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Skin

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3.82  ·  Rating details ·  911 ratings  ·  78 reviews
As a sculptor of metal, Tess is consumed with the perfection of welds, the drip of liquid metal, addicted to the burn. Her solitary existence ends when she meets Bibi. A self-proclaimed "guerilla performance artist," Bibi pushes her body to the utmost in her dancing, sculpting it into a finely tuned machine. But the limits of her body frustrate her. With Tess, she creates ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published January 1st 1994 by Dell (first published January 1st 1993)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
Rating details
 ·  911 ratings  ·  78 reviews


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Nancy
Posted at Shelf Inflicted

After a second read, this book is still disturbing. The unusual prose style and choppy sentences may be irritating for some readers, but I found the writing very stylish, poetic, and sensual, evoking images and sensation, vividly portraying Tess' emotional pain, burning like the metal she controls and shapes to her will, and her friend, partner, lover, Bibi's gradual descent into madness.

Skin is very different from other horror books -- no creepy, supernatural happenin
...more
Char
SKIN was way out of my comfort zone, but I'm so glad I gave it a shot. It was amazing!

This is the story of two women, Tess and Bibi. Artists. Body Art. Performance Art. Body Horror. Body modifications. Cutting. Lesbians. Bisexuals. Heart. Sculpture. Welding. Feeling. Cult Mentality. Hangers-on. Groupies. Darkness. Death. Wish you were dead. Wish I was dead. And finally? Love.
I love you.

Written in a prose that was sharp, stabbing, and staccato-like, SKIN takes some getting used to. I took a stab
...more
Bark
I originally read Skin when it was first released in 1993 by Dell Abyss back when they had their horror line. I remember stalking my local bookstores for their titles and now those bookstores are long gone. I miss those days. Because my memory is poo and it was over 20 years ago (OMG!), I remembered none of the little details and only had vague memories of it disturbing me in the best way. I’m so glad I had the chance to revisit it again on audio and I’m thrilled that it held up to my memories a ...more
Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!}
Jan 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who like dark, gothic, horror novels with a splash of girl-love.
I read this last year, but I want to re-read this before I give my official opinion on it. It was an odd book that I enjoyed.

I think the difference between last year and this year is that I "get" this novel better than last year. Definitely a good read in my opinion. Definitely not a book that all will enjoy.

ETA: 1/15/15

That above review was written in 2011. My computer crashed but at the same time saved my old review with the date of this ETA and my new rating. I bumped up this review from 4 st
...more
Jill
Jun 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jill by: Ulla von Ja
Shelves: heartstopping
"What did you think?" Goodreads asks.

I don't fucking know what I thought.
What the hell do you think when you read something like this? I had the 'uncorrected proof' with no summary so I didn't have any idea, going in, what was coming. Do it that way too, if you can.

My thoughts are rampant.


In these pages there is a lot; too much. Blood. Plays between life and machine; art and isolation; creativity and passion; what matters at the end of it. It is one of the most gorgeous books I have ever, ever r
...more
Cody | CodysBookshelf
Kathe Koja is a master of the experimental and edgy — though I’m not saying anything new. Any reader of Koja’s would say the same. And despite this novel being published in 1993, it still feels leagues ahead of and more progressive than most major “horror” novels getting published today.

The highlight of any Koja novel is the prose, both breathtaking in its beauty and overwhelming in its extremity. In fact, “extreme” is a good word to describe Skin as a whole as the novel deals in body modificat
...more
Charles Dee Mitchell
May 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
Skin is on the Horror Writers' Association list of the "bests" of the genre, this despite it total lack of the supernatural or any traditional horror trappings. Koja's first novel, Cipher, involved the discovery of a sort of black hole in the storage area of a rundown apartment building and would seem a more likely candidate for the HWA's list. Locus, the sf and fantasy critical journal, lists Skin as an "associational horror" novel, a term I've read nowhere else but I think I get what they mean ...more
Elizabeth
Jan 29, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: lgbtq
Why? Just, why?

I'm sure there are people who think you just need to "get" this book in order to enjoy it, but honestly, there isn't much to be gotten. There's nothing disturbing or shocking in here that hasn't already been done -- before or after. I've read books a dozen times more shocking and disturbing and wholly unsettling, and in ones that used a lot fewer standard body-horror scenes and radical ideas to get the point across.

