Peter and Beatrice Leigh are a childless 30-something British couple who are devoutly evangelical Christians and are living in a Britain of an imagined near future. In this imaginary Britain things look largely similar to how they are right now, except that there’s a colony of humans living on a faraway planet called Oasis. These pioneers are eking out a civilisation and trying to engage with local alien life there.
Enter Peter Leigh, a devout pastor on earth, who is hand-picked to join the small crew on the distant planet for a diplomatic mission to civilise and convert the alien population, whom he dubs Oasans. Meanwhile Peter’s wife Beatrice is left to her own devices on an increasingly turbulent and unpredictable Earth.
This novel by Michel Faber, (I have reviewed other books of his before) is completely astonishing and amazing. I have to admit that I’m not a fan of sci-fi and avoided reading this one for a while. As Michel Faber is a wonderful wordsmith and one of my favourite authors of all time, any reservations I had about this novel were swiftly put to bed. It’s deftly and masterfully written, by an author who can completely allow you to suspend your belief system and enjoy an amazing yarn about what it means to be human and all of the spectrum of human emotions that haunt us.
The book strangely enough doesn’t read like science fiction, even though it’s set on another planet. It’s a novel that’s relevant to the human condition as War and Peace or Anna Karenina.
Some fan art inspired by the Book of Strange New Things
The Book of Strange New Things is endlessly compelling and you won’t be able to put it down. I have avoided all spoilers here except to say that the unspooling and unravelling of Peter and Beatrice Leigh’s relationship is like watching a couple of very likeable humans failing, having blind spots and being exceptionally beautiful and beautifully ugly at the same time. It’s incredible, powerful and moving. It’s also unlike any other novel I’ve ever read before in my life. I recommend you get this for your winter or (if you’re in the northern hemisphere) your summer reading.