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Under the Skin [Kindle Edition]

Michel Faber
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (428 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Hailed as "original and unsettling, an Animal Farm for the new century" (The Wall Street Journal), this first novel lingers long after the last page has been turned.

Described as a "fascinating psychological thriller" (The Baltimore Sun), this entrancing novel introduces Isserley, a female driver who picks up hitchhikers with big muscles. She, herself, is tiny--like a kid peering up over the steering wheel. Scarred and awkward, yet strangely erotic and threatening, she listens to her hitchhikers as they open up to her, revealing clues about who might miss them if they should disappear. At once humane and horrifying, Under the Skin takes us on a heart-thumping ride through dangerous territory--our own moral instincts and the boundaries of compassion. A grotesque and comical allegory, a surreal representation of contemporary society run amok, Under the Skin has been internationally received as the arrival of an exciting talent, rich and assured.

Editorial Reviews Review

In the opening pages of Under the Skin, a lone female is scouting the Scottish Highlands in search of well-proportioned men: "Isserley always drove straight past a hitch-hiker when she first saw him, to give herself time to size him up. She was looking for big muscles: a hunk on legs. Puny, scrawny specimens were no use to her." At this point, the reader might be forgiven for anticipating some run-of-the-mill psychosexual drama. But commonplace expectation is no help when it comes to Michel Faber's strange and unsettling first novel; small details, then major clues, suggest that something deeply bizarre is afoot. What are the reasons for Isserley's extensive surgical scarring, her thick glasses, her excruciating backache? Who are the solitary few who work on the farm where her cottage is located? And why are they all nervous about the arrival of someone called Amlis Vess?

The ensuing narrative is of such cumulative, compelling strangeness that it almost defies description. The one thing that can be said with certainty is that Under the Skin is unlike anything else you have ever read. Faber's control of his medium is nearly flawless. Applying the rules of psychological realism to a fictional world that is both terrifying and unearthly, he nonetheless compels the reader's absolute identification with Isserley. Not even the author's fine short-story collection, Some Rain Must Fall, prepared us for such mastery. Under the Skin is ultimately a reviewer's nightmare and a reader's dream: a book so distinctive, so elegantly written, and so original that one can only urge everybody in earshot to experience it, and soon. --Burhan Tufail

