on February 19, 2005
Miles is beckoned to his friend's house after several cases of people reporting their friends' family and loved ones are not themselves. As it turns out what was originally thought to be a possible case of mass hysteria turns out to be an invasion of a sleepy town by pod-like aliens who then take over the populace's appearances and identities.
Admittedly other reviewers summed this book up better than I, which I attribute partly to my not wanting to give any plot away (for those Amazonians that have not had the pleasure of reading this book yet), and partly because as one reviewer pointed out the alien invasion plot was hardly original even at the time of this title's publication. Writers of Finney's era seemed to thrive on metaphorically writing about the "red" threat of communism.
Finney may not have been the first or last to write on the theme but he did an exceptional job re-visiting other author's alien plots and using his unique style and imagination to write perhaps the seminal novel on the subject. From the opening pages I was scared. Reading each paragraph with a mounting sense of dread as Finney did an excellent job pacing his novel.
Certain scenes jumped out in this relatively thin tome(compared to some horror novels Body Snatchers is almost a novella with an economy of words to do the job of scaring readers) placed within the story for maximum effect. When Miles, and Jack discovered the "blank" slate of a body in Jack's basement I thought "oh sh*t" presumably as Finney intended I should.
As stated this isn't longest horror novel ever and there was no need for it to have been. Finney uses the perfect amount of words to tell his open ended tale of alien takeover elegently and with such an influx of paranoia in the text I reflected upone completion "they sure don't write them like that anymore but I wish they did."
In summation a classic in the genre in the purest sense of the phrase.
on January 8, 2000
I had quite a good time with this novel. Even though there are now thousands of books about alien invasion, the plot of this one still remains original. Due to the nature of the aliens, which are indeed transmissible vegetable parasites (but I won't tell you more about them ;) ), the story does not contain the slightest violence: no serious fight, no bloody killing, no catastrophe. However, suspense, anxiety, mystery are at the rendezvous. Just imagine indeed what psychosis it would generate if there was a mortal epidemic of some sort in your immediate surrounding, epidemic that would pervert the mind. Think about the people you cross everyday, including your own family. Are they really safe? Can you trust them? Don't they plan to contaminate you? On the other hand, you can't eternally confine yourself at home. So, what can you do? It's exactly what the inhabitants of Mill Valley are confronted to, except that a very few of them will hazily suspect the nature of the epidemic; for the others, it will be too late. There are a lot of notable passages in this book. For instance, when Jack reads to Miles (the hero) and their wives his collection of newspaper clippings, all related to irrational events, it gives you the creeps, especially if you are still vividly aware of the context. It's crazy to see how this sequence adds to the malaise, even if the articles have nothing to do with their situation. Ahh, and the final face to face encounter in chapter 17 between Miles and the psychiatrist Mannie, then contaminated and no longer the same we knew at the beginning of the novel. I remember that fine piece of eloquence and philosophy: Miles still doesn't understand why the vegetables, the "pollen" in fact, came from so far away to poison terrestrial life and Mannie, softly, quietly, gives him a long but memorable speech in answer. I'd so much like to reproduce an extract of his words but late Mr Finney's editor would probably resent it -damn good old copyright ;) Beyond that, the author has a very good sense of humor. His character Jack Belicec is all but a self-caricature and he takes benefit of the opportunity to make self-publicity, his previous book "Time and Again" is even quoted! Don't worry, it spoils nothing. These were the positive points. Now, I confess 2 trifles prevents me from giving 5 stars. First, I think that sometimes Miles is too smart a hero. He figures things out a little too fast and unfortunately, I caught myself saying "Mmm... he's too smart to be true." Second, Jack Finney's conception of man and woman relationship flirts a little with machismo, i.e the man is always acting and the woman is always screaming or crying, you known, that sort of thing. It's undoubtedly worthy of the 50's but this conception got old so badly that it has become a misconception so... Well, anyway, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" is rather a good book, easy to read and pleasant. You can go ahead :)
on June 2, 1999
An epidemic of a specific neurosis: all around you, people are claiming that their closest friends and relatives have been replaced by perfect impostors. They question their sanity. Then they recover. But you start to wonder, for a friend/family member seems a bit odd to you now... not like himself. You try to get help, but the roads out of the city are inexplicably worsening and your phone won't call out of the area. And then it hits you: THEY HAVE CONTROL...
This story has been retold many times (the 50's serial, book, and movie; the retellings of both in the 70's; and that God-awful 1992 movie). The pure HORROR of its concept is so universal that the term "body snatcher" is used worldwide. Beware the pods: there are places in YOUR house they might hide.
This novel is one of the best I've read. It combines decent (though sometimes stereotypical) characters with unbelievably tense action and story twists (not plot twists, though you might not be able to predict this one). The characters are believably human and the important loose ends are explained; Mr. Finney himself tells you that not all of them will be, which makes for an even better story.
