Book Review: Under the Skin by Michel Faber

Under the SkinUnder the Skin by Michel Faber

I read this after seeing the movie, Under the Skin, starring Scarlett Johansson, and it totally makes sense why Jonathan Glazer didn’t go with the first two screenplays which I heard were based closer to the book. I prefer his 2014 version better though it’s loosely based on Michel Faber’s book at this point, but definitely is much more effective onscreen, while Faber’s novel is perfect as a novel.

The protagonist, Isserley, is such an interesting character and the whole novel is such a trip I can’t even begin to process the emotions I went through reading the whole thing. She’s been altered in her home planet to look like a human, parts of her amputated, new things added in and yet even with all that, which is accompanied by constant pain in her present altered body, she doesn’t exactly belong on Earth, just as she no longer belongs to her home planet. She’s been sent here with a job to do and it made me wonder if there are other ‘processing’ plants or farms elsewhere in the world – if so, we’d really be in trouble.

Her plan so far is simple, and she’s been doing it for some time. She picks up male hitchers along the A9 in Scotland – and boy there are many of them! – but she makes sure to take only the ones without connections to anyone, no family, no kids or girlfriend, or anyone who’ll miss them. Then when she’s sure, she then flips that switch which paralyzes them and hurries to the farm so they get processed (I probably skimmed through these parts and all parts in the processing plant and will probably be a vegetarian pretty soon) and then after a rest, she heads out to do it all over again.

This was certainly a very disturbing book to me, with an ending that left me conflicted and wishing for a Hollywood touch (a happily ever after).  I’d like to think there is one, at least in my head, though for the book Faber’s version of the ending is perfect.

One thing I learned with this book (besides going vegetarian) is that I will never hitchhike.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


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