The Book Of Strange New Things

All posts tagged The Book Of Strange New Things

The Book Of Strange New Things – Michel Faber

Published March 11, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A monumental, genre-defying novel over ten years in the making, Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things is a masterwork from a writer in full command of his many talents.

It begins with Peter, a devoted man of faith, as he is called to the mission of a lifetime, one that takes him galaxies away from his wife, Bea. Peter becomes immersed in the mysteries of an astonishing new environment, overseen by an enigmatic corporation known only as USIC. His work introduces him to a seemingly friendly native population struggling with a dangerous illness and hungry for Peter’s teachings—his Bible is their “book of strange new things.” But Peter is rattled when Bea’s letters from home become increasingly desperate: typhoons and earthquakes are devastating whole countries, and governments are crumbling. Bea’s faith, once the guiding light of their lives, begins to falter.

Suddenly, a separation measured by an otherworldly distance, and defined both by one newly discovered world and another in a state of collapse, is threatened by an ever-widening gulf that is much less quantifiable. While Peter is reconciling the needs of his congregation with the desires of his strange employer, Bea is struggling for survival. Their trials lay bare a profound meditation on faith, love tested beyond endurance, and our responsibility to those closest to us.

Marked by the same bravura storytelling and precise language that made The Crimson Petal and the White such an international success, The Book of Strange New Things is extraordinary, mesmerizing, and replete with emotional complexity and genuine pathos.

What did I think?:

I was already predisposed to like this novel after adoring Michel Faber’s (arguably) most famous novel, The Crimson Petal And The White some years ago, which has an immovable place on my favourites shelf. I was so sure that I was going to love The Book Of Strange New Things in turn, that I gave it a spot as the fourth book in my Five Star TBR Predictions post and I’m delighted to confirm that I ended up giving it the full five stars, it deserved nothing less. This is a gorgeous, sweeping, slow-burner of a novel that has elements of science-fiction due to where it is set but is completely literary in its execution. I went into it expecting something similar to The Sparrow, which I also thoroughly enjoyed and essentially, got a much more profound narrative where it seems that every word the author has written has been chosen deliberately and methodically to capture the reader’s attention and hook you for the entire length of the tale.

It’s the story of happily married couple, Peter and Bea who are separated for a time when Peter is chosen by USIC, an elusive and mysterious company who have developed a base on another planet where they are carrying out scientific research into the land and its inhabitants – Oasis and the alien dwellers, the Oasans. The Oasans have had two preachers go missing in strange circumstances while learning about the Christian way of life and have now demanded a new preacher to teach them the ways of the Bible otherwise they will not provide the humans on Oasis with any of the food they so desperately need and that the Oasans are in charge of developing. This is where Peter comes in. He is to be the new preacher and at once, strikes up a friendly relationship with the Oasans, builds a church for them, learns how to recognise each one by their quite strange facial features, teaches them about God and provides a conduit for them to receive much needed medicines from the pharmacist on the base.

Meanwhile, at home in England, Bea isn’t dealing with things too well. Not only is she missing her husband and the strong relationship that they have but the world they know appears to be falling apart. There are environmental disasters, rationing, disease, violence, all things that make her question why her husband would leave her behind when her life is clearly threatened. Meanwhile, on Oasis, Peter is becoming more obsessed with his work with the Oasans, not eating or drinking properly and losing touch with reality on a regular basis. He attempts to keep in regular contact with Bea via a messaging service but before long, their relationship becomes incredibly fractured and unpredictable with both losing faith in each other. With the world that Peter used to know slowly disintegrating and his relationship appearing to go the same way, is there a way back for the couple? Or is preaching the word of God and his new flock all that Peter now wants from his life?

