One sentence synopsis: Pastor Peter leaves his beloved wife at home (where unbeknownst to them, the apocalypse is approaching) to travel to a far-off planet, where he relishes his job ministering to the ‘Jesus lovers’, a Christianity-devoted alien race.
This seems to be the inadvertent month of ‘If you liked this book, try “. Last year I adored The Sparrow, and its sequel Children of God by Maria Doria Russell on the same sort of topic. It was utterly compulsive, inventive, heartbreaking and redeeming. I haven’t cared more about characters or a plot for ages. When I realised she wrote a sequel, I dropped interest in everything but reading it.
For me, though Strange New Things was very good, it couldn’t compete with Russell’s wonderful worlds. While some say the Book of Strange New Things ending was ambiguous (I don’t agree), I wouldn’t rush to read a sequel.
I very much enjoyed Faber’s construction of a space station and its quirky inhabitants in an alien land. I liked his alien species, with their weird communication style and enthusiasm for Christianity (thanks to a previous pastor). I was fascinated by Peter’s experience of trying to care about what was happening to his wife back on Earth, and increasingly struggling. The characters and plot were interesting, though I couldn’t really understand why Peter had actually signed up, and agreed to leave his wife behind, or believe why he’d been so specifically chosen to do so. The passages from the Bible that some have criticised in the book as excessive seemed to me pretty appropriate within the context. I even shed a tear at one point, when we learn something sad about the alien species.
And yet, I wasn’t bewitched like I was with The Sparrow. This time, I could put the book down and do something else without feeling at all resentful. This book is well done and worth reading. But if you’re only going to read one book this year about a Christian Missionary going to a far-off planet to bring the word of God to the locals, your first call should really be The Sparrow.
Rating: 4/5 shoes