Book Review: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

Book Review: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

Woah... just, Woah!
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Michel Faber has to be one of the most ground-breaking authors of the 21st century. He is widely known for his 2002 book, "The Crimson Petal and the White." Which was also made into a TV miniseries! He has also written many short stories surround this hit book, as well as "Under The Skin," The Fire Gospel," "One Hundred and Nintey Nine Steps," "The Courage Consort" and "The Book of Strange New Things."

"The Book of Strange New Things" was written in 2014 and according to Faber, it may be the last book he ever writes. And boy did I have quite an interesting experience with this book.

Peter is a 33 year old Christian minister, who is chosen by USIC to take a journey to a distant earth-like planet called Oasis. His purpose is to teach the inhabitants about Christianity, the natives or "the Oasians" as they are called, have already gone through 2 previous pastors, both of which disappeared under unknown circumstances. During his stay on Oasis, he gets to know the Oaisans and makes a friend, Alex Grainger, the USIC's pharmacist, "The Oasians" have their own language, and in the text, they are written out in symbol's, clearly so the reader is unable to understand. They also can't use "T"s or S's in their vocabulary, so these symbols substitute the letters for possible reasons to the structure of their vocal chords. This is interesting because we don't know the type of sounds they make, leaving it up to the reader to imagine the noises they make. They are also naturally stoic creatures and are almost genderless that Peter seems to rely on his own intuition to distinguish who's female and who's male.

Also, during Peter's stay, he exchanges messages with his wife back on Earth. While they exchange how much they miss each other and love each other, there is also something darker happening. With every message that Bea sends, it describes something that's been happening back on earth. It starts out small with some certain goods not in stock at the local supermarket, but then it escalates. Bea begins to describe natural disasters creating destruction and death on massive scales, economic discomfort, political decline and violence breaking out in the streets and how hard she is trying to get by without her husband. There is no given explaination to it, but its hinted at why all the people that work for USIC don't seem in a rush to go back home. Peter tries his best to give Bea all the comfort he can while he's away, but he begins to spend time with the Oaisans more and more, and communicating with his wife less and less.

This is where I found myself hating Peter, he seems so dedicated to teaching the Oaisans about God he seems to forget he has a wife sometimes. In the first three chapters of the book, its made very clear that Peter and Bea really love eachother, There is alot of depth given to their relationship throughout the book, talking about how Peter was a drug addict who met Bea who was a nurse in a hospital he was treated at. Upon getting married, he turned his life around and became a Christian minister, and he seems very passionate about it, which seems to work against him. Throughout the first half of the book, Peter attempts to comfort Bea by reminding her to pray to God and other religious advice, something Bea seems to get annoyed with. It all takes a major turn when Bea finally claims to have no more faith and on top of that, she is pregnant with Peter's child.

*SKIP THIS TO AVOID SPOILERS*

The ending of the book was probably the most bitter-sweet-at-the-same-time-emptiest ending I've ever read. Peter finally decides he wants to go back to Earth, which is now dying, to be with his wife and child. However, before he leaves, Bea sends him a message not to return to Earth because it will comfort her to know he is okay, and to make sure he doesn't come back. she is moving house. But Peter, who seems to have lost his faith in God, still chooses to go back. And it really is left up to us to decide whether Peter and Bea reunite or not. This ending was hopeful, but at the same time, it isn't. It made everything Peter was doing seem pointless. He goes to a planet to teach the natives about God and yet he looses his own faith, so what is the whole point of teaching Christianity? And does he ever find his wife? I personelly don't believe he does, but by how he is written, I don't think he ever gave up hope. That's really just my opinion.

*SKIP THIS TO AVOID SPOILERS*

Michel Faber wrote this book at time he was dealing with loosing his wife, Eva, to cancer. This leads me to believe that the deteriorating relationship between Bea and Peter is sort of an allegory to the author loosing his wife. Peter loves Bea, and Bea loves Peter. In the book it's made clear they barely spent long periods of time apart, and the distance, gets between them during Peter's stay on Oasis. As Peter and Bea begin to grow distant, so does Peter and his Christian faith. He constantly tries to remind himself that God has a plan, but he can't bring himself to accept everything that is happening to his wife back on earth, even if it means abandoning his mission.

Many of the other characters were really just there for the background, coming into the spotlight just to show how Peter interacts with the other members of USIC. Alex Grainger gets her own character growth. She starts out like everyone else, seemingly stoic, focused only on her own self-interests and doesn't care much for the Oaisans or Peter's work. As the book progresses, we learn more about Alex and she seems to be a person suppressing her emotions for the sake of everyone around her. When Peter comes along, she seeks comfort with him, and they grow a special bond which sometimes seems romantic.

Actually most of the members of the USIC don't seem to care much about the Oasians, even acknowledging them as freaks, The only other contact the humans and the Oaisans ever make is when they exchange medical supplies for food surplus. The food on Oasis is made solely from a white flower, and its harvested and seasoned to resemble and taste like foods from Earth. It's never explained in full detail and adds a level of mystery to the Oaisans. Even at the end of the book we still know very little about them. What we do know is that they have a very fragile anatomy, anything as simple as a bruise can cause severe damage.

There is alot more I could discuss about the book, but I want you to read it and experience it you're self. This book is very well written, keeps you turning the pages, taps into your emotions and raises a few questions along the way!