I have to say, when I found out that religion played a heavy hand in this novel, I was intrigued as to how it would come across. I’m not particularly religious, although I love learning about different religions and find the issue of faith quite a fascinating one. Peter and Bea are both very religious people, that is true but I found their stories endlessly interesting, particularly Peter who has quite the murky past before he discovers God. This novel does focus on faith quite a lot, obviously that’s Peter’s job and what he’s sent to Oasis to do but this novel is so much more than just religion. It’s a story about relationships and how the strength of them can be tested if a couple is placed in extreme circumstances without much communication and a hell of a lot of stress. I also loved the otherworldly nature of Oasis, and the strange alien inhabitants that I instantly wanted to know more about whilst always feeling an odd sort of mistrust and unease at the way they lived their lives.

The Book Of Strange New Things is such a unique, brilliant read for anyone with an interest in speculative fiction that is nothing short of literary genius. I may have wanted to throw a few things at Peter whilst I was reading and I was desperate to get more chapters from the perspective of Bea, stuck in England in horrific circumstances but each page I read of this story was perfection and I can’t recommend it enough. It fully deserves a place on my favourites shelf alongside The Crimson Petal And The White and I can’t wait to read something else by Michel Faber soon. I’m devastated to learn that this novel is to be his last as I think the literary world has just lost an enormous writing talent.

With a huge thank you to Crown Publishing (Hogarth) and Netgalley for the review copy.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Five Star TBR Predictions #1 – The Wrap Up

Published February 20, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone! Last year, I was inspired by one of my favourite book-tubers, Mercedes from Mercy’s Bookish Musings  who posted a brilliant video where she went through her TBR and tried to predict which five books would be five star reads for her. She then did a wrap up video after she had read the books to see how many she had got right. I thought this was a fantastic idea and immediately wanted to do the same as a blog post rather than a video. Honestly, none of you need to see me stammering away in front of a camera – it’s not a pretty sight. I’ll leave it to the experts!

The five books I chose were:

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

The Bear And The Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Girls Will Be Girls by Emer O’Toole

The Book Of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker

I’ve now read all five books and let’s see how I did with my five star predictions shall we? I will be giving these five books full reviews in the next few weeks but for now I’ll let you know my rating and a quick summing up of how I felt about each one.

Star rating (out of 5):

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Hooray! My first prediction was correct! I gave Stay With Me the full FIVE STARS. It was a gorgeous, heart-breaking read that really touched me personally and I couldn’t give it any less.

Star rating (out of 5):

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This was a really, really close one but I had to be honest with myself in the end and it wasn’t the full five. I was seduced initially by the gorgeous cover and the story inside was just as fairy-tale like and magical as I could have hoped for but not quite a “fiver.”

Star rating (out of 5):

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I’m very particular about my non fiction and a good feminist tome is precisely my cup of tea. This was an excellent book and I thought Emer O’Toole made some very fascinating points which I fully agreed with. Again, not quite five but a damned good read which I would recommend to those interested in gender studies.

Star rating (out of 5):

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Hooray! Another five star! I’m so glad Michel Faber didn’t let me down. I adored his novel The Crimson Petal And The White and this one didn’t disappoint in the slightest, it was all kinds of wonderful. I’m now on a quest to read everything he’s written.

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

I have such mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, it was so beautiful and the style of writing was simply gorgeous. On the other hand, it left me feeling a little unsure and I’m still working out how to express all my thoughts in a coherent review. For the parts I loved though, I’d definitely recommend it!

So, I thought I’d be disappointed by the fact that I only managed to predict TWO five star reads out of a total of five however I’m really not worried at all. I managed to read some of those books that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time and I found two gems of books that I’m not going to forget easily. I’m also really pleased that I didn’t read a single book that was lower than a four star which is still an excellent rating for me and I would urge everyone to read ALL of these books, they were all great reads. 

As I mentioned before, I’m looking forward to fully reviewing these books and getting down to the nitty-gritty about why I loved them so much in the next few weeks so look out for those reviews coming your way soon. After I’ve completed those, I will be sharing with you my next Five Star TBR Predictions – Round Two. I’ve already chosen the books and think I’ve picked some absolute blinders. Will I predict more than two five stars next time around? I’m very excited to find out!

