Michel Faber gained fame for his book ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’ that was turned into a BBC TV series. Recently his book Under the Skin became a film starring Scarlett Johansson as a female alien who prays on her vulnerable male victims.
Now he returns to the science fiction genre with a fascinating spin on the idea of the crusading missionary. Yet rather than saving remote tribes in the Amazon this preacher, Peter Leigh, has been sent to a far away planet by a sinister corporation to act as pastor to a flock of aliens.
In so doing he leaves behind his loving and similarly religious wife back on earth.
They keep in contact through a series of intergalactic emails but it quickly comes apparent that while Peter is finding a deep connection with the gentle race he lives among his wife, Bea, is going through a literal Biblical hell as Earth slowly but surely breaks down under a series of earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis. Never has there been a better time to be on another planet.
The brilliance of the book lies in making the centerpiece of the story the relationship between two people separated by circumstance. It’s so easy to misunderstand, judge and blame when we are apart and these things help drive the narrative.
It’s a clever and entertaining story that that deals with the themes of love, home and self-knowledge but never quite goes to the places you expect it to. It’s also crying out to be made into a major motion picture and most probably will be.