Under The Skin Paperback – Sep 16 2004
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In the opening pages of Under the Skin, a lone female is scouting the Scottish Highlands in search of well-proportioned men: "Isserley always drove straight past a hitch-hiker when she first saw him, to give herself time to size him up. She was looking for big muscles: a hunk on legs. Puny, scrawny specimens were no use to her." At this point, the reader might be forgiven for anticipating some run-of-the-mill psychosexual drama. But commonplace expectation is no help when it comes to Michel Faber's strange and unsettling first novel; small details, then major clues, suggest that something deeply bizarre is afoot. What are the reasons for Isserley's extensive surgical scarring, her thick glasses, her excruciating backache? Who are the solitary few who work on the farm where her cottage is located? And why are they all nervous about the arrival of someone called Amlis Vess?
The ensuing narrative is of such cumulative, compelling strangeness that it almost defies description. The one thing that can be said with certainty is that Under the Skin is unlike anything else you have ever read. Faber's control of his medium is nearly flawless. Applying the rules of psychological realism to a fictional world that is both terrifying and unearthly, he nonetheless compels the reader's absolute identification with Isserley. Not even the author's fine short-story collection, Some Rain Must Fall, prepared us for such mastery. Under the Skin is ultimately a reviewer's nightmare and a reader's dream: a book so distinctive, so elegantly written, and so original that one can only urge everybody in earshot to experience it, and soon. --Burhan Tufail --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
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. (July)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The main protagonist, Isserley, cruises the highways of the Scottish countryside in her specially equipped compact car looking for beefcake. On the prowl for muscular, well-built, healthy men who are hitchhiking, rolling stones with little or no ties to family, friends, and community, she picks them up and gets their life's story before she makes a momentous decision that will forever alter their lives.
These unsuspecting men take note of Isserley for a number of reasons. After all, she is a tiny snippet of a being, strangely erotic, with very large, beautiful and luminous eyes, hidden behind coke bottle thick glasses. She has a small heart-shaped, puffy-cheeked, virtually chinless face, dotted with a tiny nose and lush lips. Her arms are long and thin with knobby elbows and wrists from which large scarred hands flow. Of course, her large breasts are extraordinary and ripe in her always low cut top. It is those perfect protuberances that helps her to ensnare her prey.
Who Isserley is and what Isserley does with her prey is at the heart of this book, which is one that should not be missed by those who enjoy unusual, slightly twisted novels.Read more ›
The novel's narrative is told through the perspective of Isserly, whose job is to pick up and "sting" hitchhikers. At first, we don't know why. As the story unfolds, it blends science fiction with mystery and ethical philosophies to create a wondorous world that collides with our own. While primarily a character driven novel, it holds up our own hypocrisies to create an engaging story that tells us more than what's on the page. It positions the impossible (or at least, incredibly improbable) amongst the monotony of everyday life, lending fantasy a certain tangibility; you barely blink at the extraordinary circumstances.
If you asked me exactly what made this book one of my new favourites, I wouldn't be able to tell you. It's the combination of all it's elements. 'Under the Skin' by Michel Faber is a rich, engaging, very weird (but subtly so) novel that I would recommended to all.
The way in which Faber builds this intrigue is commendable, treating his reader with great respect by never spoon-feeding. The reader learns through observation, and takes a dark back seat to watch the action unfold.
When finally the horror of it all is exposed, the story changes direction, and becomes something very different. A moral question begins to dig itself out of the ground, and the reader is forgiven for thinking they can see the true story, but Faber again changes tack, and adds a spiritual and philosophical slant to the dénouement. These turns give the novel a literary quality, and no doubt contributed to the short-listing for the Whitbread Prize.
Isserley is understandably sterile, her lack of compassion essential for her `job', and it's refreshing to invest in a character that is not altogether sympathetic. But despite her professional apathy, her inner conflict does elicit empathy, and gives the novel a sharp edge that could otherwise have been dulled by a less brave writer.
But for all this, Under the Skin falls a wee bit short.
The quality of the prose is good in parts, but the excessive use of clichés and adverbs betrays Faber as unseasoned. His handling of dialogue particularly flaws the work, with every spoken word needing adverbial clarification of some description.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Having seen the movie before reading the book, I had very different expectations of Under the Skin. I was pleasantly surprised by subject matter that didn't seem to be touched on... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Erika Struck
Too much descriptive of places and not enough story. Ir seemed the author was filling the quote number of pages. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Lena A Scallion
The author's working a simple really good concept. Already it's better than 95% out there. There are real moments in this story that will stay with the reader long after reading... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Amazon Customer
The edition I read included a foreword by David Mitchell. Though clearly he tried not to, he let slip two spoilers. Major spoilers. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Tez Miller
It started off well. The main character is Isserley, who picks up male hitchhikers in the Scottish Highlands. I was interested, even though I don't know what icpathua is. Read morePublished on Nov. 4 2004 by Ez
Unfortunately, I bought this book based on the glowing reviews which breathlessly promised a shocking story filled with plot twists and revelations, and was disappointed by a... Read morePublished on July 11 2004 by Ashley Megan
Many critics have compared Under the Skin to Orwell's classic Animal Farm. Where Orwell's was a obvious satire intended to invoke seriuos thought about humanity or the lack of,... Read morePublished on June 15 2004 by Esme