But these are just my opinions. Have you read the book? If so, what did you think. Comment below and good luck with midterms.

Cover Image Credit: google images

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An Open Letter To Every Girl With A Big Heart, Except When It Comes To Herself

Because it's so much easier to love everyone around you before yourself.
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They say the key is that you have to "love yourself before you can love anyone else," or before "anyone can love you."

For those who deal with mass amounts of anxiety, or have many insecurities, that can be an extremely hard task. It seems much easier to tell your friend who is doubting herself that she looks great in that top than to look in the mirror and feel the same about yourself. It is much easier to tell your significant other that everything is going to be OK than to believe it will be when something goes wrong in your life. It becomes easier to create excuses for the ones around you than for yourself, and this is because you have such a big heart. You want those that you love to be happy and worry-free, yet you spend nights thinking about everything you have on your plate, about what you did wrong that day, fearing if someone in your life is mad at you, believing that you will never be good enough yet convincing everyone else that they are.

You are the girl with the biggest heart, yet you can't love yourself the way you care for everyone else in your life. There are many reasons that you should love yourself, though, and that's something that everyone around you is willing to tell you.

You're thoughtful.

Before doing anything, you always consider how it is going to affect those around you. You don't want to do anything that could hurt someone, or something that could make someone mad at you. It does not take much to make you happy, just seeing others happy does the job, and it is that simple. Because of this, you remember the little things. Meaningful dates, small details, and asking someone how their day was is important to you, and it makes those around you feel important too. You simply just want the people that you care about to be happy, and that is an amazing trait.

You're appreciative.

You don't need a big, fancy, and expensive date night to make you happy. Whether it's a picnic on the beach or a night in watching a movie, you're happy to just be with the person that you love. You appreciate every "good morning" text, and it truly does mean something when someone asks how you are. You tend to appreciate the person that you're with more than the things that they provide and for that, your sincerity will never go unnoticed.

You have a lot of love in your heart.

Every "I love you" has meant something, just as you remember the smallest moments that have meant the most to you. You remember the look in your significant other's eyes when they told you that for the first time. You remember the smile on your best friend's face when you told them that everything was going to be OK and that you would always be there. You remember the swell of happiness your parents felt when you decided to surprise them with a trip home one day, and you thrive off of all of that love.

You don't give up on the people you love, even if they have given you a reason to.

It is a foreign idea to just drop someone from your life, even if they betrayed you. You try to look at their mistake from every stance, not wanting to provide an excuse for them, but to give them another chance. Not everyone deserves it, and that is something that you learn along the way, but you feel good in the sense that you gave them a chance even if no one else would.

It's OK to not love yourself all the time. It's normal, and natural to stand in the mirror and think about everything wrong. And it's OK to love other people, even when you can't feel the same about yourself. But your big heart is why you should love yourself. There are so many reasons that you are a beautiful person, and the people that you spend all your time caring about feel that you have so much more to offer the world, and yourself.

So, next time you think about what you don't like about yourself, remember what makes you special –– the size of your heart and all of the love in it, and then share that love with yourself.

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5 Methods To Help You Study

Studying has its ups and downs, but there are methods to keep you motivated and ensure that you are productive!

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I am usually the type of person that gets very fidgety or distracted while I am trying to study. It is always so frustrating when I invest so much time into studying but feel so unproductive during the process. Over the years, I have picked up a few things that have truly helped me study, and it was not always an easy decision.

  1. Don't lay down to study. This is probably obvious for a lot of people, but I know that there are some people (including myself) that occasionally likes to lay down while doing work. I have learned that the position can be too comfortable. It tends to lessen the motivation to work and increase the want to rest. It really is better to do it the tradition way and just sit up at a table or desk.
  2. Change locations. Studying in one place can feel very repetitive, and repetition can decrease motivation. Instead of just studying at my desk, I like to go to the library and sit in different places because the feeling of being somewhere new makes me feel more productive. It is almost like the beginning of a new school year; there is so much more motivation and excitement because it is something new that is coming into your life compared to what you did over the summer.
  3. Make studying fun. Studying does not always have to be strict. Hardcore studying can sometimes drain your energy a lot faster, and it stresses you out knowing you still have so much more to do. Often times, it makes it easier and more fun when you find creative methods to study such as adding color to your notes or making visuals. You could also set some incentives for yourself when you finish a certain amount of studying.
  4. Listen to background music. I have tried listening to my typical Twenty One Pilots music while studying, but I often lose focus and become less productive simply because I am enjoying the song so much that I begin to sing along or tap my foot. My initial conclusion was that I just cannot listen to any music, but I realized that is not true. I have set a playlist for myself with Lo-fi (Low Fidelity) music. Lo-fi, according to Wikipedia, is "an aesthetic of recorded music in which the sound quality is lower than the usual contemporary standards… and imperfections of the recording and production are audible." Essentially, the music is relaxing and chill enough to focus on your studies. (Give it a try! Here is one of my favorites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvmqRkUPi2w&t;=1316s)
  5. Set small goals. Thinking about studying for a lot of things can be very stressful. It will lower your motivation because you dread having to do so much. If you were to just set small goals and take it one step at a time, it would not be as stressful and you would feel more accomplished with the tasks you complete. You cannot expect yourself to do so much!

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