There's nothing in here all that thought-provoking. And the charac
...more
Alex (Hey Little Thrifter)
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror-faves
Tess is a metal sculptor who, through a chance meeting, forms a friendship with dancer Bibi. Bibi encourages Tess to join her troupe and they begin a journey into performance art, but as artistic boundaries are pushed so are the limits of their relationship.

Skin was such a powerful read for me. Koja's writing is in a league of its own, very evocative with strong feelings and strong visuals.

It's about friendships, relationships, sexuality, forms of body modification like piercing and scarificatio
...more
Dfordoom
Aug 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror-gothic
If you really want to find a writer who provokes extreme reactions in people you can’t go past Kathe Koja. Her very poetic, somewhat experimental and heavily descriptive prose style bewilders some readers, and incites others to anger. Personally I adore her style. The content of Skin is as edgy as the style. It’s about Tess, an artist who works in metal producing huge mobile sculptures. She finds herself drawn into a collaboration with Bibi. Bibi uses her own body for her artworks, specialising ...more
Bill
Aug 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The pursuit of the mastery of motion in metal.

Guerrilla performance art and metal sculpture meets body horror in an interesting and disturbing narrative.

This one took a while to click for me. Not sure if it was the writing style or the narration, but when it finally gelled, I really enjoyed it. I even enjoyed the narrative format after a while.

“Since the soul in me is dead, better save the skin.”
Bentley ★ Bookbastion.net
Mar 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Tess Bajac is used to a solitary existence. She is haunted by her past heartbreaks and has become entranced instead by the burn of flame and the drip of liquid metal that her work as a modern sculptor provides. Bibi is Tess's equal counterpart. Whereas Tess is metal and flame, Bibi is flesh and cold stone. A guerilla performance artist, Bibi has always pushed herself and her body to its limits in order to pursue her own art. With Tess, she develops a unique and twisted new performance art which ...more
Michael
Apr 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
How far would you be willing to go to change?

This is a very style-heavy book. If you have a problem with books like that, you should steer clear.

If you don't, expect a manic, tense narrative that's marketed as horror but could in truth be called "true-life tales of the underground scene". I've met people who could be the characters in this book - any of them. That in itself made the story more plausible for me. At times the main characters (Tess and Bibi) were being (for lack of a better term) r
...more
Spencer
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took a while for me to get into this book as I needed time to adjust to the Spartan prose and unusual style. It’s written in a minimalist way with short, sharp sentences that veil the complexity of Kathe’s writing, but once I got into the book I realised the effectiveness of the style and came to enjoy the story.

The horror in this book doesn’t feature anything supernatural; it’s about two women in pain in a world they struggle to connect with, that is until they find each other. There is some
...more
Nicolle Cornute-Sutton
May 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
A strange and compelling novel. I didn't like any of the main characters but I came to care for them and dreaded the inevitable horror awaiting them at the story's end.

The protagonists are Tess, a tremendously driven sculptress and Bibi, her other half, whose medium is flesh and blood. For a brief time, Tess and Bibi work together, melding their unique media into intense, often dangerous, performance art pieces but soon, their collaboration isn't enough for Bibi. She wants to transcend the confi
...more
Thomas
Apr 07, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-book, 2019, horror, abyss
Abyss #28

I can't quite resolve Koja's writing style with her content. I love how she writes -- it's unorthodox, but doesn't get in the way of understanding her narrative, and its impressionism makes for a style that shows more than tells -- but I can't make myself care about her main characters. She writes about people who live on the fringe of the acceptable, people who are artists, and believe that art exists above all else. It's idealistic, and hedonistic in the way that the characters pursue
...more
Erin
Jan 02, 2014 rated it liked it
There are some things, for example, the entire Duggar family, which both fascinate me and skeeve me out at the same time. Extreme body modification (Koja counts seven categories - contortion, constriction, deprivation, encumberments, penetration, fire and suspension) is one of those things (so would my nirvana be a documentary where the Duggars undergo various types of modification?). So, the description of this book as a mesh of exploration of art and love through the lens of body modification ...more
Sarah Beaudette
May 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
This cover is terrible; it doesn't do any justice to Koja's stunning book. I was looking for non-mainstream horror, and someone recommended Skin. Skin is wonderful, but it's not horror.

