There are questions, and there are Questions.
Questions are things like “why the hell are we here?” “where are we going as a species?” “what do we have to offer the universe?” And, of course, the perennial “Is There A God?”
questions are things like “how do I deal with this crap?” “why are these people like this?” “how do I deal with this?”
“The Book of Strange New Things” interweaves these questions with incredible skill. The problems of the long distance relationship echo the problems of different lived experiences, the privileged and the unlucky, those whose lives are about loss and those whose lives are about gain.
Faber does this by sending a generic Christian missionary to a race of aliens. The aliens are beyond eager for Christianity, and thus the central question of the book is “why the hell do these people want Christianity so badly?” The answer is brilliant and I absolutely refuse to spoil it.
In the end, like so many novels about the Western individual experience, the book is less about the questions and their answers than it is about the small choices we make in the face of these questions. Our moments of despair, of disconnection or connection–of weakness and of strength.