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Under the Skin (2004)

by Michel Faber

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,2511075,683 (3.73)215
Now a MajorMotion Picture 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."… (more)
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» See also 215 mentions

English (97)  Dutch (6)  Italian (2)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  All languages (107)
Showing 1-5 of 97 (next | show all)
The greatest, weirdest, wildest, most beautiful ethical discussion in form in a novel you could imagine. ( )
  Wolfseule23 | Aug 6, 2022 |
This book is a fun ride.

There are real-life issues discussed directly through hitchhikers the main character picks up, and then through fictional concepts resembling our own. Most of the characters are troubled and seen through the eyes of no mercy which is the intention. That's how we see livestock.

There are reviews stating that the overall concept makes less sense when you think about it, real-life meat farming also makes less sense when you think about it tho. Considering they only started to farm, I expect them to make many mistakes. There are other reviews being put off by sexual objectification, but that's the point, farmers objectify the livestock, in this case, themselves. There's a ton struggling to wrap their head around what's happening, it might be harder to grasp not knowing about the meat industry in the first place, it's as disgusting as in the novel.

The messy development the main character goes through is fun to witness. There's a ton of appreciation of nature.

The ending doesn't wrap it up in a satisfying way, it felt like it could have gone on for a bit more. This universe could be expanded and explored more. Overall it's a well-crafted, enjoyable read tho. ( )
  NotaRein | Jul 25, 2022 |
Good ending. ( )
  Sunandsand | Apr 30, 2022 |
"Shared suffering, she found, was no guarantee of intimacy."

Isserley tours the A9 road in the Scottish Highlands looking for muscular male hitchhikers to pick up. Isserley wears a revealing top leading the reader to initially think that she is looking for sex, but as she sedates them with icpathua through needles built into the passenger seat it soon becomes clear something more sinister is happening.

As the story progresses Faber reveals that Isserley is a dog-like alien who has been surgically re-sculptured to resemble a 'vodsel' (human). Her job is to pick up healthy Earthlings to be fatted up and shipped back to her home planet as food. This then is a modern take on the Hansel and Gretel fairy-tale in which Isserley is the witch who lures her victims with the promise of sex rather than 'sugar and spice and all things nice.'

Faber obviously wants the reader to consider whether not it's right for humans to rear and slaughter thousands of animals every day for food but there are also parallels with the modern ‘empowered’ woman debate. Isserley undergoes painful surgery to avoid a life of drudgery on her home planet only to have to use what 'vodsel' men desire to succeed in their world. There is also the slow realisation that there were rooms full of females back home willing and ready to take her place.

You might imagine Isserley to gradually have some compassion for her victims but you would be mistaken. It was only the planet that she loved. She loves to breathe in the Earth’s smells, talks to sheep, and marvels at snow so it's somewhat ironic that she is finally stopped not by a hitchhiker or the police but a patch of ice.

This novel doesn't really seem to fit in either the sci-fi or the horror genres. I had no real idea quite where the story was going but couldn't resist turning over the next page to find out. Unfortunately the ending seemed to suggest that the author had no idea how to finish it either. I found this an odd but strangely compelling read. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Apr 21, 2022 |
Surprising and compelling. I'm wondering what the movie is like. ( )
  leahsusan | Mar 26, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 97 (next | show all)
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Thanks to Jeff and Fuggo
and especially to my wife, Eva,
for bringing me back to earth
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Isserley always drove straight past a hitch-hiker when she first saw him, to give herself time to size him up.
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Now a MajorMotion Picture 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."

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Average: (3.73)
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Canongate Books

An edition of this book was published by Canongate Books.

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