The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber is a uniquely new novel: a hybrid of science fiction, drama and spirituality. Faber is a talented writer whose vividly descriptive words transport trans-port the reader into surreal new worlds beyond the imagination. The science and even the cultural practices of an alien world are well developed. The surreal imagery of the alien universe with its thick, moist atmosphere, the sideways dancing rain and the green, honeydew tinged water leaves the reader wanting more and more. The scenes depicting his recovery from space travel are almost believable. The passage of time is surreal and disorientating- making this book an authentically styled account that addresses the "what if" questions if one were to travel unimaginable distances across the universe and lose the concept of time. The details fill the imagination of any reader who enjoys richly written science fiction. The themes are complex and universal at the same time: spirituality, morals and sacrifice. The reader can identify with Peter's internal struggle with reconciling the will of God, and leaving behind his wife. In fact, Peter compares the difficult journey with the suffering of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. The reader has a unique opportunity to observe the local alien practices surrounding death with its practical, yet objective attitude of death which is simple yet repulsive as the author describes the glimmering, jewel like bugs and maggots which recycle the body of the dead. The reader also witnesses the strange of birth of an infant- rich in unusual description as told on page 266, " ...the fontanelle in her head yawned open, and a large pink mass bulged out, glistening with frothy white lather." This book is certainly one to keep- it is imaginative beyond anything else I have read. Faber has a well developed imagination. The psychological insight is just as well developed as Peter contemplates the irony that these alien life forms have internalized the truths of the gospel with more faith than any Christian here on Earth.
Nevertheless, while there are many strong points to this epic novel, I found the few explicit adult scenes, starting with the one at the beginning of the book, detracted from the overall story. The vivid description of a cat being tortured, as told in the correspondence between Peter and his wife, Bea was just too disturbing for my taste. These little details which may be overlooked as insignificant by many readers, who find adult content common place in today's movies and novels won't give these elements a second thought. Initially when I received this book, I was excited to share this book with my teenager, but after reading through the adult scenes, I reconsidered. I found the inclusion of these explicit scenes unnecessary and difficult to reconcile, and as a result, I almost decided not to finish reading the books. Yet, I am glad I did- if only to experience the richly developed scientific imagination of the author. Nevertheless, I find that I personally would not recommend this book to anyone that I know simply because of the few adult scenes.
The book cover art is simple, eye catching and poetic- somewhat like the surreal universe the author describes. The golden edged pages give the book a rich, quality feel, suitable for any permanent place in an upscale library. This book is almost like a work of art. As a blogger I received a copy of this book published by Hogarth publishers, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group of Random House LLC, for the purpose of writing this review.