It's dark and obsessive, its prose as glittery and sharp as the glass shards, fish hooks, and machine guts that concern the artists around which it centers, and yes, it is about the dissolution of a person and of a relationship into unsalvageable, destructive depths, but it's not horror. It's a meditation: on art,
...more
Wendy
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow! This book is disturbing! It's also really, really good! Tess is an artist consumed with creating perfection , and when she meets Bibi, who has drives of her own, they find themselves on a slippery path towards madness and tortured pleasure. Darkly engrossing!
Scott
Jan 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
Another story of art and obsession. A pretty good read, but it never approaches the psychological darkness of her first two novels.
Andrea
Oct 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Whoa. Ok, so...this book was loaned to me almost three years ago. I have read it once a year since it's been in my possession, always during the fall. It's time to send this creative experimental masterpiece back home to it's owner, but before I do, here's a tiny review.

This book is complex, on all levels. It's complexity lies not only in the plot/narrative itself, but also in the organizational structure of the story, in the character development, but even in the sentence structure itself;
...more
TheCrookedHouse
Skin is a story about two girls. Tess is an artist whose medium is metal works and welding. Bibi is a dancer, who likes to explore modes of expression. They meet, become friends and eventually, become lovers. But both come with baggage. Tess doesn't want to exist outside of her studio and Bibi wants to change. Literally.

I've read Cipher, Strange Angels and Bad Brains. In every story, Koja weaves her tales in lyrical fashion and impresses upon the reader of it all being like a fever pitched dr
...more
J
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Her prose is gorgeous and complex, requiring a slow and deliberate reading in order to fully savor its content and intention. Very much a period piece of the late 80's/early 90's, I loved her portrayal of the artistic subcultures she chose to emphasize; this was particularly refreshing when juxtaposed to the static mass media and cultural homogenization of today's era. It's disconcerting that this--and her other early works--remain out of print. Koja writes literary fiction that ought to be read ...more
Victoria
Dec 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1990s
Im not sure what it was about this novel that made me give it a semi low score. Im just going to put that star directly in the middle.
I got halfway thru, and then reached a limit where I said, I can not continue down this path because of the writing style. I then began skimming thru chapters and thoroughly read the end.
It was way too erratic and DRAGGGGGED. At some points I enjoyed it for being artistic and unique, but I then became irritated and wanted the author to just please, for the love
...more
Crystal O'Leary-Davidson
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Kathe Koja’s lyrical, often stream-of-consciousness prose, seduces in this Goth-horror novel that transports me back to the mid-90s club culture of underground clubs and ‘zines, of industrial bands and body-modification performances, and the splatter-punk fiction of the time. Koja, through the story of two female artists, explores the purpose of art and what makes work authentic, and the relationships that fuel or restrict art. This is territory where VELVET BUZZSAW should have gone. Highly reco ...more
Dennis
Jun 23, 2020 rated it did not like it
Possibly one of the most excruciatingly boring books I've ever read in my life. Unbelievably repetitive and boring. Wanted to ask the protagonist to just weld my eyes shut while she was at it, and put me out of my misery.
Tonya Taylor
Aug 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book was amazing. Dark, disturbing and full of blood.:) I just read this AGAIN. I think I've read it 4 times now? Can't be sure. I keep losing my copy so I just bought another. Out of Print but worth the read. You feel overwhelmed and drowned in the midst of this book. You know it can't end well but you have to see it thru.
Phillip Smith
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Painful, obsessive, and grim. This writer scares me.
Juushika
A metalworker meets an improv dancer, beginning an intense and volatile collaboration. This premise (reminiscent of Kiernan's novelist protagonists and Brite's Drawing Blood) is something I read a lot of in my 20s and now feels dated in a lovable, nostalgic way. The cliquey underground art scene exacerbates that feeling; it's a stylized atmosphere, excessive and obsessive, a fantasy of what True Art might be. Meanwhile the escalation into bodily transformation almost does this a disservice, beca ...more
Jennifer
Jul 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a gritty exploration of body modification 90s style. Think Tetsuo: Iron Man with robots. Koja's words pour forth in twitchy bursts, snapshot montage of scenes, thoughts, impressions and sensory detail. The reader is immersed in the poverty of life as an artist, scraping by to have the luxury of working on personal art projects. Koja explores the link between creativity, madness and desires of all kinds, the need to do something that matters, the drive for connection and the ultimate empt ...more
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452 followers
Kathe Koja is a writer, director and independent producer. Her work combines and plays with genres, from YA to contemporary to historical to horror. Her novels - including THE CIPHER, BUDDHA BOY, TALK, and the UNDER THE POPPY trilogy–have won awards, been multiply translated, and optioned for film and performance. She creates immersive fiction with a rotating ensemble of video artists, dancers, mu ...more

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