Wednesday, 31 December 2014

THE BOOK OF STRANGE NEW THINGS by Michel Faber

This book grew on me after I had finished it. It tells the story of a missionary who is sent to preach to the inhabitants of a newly discovered planet. It's a brilliant premise - aliens/god/hyperjumps, etc - but at first the book seemed to be involved in some kind of competition for most interest setup possible leading to most boring plot possible. The planet is featureless, the aliens are humanoid, his mission is successful: WHERE IS ALL THIS GOING? The real drama of the book is it emerges in the letters the missionary writes home to his wife.

The wife writes to tell him of the troubles on earth. It's a scary dystopia, revealed in little snippets. What's particularly clever is that nothing is spelled out - you put together the fact that climate change is really kicking in, that the poor have finally got catastrophically poorer, and that governments are at last entirely abdicating responsibility. The missionary finds it harder and harder to connect with his wife, or to feel like he's part of the earth.

In the end, THE BOOK OF STRANGE NEW THINGS is more about our own planet, than any other; and it's a clever and sad meditation on what it means to let go of what you used to care about.

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