MJ Nicholls's Reviews > Under the Skin

Under the Skin by Michel Faber
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Jan 06, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: novels, western-europe
Read from January 06 to 07, 2012

Caution, spoilers! A modern fable on any number of potential issues—animal cruelty? corporate greed? human brutality?—set in a version of the Highlands where multiple people hitchhike each day (I go frequently to the Highlands and I’ve never seen no hitchhikers—maybe Faber ate them all?) The story begins with our big-breasted heroine Isserley picking up a series of unemployed assholes and stabbing them in the buttocks with a stun chemical activated via her dashboard. She drives her victims, known as vodsels, to a secret plant where they are carved up and turned into gibbering grunting animals to be farmed for boutique meat. The story focuses on Isserley’s desire for freedom—she fled her homeland and her own kind (some human/bear hybrid creature) to take the fresh air of Scotland—as she struggles to adapt to her new vodsel body (her kind call themselves human beings) and fight the tyrannising corporate machine of her hometown, where she began life as a slave. The story is endearingly strange, extremely brutal, and is left pantingly open to interpretation. As a lapsed vegan I read the story from an animal perspective: vodsel farming being almost as brutal as cow or chicken farming (but not quite). On the whole: Faber invokes the warped worlds of Will Self, especially Great Apes, David Twohy’s underrated sci-fi thriller The Arrival, and early Gene Hackman flick Prime Cut. It’s all here in this subcutaneous chillerfest.
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02/02/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by knig (new)

knig I read this years ago, but idea of the subjective value of beauty has stayed with me. A good judeo-christian-classical education subconsciously instills in us that the human form is the height of perfection/beauty. (made in Gods image and all that jazz). The idea of these four legged hairy whatchamacallits despising the human form was a curve ball from left field, especially as I had just returned from Florence and Michaelangelo's David.


Steven Ha, you got it and read it already.


message 3: by MJ (new) - rated it 4 stars

MJ Nicholls I was always taught you are what you is and if you is poor and stupid then tuff cheese ugly. Apparently they're meant to be aliens but Faber never really states that. I took them to be some mutating species gradually munching down all the humans.

Steven: It was downstairs in a bookcase full of Austen and Lionel Blue. I had to.


Paul Bryant Hi MJ - you need to add a heavy spoiler alert to this review....


message 5: by MJ (new) - rated it 4 stars

MJ Nicholls Paul wrote: "Hi MJ - you need to add a heavy spoiler alert to this review...."

That's a good point. Done.


Paul Bryant thanks on behalf of the unwary! this is a great little novel, as The Crimson Petal and the White is a great big novel in a completely different style...


message 7: by Lynne (new) - added it

Lynne King MJ, This book sounds absolutely ghastly quite frankly.


message 8: by MJ (new) - rated it 4 stars

MJ Nicholls Lynne wrote: "MJ, This book sounds absolutely ghastly quite frankly."

It's grim up north.


Paul Bryant we like ghastly. it's our meat and drink.


Steven I thought they were aliens as they talk about the meat being a delicacy in their homeland. Also she was transformed into a human. That's technology we don't have.


Cecily Did this book make you more or less lapsed in you veganism?

I happily eat meat, and I'm ashamed to say that this didn't put me off!


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