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Thursday, 1 January 2015

The Book of Strange New Things

Michel Faber's The Book of Strange New Things is a novel with themes of communication, love and language across distance and cultures and within faith and doubt. The story unfolds against a background of apocalyptic societal collapse through a combination of climate change and food shortages. As a result, the novel shares themes with Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow and Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s A Canticle For Leibowitz.

Sophia Waugh summarises effectively: 'Peter, ex-junkie, loving husband, cat-lover, sets off on a journey. The novel opens with his farewell to his wife, and we gather that he will be gone a while and that he might be in danger. It is not immediately revealed that he is a missionary, and when we do realise this, it comes as a surprise to learn that his mission is not in the far reaches of some Amazonian jungle, but in outer space. We are in a future in which Nasa no longer exists, but a major space programme does. Peter is being sent to a planet named Oasis, where he will be not so much a pastor to the crew stationed out there, but a missionary for its inhabitants, the Oasans.'

Hannah McGill writes that the novel 'is as much about the minor failures of communication that can erode marital intimacy as it is about contacting other beings, and as much about the existential terror inherent in putative parenthood as it is about travel to far-off worlds. As the once-inseparable Peter and Beatrice, now worlds apart, struggle to comprehend one another’s day-to-day lives, Faber lets a devastating possibility shuffle to the fore: every relationship is long-distance, and every person a strange new planet. The methods whereby we try to minimise difference, meanwhile, are themselves unstable – language most palpably so.'


Lou Reed - Satellite Of Love.

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