Peter is a pastor with a troubled past. He is married to Bea. When we’re introduced to them, they’re on their way to the airport. Peter is about to embark on a mission to another planet, where he is expected to bring the word of God to the natives.
If you thought the two halves of a couple living in two different cities was tough on a relationship, try living on two different planets. Peter embraces his mission, while Bea struggles back at home.
This is a slow novel. Not much happens. The things that do happen either lead to nothing or are not important to the story. It reminds me of my one and only time doing NaNoWriMo: stream of consciousness writing while trying to meet my word count goal. Faber seems to include pointless tangents just to make the book thicker.
There was an awful lot of Bible talk, way too much for my liking. A certain degree of suspension of disbelief is required when reading fiction, of course, and I am sure things like that happen all the time in real life, but I found it very hard to buy the concept of the ex-junkie, alcoholic pastor who recited Bible verses by heart. That same pastor who fantasized about women other than his wife and who described others’ looks as simian. The fact that he is flawed would make for a very interesting character if he weren’t so righteous and unaware of his flaws. I was annoyed every time he talked about God, when the gratuitous descriptions of his sex life and fantasies and his judgmental thoughts were in such stark contrast to how I imagine a pastor to be. The other characters in the book are just as irritating. His descriptions of women are based on a) their looks, b) how shrill they are and c) how forgiving they are toward him. The secondary characters in this book are interchangeable and forgettable. I struggled to find any defining features of theirs. What were anyone’s motives for doing the things they did?
The book wasn’t all bad. The concept was good. Some of the logistics of making contact with aliens were interesting. Faber created a world that manages to be creepy, uneventful though it is. Perhaps it is exactly the fact that nothing much happens, yet everyone goes on with their lives as usual in a robotic fashion, that makes it creepy. It is devoid of the things that make life worth living. Quite a bleak place to choose to live in. Very much like an airport terminal when you don’t even have a ticket.
The book would have benefited from a clearer vision of what it is trying to say and some more love for its characters.