Benjamin's Reviews > The Body Snatchers

The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney
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Jun 03, 10

bookshelves: the-crowd, audiobook
Read in December, 2007

Originally printed in Collier's in 1954 as The Body Snatchers (and rewritten in 1978 as Invasion of the Body Snatchers), Jack Finney's novel is more famous for its 3+ movie versions (1954, directed by Don Siegel, 1978, starring Donald Sutherland, 2007, as Invasion), and in those versions, famous for the ease with which people read into it: it's about the horrors of Communism!; it's about the conformity of the suburbs!; it's about the terrors of McCarthyism!

Honestly, I don't know if any of those are really explanatory: the story takes place in Mill Valley, a part of Marin County where I was just this summer, and the description is not suburban, but small town, almost isolated; and the creeping dread you feel isn't Communism (there's nothing really communal about the pods), or the hysteric paranoia of McCarthyism, or the creep of suburbanity (there's not really all that much about the social pressures that became synonymous with suburban living around this time). What is that creeping dread?

It's not about the horrors from space (they're not so bad, after all), but the horrors of time, and the issue isn't really that they're out there coming to get us, but that we're miserable, bored people who can't love enough. It's like any number of "how can we get back our lives?" stories -- it's the Sideways of its time.

Which is why I started with the comment about where this was printed: Collier's was not a pulp genre magazine, it was a mainstream slick, which is what this story is: though touched by some deft writing and characterization, and a restrained pathos in the opening remarks about divorce, the book shows a shallow (or restrained) grasp of the conventions of sf, timidly putting forth a little idea (seeds from outer space) and then idealistically wishing it away. Gosh, wouldn't it be great if we could get back to a simpler time, when men were men and women were women, and marriages lasted.

Perhaps the most redeeming feature about reading this book now is that it presents a 1950s America that is already nostalgic for 1950s America.
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