This book is ambitious. Michel Faber spent more than ten years working on it, and it shows, in the depth and meaning put in to the (precisely) 500 pages. The book chronicles the relationship between Peter and his wife Bea, as he travels to a far off galaxy without her to teach natives of a colonized planet about Jesus.
While reading the book, I had no sense about who the author was, and what was going on in his life. The book seemed big, to me, in the sense that it suggested questions about the end of the world, and what it would mean for the planet to be beyond saving. After reading the book, though, I looked him up and found that he intends to make this his last book – he lost his wife over the course of writing it, and he doesn’t wish to write more novels.
The book takes on a new meaning to me, considering the circumstances under which he wrote it. It’s beautifully sad, watching the main character become more and more distant from his wife, as she encounters increasing disaster back on Earth. The book was beautiful and sad before I knew a thing about Faber and what was happening in his life, and now that I know, it makes perfect sense. The isolation that Peter feels among the others at his base, who are there for an entirely different, likely less meaningful purpose; the growing distance between him and his wife, as
As someone who doesn’t read a lot of sci-fi, this book was a great introduction to the genre. I’ve always imagined most sci-fi to be kind of cliche and nerdy (I realize I’m pretty far off, here) but this book balanced very clever, imaginative points about the alien species he encounters with very sweet, human connection & sadness. Faber created an alien race with a very distinct personality, and was very smart about incorporating parts of their native language into the text without requiring extra study or work on the part of the reader.
This book was a wonderful, bittersweet dive into an alien world.