Under the Skin, by Michel Faber

I think this is the only time I’ve read a book after seeing the movie first. It’s definitely the first time I’ve read a book after seeing a movie that I loved as much as I loved Under the Skin, and I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy it when I already know what happens.

That was not an issue however, because the book and the movie are their own stories, only the same in the surface details.

Michel Faber is amazing at painting a character, I noted it when reading The Book of Strange New Things, and it is no exception here. We follow Isserley for quite some time, as she picks up hitcher after hitcher, before we figure out what is going on. During this time as we learn more about her, each hitchhiker she interacts with is memorable and unique, even though they are only around for a few pages. I can probably remember each one even now.

Much more information is revealed in this version of the story, but the trade-off is we get fewer uneasy, creepy scenes of alien-ness. The alien-ness is there for sure, but it is straightforward, not vague or mysterious. Isserly is open for us to see inside her head, her motivations and feelings, instead of being a cold, creepy figure on the screen. This makes for a more engaging character for sure, but less crawling of my skin.

This book seems to be about a lot of things, but instead of telling me what it’s about, Faber allows the reader to see what they want in it. I saw themes of sexual predation, physical objectification, as well as environmental abuse, animal abuse, factory farming, corporate control, and maybe something about being an immigrant.

I’ve only just recently discovered Faber’s books, and am distraught to find that he’s quit writing them since his wife’s death. It’s sad to think about what he must be feeling to make such a decision, and also sad to think what books the world will lose due to such an early end to a promising career.

I hope to learn something from his methods, and though it doesn’t appear he wrote any other science fiction novels, maybe I’ll try his other writings out anyway.



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