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Under the Skin Paperback – July 16, 2001
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From the Back Cover
Now a Major Motion Picture "Alternately gorgeous and terrifying, lyrical and brutal, "Under the Skin "compels and teases . . . Satisfying and successful." "Newsday"In this haunting, entrancing novel, Michel Faber introduces us to Isserley, a female driver who cruises the Scottish Highlands picking up hitchhikers. 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. A grotesque and comical allegory, "Under the Skin" takes us on a heart-thumping ride through dangerous territory our own moral instincts and the boundaries of compassion to present a surreal representation of contemporary society run amok."A wonderful book painful, lyrical, frightening, brilliant . . . I couldn t put it down." Kate Atkinson, author of "Life After Life"Finalist for the Whitbread AwardMichel Faber is the author of "The Crimson Petal and the White, The Courage Consort, "and "Some Rain Must Fall." His work has been published in twenty countries and received several literary awards. He lives in Scotland.
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I loved the author's prose, describing all the horror like pure poetry, literary ballet. I actually saw the movie first. It was entertaining, but I like the book better.
If you like literary fiction and science fiction, you'll find a great combination of the two here. If you're reading some of the critical reviews, bear in mind that some readers don't have taste for ambiguity and depth of language - if those aren't your thing, you should probably give this a pass. But thoughtful readers will find a lot to think about here, along with some an appreciation of Faber's craft in constructing it.
Under The Skin is no garden variety horror novel, however. The basic premise is obvious once the reader is a quarter of the way through the story. It's the philosophical implications for human beings--who thoughtlessly kill animals by the billions so that we might have some hunger sated for a few moments--that proves to be the most distressing (and indirectly acknowledged) aspect of Faber's tale.
Isserley's capture of the vodsels is often more sad than horrifying, although her companions' fattening of them adds a layer of gore that I found so dreadful I was forced to skim a chapter or two (which is saying quite a lot; I have a notoriously strong stomach, although it was more the grimness of the novel working in tandem with its cruelty that caused me to turn away).
The final half of the book--which introduces a character who is something of a vodsel-rights-activist, and a couple of truly dangerous vodsels that Isserley must spar with--presents the reader with a rich, push/pull philosophy underlying Faber's work and, in my estimation, the best and most worthwhile portion of the novel.
This is a heartbreaking read and well worth a look if you're in a certain kind of dark mood (or if you're a dedicated animal rights activist). I've knocked off one star simply because, for all of its musings and their implications, there's really no solution offered to the reader. You're left upset about the state of the world but with no means and no particular inspiration to repair it.
Still, Faber is a very talented writer and I don't at all regret picking up Under The Skin.