If you haven't seen the 1978 movie with Donald Sutherland:
1. You MUST see it. Don't drink much beforehand.
2. Don't expect the same story as the book; in fact, they're two opposed tellings of a wonderful horror concept.
Everyone knows about the movie adaptation of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" -- pod people, creepy takeover, lots of suspense. While the movie was good, the original novel is perhaps a more enjoyable story -- a creepy, tense novel that raises some intriguing questions about human nature.
Dr. Miles Bennell receives an odd patient from his old ex-girlfriend Becky: Her cousin Wilma is making bizarre claims about her relatives. She claims that while they look, talk, dress and act just like Uncle Ira and Aunt Aleda, they are fakes. Miles talks with Wilma, but she doesn't show any typical signs of insanity. What's more, other people are insisting similar things about their friends and family -- that they seem just the same, but that they aren't themselves.
Then things get more complicated. Miles's pal Jack and his wife Theodora have an "unfinished" person in their basement, a never-been-alive-and-not-living-now human being that is slowly turning into a duplicate of the real person. Growing out of alien pods that have migrated to our planet, the pod people are slowly and seductively working over the town -- and they will soon have the entire world.
This now-classic SF book was published in the 1950s, before the advent of space opera and Star Wars. (It also has a noteworthy resemblance to Robert Heinlein's "Puppet Masters," a similar book published four years before) Finney's book can be a bit dated in places -- for example the female characters are kind of wimpy -- they tend to get hysterical and follow the level-headed manly men. Fortunately these flaws are few and far between.
The writing and dialogue are solid, not outstanding, but pretty good. It does raise some interesting questions about human nature: In one scene, Miles is offered a life without strife by the pod people, and quickly turns it around to reveal that not only would a world of pod people be doomed, but also would have no drive, no enjoyment, no real living as we know it. It would all be bland, with no suffering but also no pleasure. Finney's writing is probably at its peak there, especially given the cold, pleasant attitude of the pod people -- no mustache-twirling and cackling for these villains.
As with many first-person narrators, Miles is not a fantastic character, but he does develop a certain strength and intelligence as the story goes on. Writer pal Jack is a bit more interesting -- I wonder if he was a sort of alter ego for Finney. Becky and Theodora have secondary roles, but are nevetherless fairly good. All other supporting characters, unfortunately, are pretty forgettable.
Though the movie deviated strongly from the book, fans of that film might want to check the origjnal story out anyway. Interesting and pretty well-written, and a chilling look at what makes humans really human.
on August 29, 2014
This is a good, solid sci-fi story, that still reads well nearly six decades after it was originally written. (The Kindle version that I read appears to be the slightly revised version published in 1976, about 20 years after the first publication.) Having seen both the original movie and the remake of the 1980's, I found myself skimming through some of the narration because I knew what was coming. Nevertheless, the story kept my interest to the very end, and it is the ending that I found more satisfying than either of the two movies. While not perfect, it does not involve the intervention of the federal government - as in the first movie - nor is it as depressing as the 1980's movie. On the other hand, in the modern world with the prevalence of cell phones and social media, I wonder how the story would play out, since the isolation of the little town was critical to the strategy of the "body snatchers."
on May 31, 2016
Actual rating 3.5 stars.
‘The Body Snatchers’ has stood the test of time, from being written in 1955, it still managed to draw me in with its creepiness. Tapping into the audiences paranoia and wonder at the unknown.
Given the different era where the novel takes place, I found I was noticing how many of the characters smoke, and how our protagonist, Miles Bennell was the hero for the love interest Becky Driscoll. While Becky did have moments of her own heroism, she was still, at most times a silent companion and willingly followed Miles’ instructions.
I loved the scientific explanations and long expository paragraphs of the state of affairs in the original manuscript – they reminded me of recordings of radio broadcasts of the 1950’s I listened to as a child in my grandparents lounge room. I could hear the accents and intonation where they sounded ‘proper’ and knowledgeable. It added an old-timey ambience to the story. A respectful gentleness that is absent from much of today’s new fiction.
There is a strong sense of the paranoia of the time (in the 1950’s) of the novel, when the country was at war against communism, ‘The Body Snatches,’ taps into that fear to build a scenario where the people you know and love are not what they seem, where your home has suddenly found itself in the grips of an invasion.
While this novel isn’t particularly scary, or alarming, it does possess an aura of the unsettling. An unassuming tension which resonates with the reader long after the book has been returned to the shelf.
I have seen all the movie and television adaptations, being the big sci-fi geek girl I am. ‘The Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ is one of my cult faves. I can’t believe it has taken me so long to read the original script that kicked off this movement. I guess I was scared I’d be underwhelmed. But thankfully not. I really enjoyed this origin that has spurned so many re-inventions. Though, I must say none of those actually mirrored the story completely, and all had different twists and endings. So, while you will already know the premise of the story, there is still an element of surprise with this debut.
