Josiah's Reviews > The Book of Strange New Things

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
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really liked it
bookshelves: sci-fi, literary-fiction, best-of-2017

Remarkably evocative and thought-provoking story of a Christian pastor who leaves his wife on earth to serve as a missionary to a newly-discovered alien race. And the book wasn't even written by a Christian! This is the sort of work that I really wish the Christian speculative fiction genre looked more like: realistic and compelling stories of real Christians who find themselves in outlandish situations which accentuate their own character struggles.

In this work, the sci-fi element certainly plays second-fiddle to the literary fiction element. None of the sci-fi technologies are explained much, and if you think about it too hard, the story kind of falls apart. (How in the world are we able to create wormhole technologies and colonize a new planet within fifty years? Why does this new world have a breathable atmosphere? If humanity is this advanced, why can't they fix the problems on a fading earth? And so on and so forth.)

However, that didn't really bother me because at the core, the story isn't about being a missionary to an alien race. It's about a husband and wife trying to maintain a long-distance relationship when they're both thrust into very unfamiliar situations. It's about the struggle of balancing a calling to spread the Gospel with maintaining a healthy marriage. It's about how to balance sympathizing with someone's pain and advising them from biblical principles. It's about balancing your needs and someone else's needs when both needs come into conflict.

In short: it's about what it looks like to face life's challenges as a Christian. And while the book raises more questions than answers, it raises powerful questions and presents them in a beautiful (if heartbreaking) way. Faber did an exceptional job of conveying the joys and pains of a long-term marriage over the course of many letters. And for not being a Christian, he did a really good job of getting into the mind of a Christian and portraying the Christian life realistically but sympathetically from the protagonist's point-of-view.

Recommended to Christian speculative fiction writers who want to see how to weave Christianity effectively into a story. (Warning: some sexual content.)

Rating: 4-4.5 Stars (Very Good).
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Reading Progress

May 20, 2016 – Shelved
May 20, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
May 24, 2017 – Started Reading
May 25, 2017 – Finished Reading
May 26, 2017 – Shelved as: sci-fi
May 26, 2017 – Shelved as: literary-fiction
December 31, 2017 – Shelved as: best-of-2017

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