The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

The Book of Strange New Things

It was great. Beatrice’s loss of faith kind of annoyed me, and I knew that it was going to happen, but I think it happened too quick, and too late into the story. If a bunch of hoodlum brats were torturing my cat, I’d have been really upset (more like devastated and catatonic, because I love cats), but I don’t know if I’d have been all, “there’s no God.”

Not that I haven’t had my faith tested, because I have, and I am ashamed to admit it. I lost my faith for incredibly shallow and vain, prideful reasons.

But anyway, I loved it. I stayed up late to finish it, however, it left me wanting more and I had a lot of questions about Oasis, its inhabitants, and the bizarre environment.

This planet is supposed to be humid and tropical, but there’s no tropical plants. There’s hardly any animals. There’s no mountains or large bodies of water. I don’t know how the author could have conceived of such a massively boring world. I plan on writing a novel of my own that takes place on another planet, and boy do I have big plans for this planet. Exotic plants and animals, fantastic terrain, majestic mountains, etc.

The Oasans are so sweet and nice, and I thought it sad that Peter decided to leave them, although his wife clearly needed him. He never really lost his faith in God, and he never gave up on her, and was even willing to stay with her even if she had permanently turned her back on God. That’s far more than what I could do, given that I’ve had a falling out with a friend over this very matter.

Anyway, some reviewers have complained about the “proselytizing” and “preachiness” of this book. I don’t know if the author is a Christian – I have heard of his other novels, and I had started reading Under the Skin after seeing the film adaptation starring Scarlett Johansson. However, he knows his stuff as far as Christianity goes. I mean, the characters are never caricatures – they seemed real to me, although simply Christian, not cursing or whatnot (although Peter does let loose a curse when one of the aliens might die). Most secular authors just know nothing about Christianity, and often write characters that are these ridiculous parodies of Christians – street preachers bellowing about hell and damnation and how evil the world is. Oh, and they can’t resist writing Christian characters that are total hypocrites. No, Bea and Peter are not hypocrites, they are not hyper judgmental and they don’t constantly tell people they’re going to hell. They don’t push their religion on other people, but they don’t hide their faith either.

So there was a lot of talk about God, the Bible, the nature of Jesus, etc. Of course there would be – the story is told from the perspective of Peter the pastor. It’s not first person narrative, but it is told from his perspective, and Peter’s opinions aren’t necessarily the author’s opinions. He did a great job in writing a realistic Christian character and I guess some people don’t like actual, authentic Christians rather than the ridiculous caricature created by the mainstream media.

So if you hate Christianity portrayed in an even remotely flattering light, this novel isn’t for you. You might be delighted at Beatrice writing “there’s no god” after the torture of their cat, but Peter says no such thing. Sorry.

Anyways, as I said earlier, I really liked it. I wanted to know more about the Oasans – did they have a form of government? Were there more of them on the planet, or was the settlement their total population? Did they have any of their own creation myths prior to the arrival of the humans? Why did they look the way they did? Why did only some choose to be Christians?

This novel is really about long distance relationships and how they are tested, and how they endure. Unfortunately, we are left without knowing if Peter and Beatrice really patched things up. So much left unsaid, but the whole experience with the Oasans was just amazing.

Just a quick note about the Oasans. They like the New Testament better than the old testament. Jesus and forgiveness resonates with them more than any other story in the Bible.

I wonder if this is some kind of insight into their society and how they view themselves. Have they, as a society, done something bad, and are they in need of forgiveness from a savior?

I wonder.

The Keening by A. LaFaye

 

This was an interesting but kind of sad ghost story.  It is also one of my favorite kinds of ghost stories – the ones where the ghosts all gravitate towards one person (usually one person who can see them and communicate with them) whom they need to pass on a message to those they left behind.  I’ve always been interested in the afterlife, if one exists.
Liza Layton loses her mother to influenza, and it’s up to her to ensure that her father is taken care of.  He’s a very talented but eccentric carver and spends most of his time carving – so much that his in-laws want to have him committed to a work farm called Elysian Fields.  Lyza must overcome her fears to get him the help he needs.
When it comes to ghosts and the afterlife, there isn’t anything here terribly groundbreaking.  It’s pretty standard – person starts seeing ghosts, ghosts need person to pass on messages to the living so they can move on, person lives in fear of going crazy and being institutionalized.
That being said, I really liked it.  The author says that the story came to her in a dream, so the story was written with a dreamlike quality and I have to agree – the story does have a dreamlike quality to it.  I kept picturing Lyza’s house with an overcast sky and fog surrounding it.  That’s dreamlike to me, anyway.
I think this book was originally released in 2009, but was re-released in April 2011.  I was able to read this thanks to NetGalley.