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.
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.
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Under the skin
Very good read and concept. I'm going to get the movie. I've. Never seen a better " humanization "of an a alien. Interesting society. Third world except for space travel. Possibly a stand in for u.s.
Enjoyable but not focused
The story is intriguing and engaging, as is the central character. There are a huge range of ideas touched on without really committing to any of them. The central characters path doesn't quite gel at the point she finally decides to make a change.
I began reading this as soon as I'd gotten home from seeing UNDER THE SKIN in theaters. Let me say at the outset, if you haven't yet seen the movie go see that before reading the book. It's such a head trip, and so fundamentally different, it's best to approach it without preconceived notions.
So anyhow, I really enjoyed this. Whereas the film is quite cutting edge, similar to UPSTREAM COLOR and Nolan's INTERSTELLAR, the book is very much your typical sci-fi yarn...and this isn't a bad thing. The first third mirrors in some ways the narrative we see in the film version but as the story presses on we descend further into the protagonist's perspective, get more of the behind the scenes, what she's up to, etc etc. Here things get a little pulpy and UNDER THE SKIN becomes a true genre piece rather than the work of literature it may have been. But it all works out in the end for better or worse. If you're a scifi fan by all means read this book. It's something different and you'll like it. But for those who've seen the movie and expect the novel to mirror the tone and etc...you'll be disappointed. The movie bears only perfunctory similarities to the book. It's almost a stretch and an injustice to say they both came from the same well of inspiration, but if you approach them as two separate worlds orbiting the same star then they're easy to appreciate on their own merits.