A long-awaited—and brilliant and disquieting—novel of faith and redemption by Scotland-based writer Faber (The Crimson Petal and the White, 2002, etc.).
Eschatological religion and apocalypse make a natural fit. Throw in a distant planet that's not populated by L. Ron Hubbard acolytes, and you have an intriguing scenario prima facie. Peter (think about the name) is a minister who, aspiring to be useful, signs up for a stint, courtesy of one of the world’s ruling corporations, on far-off Oasis, a forbidding chunk of rock on which the crew of the Nostromo, of Alien fame, wouldn’t be out of place. “This was not Gethsemane: he wasn’t headed for Golgotha, he was embarking on a great adventure.” So he thinks, allowing for his habit of casting events in religiously hallucinogenic terms. The natives are shy—and who wouldn’t be, given the rough humans who have come there before Peter—but receptive to his message, which deepens as Peter becomes more and more involved with his mission. Trouble is, things aren’t good back on Earth: His wife, with child, is staring what appear to be the end times in the face, even as life on Oasis, as one human denizen snarls, turns out to be “sorta like the Rapture by committee.” Is Peter good enough to make it through the second coming? He’s lived, as we learn, a fully charged sinner’s life before becoming saintly, and he’s just one crisis of faith away from meriting incineration along with the rest of the unholy; good thing the alien-tongued aliens of Oasis will put in a good word for him, even though their tongue may not be entirely comprehensible. Faber’s novel runs a touch long but is entirely true to itself and wonderfully original. It makes a fine update to Walter M. Miller Jr.’s Canticle for Leibowitz, with some Marilynne Robinson–like homespun theology thrown in for good measure.
What would Jesus do if he wore a space helmet? A profoundly religious exploration of inner turmoil, and one sure to irk the Pat Robertson crowd in its insistence on the primacy of humanity.