Saturday, January 23, 2010

Michel Faber: Under The Skin

At long last, the last of my birthday books! I settled in expectantly to this story about a woman who daily cruises the roads of Scotland, obsessively picking up male hitch-hikers - if they meet the right physical specifications. Why, one wonders, and to tell you even a little bit of the because is to spoil it a bit, so I'm actually going to SPOILER ALERT, because you never know, there may be someone out there surfing for reviews who'd be upset by too much revelation. Okay? Highlight to read.

What for the first chapter or so seems like a serial killer novel with a twist turns out to be science fiction. I saw it coming, but I am accquainted with the genre, of course. Someone not used to it would probably be more surprised. It is also a moral story. A modern Animal Farm some reviewer has called it, and one gets a strong feeling that Faber is a vegetarian. For me as a science fiction lover the morality takes over a little, because like all true aficionados it is the Other Culture that really thrills me when I read - and I want my moral lessons to be more of a backdrop. It feels a little obvious, here. But the Other Culture is very well thought out, and not too overtly explained. And the strength of the story lies in the descriptions of the people in it, all of them. The woman, Isserley, and her quenched hopes and desires and suppressed pain, and the men she abducts, with their same feelings; not that Isserley knows. She thinks them dumb and slow, and doesn't probe further.

I love finding science fiction where I didn't expect it, and I can heartily recommend this. It is brutal and emotional while remaining detached, and despite the otherwordly slant it's one of the most realistic ideas I've come across. Recommended.

No comments: