Under the Skin by Michel Faber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I found Michel Faber’s book Under the Skin like how I imagine quite a few people did, after watching the movie “Under the Skin” and wanting to know a bit more. The movie is absolutely wonderful, but definitely light on the details–Jonathan Glazer goes more for atmosphere than story, leaving the viewer to fill in the holes themselves.
Though, unlike a poorer movie, the movie doesn’t leave you feeling that there isn’t more story–it leaves you feeling that there definitely is more to the story; you’re just not being let in on it.
So, I decided to buy Michel Faber’s original book that the movie was sourced from… and I am happy I did. It is probably one of the most well-written and original SF stories I have read in quite a while.
The “SF” part of that categorization isn’t as important as the “story” part–this is definitely soft SF, and that’s good, because where the book shines is in the main character’s interaction with the hitchhikers she picks up, and with her fellow human beings.
To briefly sum up the barest bones of the plot (which is the same as the movie): the main character, by all appearances a human female, drives around Scotland picking up hitchhikers, all men, who she then questions, eventually taking them to an unknown fate.
That’s the first thing you’ll notice that’s interesting about the book–Isserly, the main character (who in the movie version played by Scarlett Johansson did not even have a name), is most definitely not what we’d call a “human,” but her and her comrades call themselves humans, and us something else. Make sense?
Without spoiling any of the plot, the book goes into far more about what Isserly and her comrades are doing–though it does this very slowly, revealing it to the reader in one of the most absolutely horrifying reveals I’ve ever experienced in a book. It’s not a “twist”–it’s a slow revelation that you come to over about the first half of the book.