By Leah Greenblatt
November 19, 2014 at 05:00 AM EST

The Book of Strange New Things


Extraterrestrials in popular culture have coveted many things belonging to humankind: our natural resources, our bodies, our Reese’s Pieces. But rarely do they want to worship our gods. In The Book of Strange New Things, Michel Faber’s eerie, elegant novel, an ex-addict and petty criminal named Peter Leigh—now a happily married man of the cloth—is recruited by the mysterious multinational corporation USIC to minister to the natives of a largely barren planet called Oasis. Even as a true believer, Peter arrives with managed expectations, but he is surprised to find that these small robed creatures, with their sibilant voices and strange, brainlike ”faces,” are already eager disciples of what they’ve dubbed the Book of Strange New Things. (They don’t like to call it the Bible out loud: ”Power of the book forbid.”) Where does their devotion come from, though? And why is USIC so desperate to have Peter there? Strictly speaking, Strange New Things is science fiction; both Oasis and a collapsing near-future Earth are vividly drawn. But it hardly reads—or wraps up tidily—like a genre novel. (It’s also a literal galaxy away from Faber’s best-known book, 2002’s Victorian-era potboiler The Crimson Petal and the White.) Instead, he’s written a lovely, thought-provoking meditation on love and faith and the never-ending mysteries of the natural world. B+

The Book of Strange New Things

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