I'm having a hard time thinking of how to start this review. Michel Faber's words and story absorbed me, both with a gentleness and an opportunity for contemplation not found in many books, particularly those with a science fiction element. The basic story, in very simplistic terms is that of Peter, a Christian minister, who leaves his wife back on Earth, and becomes part of the away team on a distant planet. The husband/wife relationship plays out through his memories and their correspondence while he is away. As he begins to build his relationship with the native inhabitants, his world back home is undergoing natural, economic, and political disasters. There is much to overcome on the planet, too, but of a different nature. The very belief system and basics of life for the native people is pretty much unknown to the colonists. Peter must overcome some misunderstandings, and the anthropocentric view among some members of his team and build a working relationship with the shy and gentle beings who have asked for a minister of Christ to come teach them. I liked the way the story unfolded, and why this alien population was so keen for ministry. I wasn't sure what direction Faber would take it (the story "To Serve Man" kept coming to mind, but I willingly read on to find out. I also was intrigued by the marital relationship and the long distance relationship, and how Peter responded to the tensions that were building there. There were also some touches I appreciated, such as Peter's efforts to overcome the difficulty of some sounds in the English language for his flock. A book of strange new things, indeed.
All in all, I thought the writing was excellent and the story interesting.
Many thanks to Blogging for Books and to the publisher, for my copy of this book.