From Publishers Weekly

A strange woman named Isserley roams the Scottish Highlands in search of juicy, well-muscled hitchhikers in Faber's menacing but unfulfilling debut novel (after Some Rain Must Fall, a collection of short stories). The opening chapters are suffused with an almost palpable sense of dread: Isserley picks up one hitchhiker after another and engages them in conversation, measuring them against a set of criteria of which the reader, as yet, is unaware. Some of the men are discarded and some are kept; in the process the reader learns that Isserley herself is oddly shaped, with breasts too large, legs too short, and scars everywhere. Faber's pacing here is masterful, with clues precisely dropped and details ominously described. But once Faber reveals the reason Isserley is collecting the hitchhikers (and it's truly bizarre), the book turns from horror to allegory and begins to run out of steam. The central conceit of the allegory is repugnant, but also unimpressive; it feels like something animal rights extremists might have cooked up after watching Soylent Green. Faber possesses an undeniable gift for grotesque imagery ("He grinned so broadly it was like an incision slicing his head in two"), but his unsettling prose doesn't adequately flesh out the underdeveloped premise of the story. Still, the Dutch-born and Australian-raised Faber is a strange and promising new talent, and his next novel might better use the macabre skills he so unnervingly displays here. (July)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1071 KB
  • Print Length: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (July 16, 2001)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004M5HKHK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,371 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
108 of 116 people found the following review helpful
In his excellent debut novel, Faber offers readers a compelling story that is both a quick, easy beach-towel read and a serious exploration of alienation, desire and what it means to be human. An artful balance -- and as a writer, one worth emulating.
From the reader's perspective, the first part of the book puts us in the position of detective. Who is Isserly, and why is she driving the roads of Scotland looking for men? Without revealing anything of the plot (this is one book that you should enter completely uninformed), Faber lays down a series of clues and information that easily lead us into creating an image of this woman and her motivations -- only to have this image completely exploded when the revelation comes. In some ways, it reminded me of the movie "The Sixth Sense": an interesting, compelling story that gets turned upside-down, forcing us to confess that we were given all the information we needed, but we came to the wrong conclusions anyway.
After the key revelations, the remainder of the story skirts the edges of simplistic, moralistic allegory. However, the author appears to be aware of this risk, and turns the remainder of the book into a serious study of the main character's key conflict. His writing is fluid, descriptive and highly imaginative throughout, so our interest in the story and the characters is maintained despite some of the heavy emotion and inner turmoil.
I realize that this review may sound a bit obtuse, simply because I am so concerned about not revealing details that may ruin a new reader's enjoyment and astonishment. Go out and read this book yourself -- it's worth it.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't let the jacket copy fool you... January 21, 2003
There's very little that's predictable about "Under the Skin." This is perhaps one of the strangest books I've read all year. Trying to pigeonhole this book in a genre is impossible, as it mixes thriller elements with horror, science fiction with a highly literary sensibility.
First and foremost, Faber's writing is wonderful. He tempers his language like a swordsmith, starting from raw story elements and gradually refining them, working in key concepts patiently, until the full shape of the story becomes clear. He doesn't rush, and he seems to love the act of wordsmithing itself. The book is a joy to read, even just from the standpoint of beautiful words.
In contrast to this is the story itself. It's a challenging story, one which is both disturbing and enlightening. The main character, Isserley, at first seems somewhat strange, but it's only as the tale progresses that you learn just how very strange she is, and how her circumstances are perhaps even stranger. And yet, by the end, she becomes very real. This personality, who at the beginning seemed so distant, and then so impossibly different, becomes someone I can understand easily. Her motivations, her feelings, her pain... it all comes into clear focus.
The themes of the book challenge the meaning of what it is to be human. Is "human being" just a phrase, or does it mean something? Does it mean different things to different people? From an outside perspective, what are we, really? Which are all important questions... and perhaps what I liked best about the book is that these questions were implicit. They were never stated outright in the book, but were asked subtly, through the telling of a compelling story.
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51 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Under the Skin gets Under YOUR skin! May 10, 2001
If you like psychological thrillers that make your brain actually "think" while you read, then you'll definitely enjoy this book. It takes you on a very detailed and descriptive journey through the thoughts of a struggling woman named Isserley, as well as through the minds of the hitchhikers she picks up on the A-9. This book deserves a 5 out of 5 because of the imagery and imagination, the story line, and the emotion. Michel Faber is a very compelling author who definitely knows how to mix imagery and imagination together. When he describes his characters he not only states the obvious things like hair color or height, but he gives the reader and overview of their personality. When you read through the book it feels like you're almost there because you can "feel" the moist air on the beach, or you can "hear" the rain puttering on Isserley's car windows. Faber's creativity is awesome because he uses it to creep on the reader when they least expect it, and when it hits them, they're absolutely shocked! This particular story line is very interesting and unique. If Faber were to write side notes for every page in the book it would seriously take so much away from the reader's own imagination to where the story is going. It's amazing how this book makes you think that it's all about a very strange yet appealing woman who picks up hitchhikers, and yet it turns completely around to where she's actually on a mission to find the right "specimen." Under The Skin is a science fiction/adventure story tied into one, but you can't even tell. As you dig deeper and deeper into the story, you can't really stop yourself from reading because the sentences pull you out from your world and into the story's own world. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars My book club also found this book to be quite interesting and it...
I ended up enjoying this book much more than I originally thought I would. I found it to be much deeper and more thought provoking as I read beyond the first couple chapters. Read more
Published 22 hours ago by Sandra Ivers
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing--A Sci-Fi Upmarket Treasure
Rarely can an author writing in first person avoid overusing the dreaded static verb, "to be." This book has plenty of action but still has room for drama and reflection... Read more
Published 3 days ago by K. P. Klima
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tasty Tale
I was compelled to keep reading by Faber's masterful pacing and butter like prose. A thoughtful work that is an easy and comfortable read.
Published 8 days ago by Little Dog
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Never could get into this story. Still confused about what was happening.
Published 12 days ago by Connie Hall
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the read even though the meaning of the book is obscure.
I'm not quite sure how I feel about this book. Under The Skin isn't a happily ever after story. Character growth while existing isn't that obvious. Read more
Published 12 days ago by Cena
5.0 out of 5 stars Why didn't this book get more attention? It is ...
Why didn't this book get more attention? It is so creative and thought-provoking, not to mention well-written. Read more
Published 13 days ago by Joanna L. Miller
4.0 out of 5 stars Starts slowly, but stay with it...
Read this after watching the film. Almost no resemblance, and I think the book may be better. It gives you a lot to digest, heavy things to consider. Read more
Published 13 days ago by Scarlet Cooks
5.0 out of 5 stars mysterious and compelling
This book creates a disturbing alternate reality just inside our own. Questions such as what it means to be human or not abound. I enjoyed it greatly.
Published 18 days ago by Susan Enid Gertz
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved the book more
I got the book after seeing the movie and it's totally different. I loved the book more. Very different.
Published 19 days ago by marilyn
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
An odd story, but has a plenty of twists to keep a reader interested enough to finish the book.
Published 25 days ago by Megan M.
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