For lovers of the classics, old fashioned values, cult followers, and anyone in between, I highly recommend you give the novel a go. Just to see what happens. It has stood the test of time for a reason.
on June 21, 2016
The author loosely develops a fascinating concept that later provided a veritable sandbox of inspirations and interpretations for years of analysis. This book has been combed over for allegorical meanings through the years, mostly brought on by the various film adaptions. Finney himself denied having had any such agenda other than pure entertainment.
Even still, it is easy to read into this work a tale that strives to spotlights the virtue of individuality in the face of conformity. Whether the mashing conglomeration of society is brought about by political ideology, mob mentality or consumerism, doesn’t really matter.
The writing is easy to read and the plot plods along at a nice pace, without speeding up too much or slowing down too little. The story pauses enough times at well-crafted scenes of horror to create a lasting impression of the core storyline. The dialog felt somewhat stilted, if not dated or formal (sort of like an old 1950’s TV show).
The book has been criticized for its lack of scientific plausibility or credible character developments. However, this story isn’t really meant to be hard Scifi or an in-depth character study. The book is built around a high concept and contains a decent suspense plot that is tempered with Scifi elements. In that sense it largely succeeds. There is also a dogged relentlessness pervading the story that keeps pace throughout and helps to keep the horror aspect in play.
The story centers around a medical doctor operating in a rural town as a general practitioner. He’s divorced and an old flame/fellow divorcee is back in town for him to get excited about. His love interest draws him into the main plot when she asks him to look in on a relative that has a peculiar medical concern that cannot be explained. From there things slowly develop based on the increasing incidences of people acting strangely and the stakes are periodically raised a level along the way. The author does delve into the science behind the story a bit when he uses the doctor and a psychologist to both unravel as well as confuse the mystery.
There are some interesting passages about the different faces people wear in society and what it means to be a person, along with some loose social commentary that gets flipped on its head when it comes from an alien perspective.
The ending has also been criticized for this book and the film versions did not feel the need to follow it. It’s an ending, it works, but that’s about it. Reminds me a bit of an H. G. Wells ending, but less original given the publication date.
The very idea of “pod people” comes from this book. Without having even read this book or watched any of the films, most people will have a general idea of what this means. That, in itself, demonstrates how strong the concept is and how well it was developed by the author.
Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: "No Deodorant In Outer Space". The podcast is available on iTunes, Tune-In Radio, Stitcher, Google Play Music, YouTube or our website.
on September 15, 2015
Written a decade before I was born, I've never thought about reading the original story until one day I happened across it on Amazon while it was on sale. So glad I did, great story. Also, I've never seen the original movie or it's remake. Add those to my list of things to do, but I doubt that neither of them will be as great as the book.
This is a wonderfully inventive story that has spawned three films. Well written, the book tells the tale of a small town through the eyes of its young doctor, Miles Bennell. It seems the town is undergoing a drastic change which is as subtle as it is deadly. It seems that all the townspeople are not what they seem. They look the same. They sound the same. Their memories are intact. Still, they are just not the same.
Those who have noticed this, suddenly end up retracting their concerns days later. Something is not right in the town of Mills Valley, and Dr, Bennell knows it. Those large seed pods that are suddenly showing up every where are at the root of it. Their unearthly presence is connected to the profound changes that the people of Mills Valley are undergoing, and Dr. Bennell will stop at nothing to save his beloved town and the world from the invasion of the body snatchers.
This is a great story by a wonderfully inventive writer. Jack Finney is a masterful story teller. He expertly weaves a tale that will keep the reader riveted to the pages of this book. It is no wonder that three films based upon this book have been made, "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956), The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), and Body Snatchers (1994). All three are worth watching.
on March 19, 2014
I love this book, and pretty much everything by Jack Finney. So this review is not for the book itself, it's for the Kindle version.
I was reading along breathlessly, enjoying this wonderful, scary story of aliens invading the small town of Mill Valley, California, again (even if you've read it, and/or seen the multiple movies and TV versions of the story, the original still pulls you in), when I got to Chapter 14. This is the point where Miles, Becky, Jack and Theodora go to Professor Budlong's house, after they'd just heard Uncle Ira, Aunt Aleda and Wilma's secret conversation.
So at page 142 (in the Kindle version) I read this: "We climbed the hill then, along a path I'd followed been meaning to stop in and see you about--what happened." Then she laughed falsely, in a hideous burlesque of embarrassment."
At that point, mid-sentence, the Kindle version has circled around and gone back to Chapter 13, and if you just try to keep reading in hopes it will eventually get back to that hill they were climbing, it won't.
Here's the solution, till Amazon gets around to fixing it: when you see that weird sentence on page 142, MANUALLY navigate to page 143. (Not location, page.) That will get you to the correct continuation of the sentence and you'll be able to read the rest of the way to the fascinating ending.
And whenever Amazon fixes it and releases a better formatted version, I'll happily revise my feedback to 5 stars, because the book itself is DEFINITELY worth whatever hoops you have to jump through to read it!