Michel Faber’s “Book of Strange New Things”

The book of strange new thingsIn the science-fiction classic, “Contact” (1997), based on a book of the same name by Carl Sagan, a Christian theologian (played by Matthew McConaughey) is selected by a panel to travel through a complex, fullerene-shaped machine to meet an extraterrestrial civilization.

But luck doesn’t favor him. It’s a SETI scientist (played by Jodie Foster), who gets to be the one to make “contact.”

But in “Book of Strange New Things,” the newest novel by Michel Faber—who also wrote “Under the Skin”— a clergy undertakes a journey out into deep space, to an alien planet called “Oasis.”

Marcel Theroux reviews it in the NYT:

[Its protagonist, Peter Leigh], is a pastor who has been selected to travel to a newly colonized planet at the request of its native population.

His official job title is “minister (Christian) to indigenous population.” His vocation will set new records for both missionary work and long-distance relationships: Peter is going to be separated by light-years from his wife, Beatrice. Leaving Bea; their cat, Joshua; and a 21st-century planet Earth where the current sense of climatic and geopolitical chaos has been magnified by a couple of sadly too-¬plausible degrees, Peter heads off to take up his new ministry.

[Faber] is a master of the weird, able to paint dozens of shades of odd, from the incidental strangeness of a hitchhiker with a misspelled sign, to the flora and fauna of Oasis; from the disorienting effects of interstellar travel, to the intergalactic irony of the missionary showing a picture of his pet cat to an uncomprehending member of his new indigenous congregation.

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