Again, if you’ve done a Five Star TBR Predictions post I’d love to see it so please leave your link in the comments or for fun, if you want to just write what you think your next five star books will be from your shelves in the comments, I’d love to read that too.

Five Star TBR Pile Predictions

Published August 22, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image from http://lithub.com/in-praise-of-the-book-tower/

Hello everyone and welcome to something a bit different on my blog today. One of my favourite book-tubers, Mercedes from Mercy’s Bookish Musings recently posted a brilliant video where she went through her TBR and tried to predict which five books would be five star reads for her. She then did a wrap up video after she had read the books to see how many she had got right. I thought this was a fantastic idea and immediately wanted to do the same as a blog post rather than a video. Honestly, none of you need to see me stammering away in front of a camera – it’s not a pretty sight. I’ll leave it to the experts! Without further ado, I’ve picked five books from my TBR that I think will be five star reads for me and I’ll give you a little bit of background information about how I got the book and why I think I might give it five stars.

1.) Stay With Me – Ayobami Adebayo

Stay With Me came across my radar when it was short-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction earlier this year. I was lucky enough to attend an event where I got to hear the short-listed authors read from their books and answer some questions. I had already heard brilliant things about this book from reviewers whose opinions I really respect and trust but hearing the author speak on the night had me determined that this book was going to be great. Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Mostly because people with very similar reading tastes to my own have praised it to the heavens and I’m anticipating I’m going to feel exactly the same way.

2.) The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker

Mercy from Mercy’s Bookish Musings is responsible for my interest in this little beauty. She raved about it in a recent video and after hearing her review, I knew I had to have it. I mean, check out this opening:

“Vincent Appleton smiles at his daughters, raises a gun, and blows off his head. For the Appleton sisters, life had unravelled many times before. This time it explodes.”

Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Again, a great review from a person with similar reading tastes to my own, the dark content and that opening is just too intriguing to resist.

3.) The Book Of Strange New Things – Michel Faber

This book has been languishing on my TBR for a ridiculous amount of time and it’s about time it gets read! I’m a big fan of Michel Faber, especially after his beautiful novel, The Crimson Petal And The White and I’ve been looking forward to reading this for the longest time. I feel like it’s going to be a bit like The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell and The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, both of which I loved. I understand Michel Faber is either taking a break from writing or has said that he’s not going to write any more novels at all and I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve been putting off reading this book – I just don’t want to admit to myself that I’m never going to read anything new by him again! Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Mostly due to the premise which immediately pulled me in and I have to say, that gorgeous cover. Okay I know, never judge a book by its cover! (But I do!).

4.) The Bear And The Nightingale – Katherine Arden

I’ve been coveting this book ever since I first saw it in a bookshop – I mean, just look at that cover! There’s a few buzz words that will guarantee I’ll buy a book and some of them are “fairy tale,” “Russian,” “with a dark edge,” and this book has all these things, I’m certain it’s going to be gorgeous. Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? It looks to have everything I would want from a novel and yep…..that cover again!

5.) Girls Will Be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts And Daring To Act Differently – Emer O’Toole

I love a bit of non-fiction, especially when it’s a topic that fascinates me, in this case gender stereotypes and feminist issues. There have been some brilliant reviews of this book and I can’t wait to get to it. I think it’s going to be interesting, eye-opening and I’m hoping to learn a lot too. Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Probably because of the subject matter which I’m always hungry for and the fact that I’ve heard nothing but good things.

So that’s five books from my TBR which I think (and hope!) are going to be five star reads for me in the future. I’ll get on with reading them in the next few months and then I’ll be back with a wrap up post where I’ll let you know if I was right in my predictions or not. I will also be reviewing each book separately as always but I’ll do that after my wrap up post so as to not give anything away ahead of time. 

Make sure to check out Mercy’s video on her channel to see which books she has predicted will be five star reads for her. If anyone else wants to do this, I would absolutely love to see your choices, please leave a link to your post (or just tell me your choices) in the comments section below!