerns with respect, intellect and a certain level of affection.  Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things is that sort of work. At the very least, the promise in the premise is pregnant with possibilities.

The narrative centres on an appeal by the inhabitants of a planet called Oasis for instruction in the Christian religion – this hardly resembles the biblical appearance of the Macedonian man in Paul’s dream beseeching the apostle to “Come over and help us.” In this case the appeal is channeled through a mysterious corporate entity simply labelled USIC.

At the beginning of the book Pastor Peter Leigh hurries to Heathrow Airport to catch a connecting flight to a space port in the U.S. where he’ll be rendered unconscious and hurled across the vast reaches of space toward Oasis, in an interstellar craft powered by a vaguely described mechanism called the Jump.

Peter has been rigorously vetted by USIC and selected from among thousands of clergy who’ve indicated their availability for such a call. Yet his spouse, Beatrice, has been weighed in the balance by USIC and found wanting. Progress to the airport and beyond is delayed somewhat by an acutely amorous Beatrice, who is achingly aware that she won’t be coming along for the ride.

What a hormonally charged episode that transpires in the back of their parked car seems designed to indicate is that the characters Peter and Beatrice are indeed flesh and blood adults and that their physical (and psychological) separation will matter a great deal to both of them as the plot unfolds.

Faber seems especially adept at getting inside the minds of two individuals who have dedicated their lives to a Higher Power. The sense of sacrifice and mission of both Peter and his earthbound spouse is carefully depicted. Although a linchpin of the narrative is Sci-Fi, this book is anything but a traditional space opera.

Read the rest here

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