This is, probably, Michel Faber’s final novel. That sense of sadness and endings tinges The Book of Strange New Things with a certain quality that made me want to savour it even more.
Part sci-fi, part mystery, part romance, part armageddon; all this and none of it, the book is itself a Strange New Thing.
It’s aliens without any of the indecipherable jargon that often comes with that genre, without complex technology you need a physics degree to understand.
The tension builds as so many aspects of Peter’s life on Oasis seem to jar. It doesnt make sense. It’s a puzzle that never gets solved – but by the end, you won’t feel cheated.
I love books about the end of the world – and this is one of the few that’s really scared me. I don’t believe we’re going to be wiped out by a single, terrifying threat. It’s going to be a domino of services and securities and morals falling apart, all together. As Bea says in the book, “There have to be a certain number of things okay for us to deal with the things that aren’t.” Those scales could easily tip.
The love story feels real because the characters feel like friends. I spent much of my time reading frustrated at the pain and unhappiness they have to face. It’s about the longest of long distance relationships, where communication breaks down and behaviour fails to reflect emotion. I’ve tried love across an ocean; it’s hard. Peter and Bea are literally worlds apart.
When you think that Faber wrote the novel as his wife was dying, it seems even sadder and sweeter.
It’s about god, but once again, not really. It’s about humanity and faith and misconceptions, about failing and learning and our ability to care about the things which do not immediately affect us.
The Book of Strange New Things is awesome in the biblical sense. I can’t imagine a better legacy to leave behind.