Andrea's Reviews > Dreadful Skin

Dreadful Skin by Cherie Priest
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Mar 03, 2011

liked it

Dreadful Skin is the literary version of potato chips: edible, went fast, but left me unsatisfied and wishing for something either more substantial or tastier.

A number of factors contributed to my dissatisfaction, and the sum of the whole was greater than the individual problems.

First, there was the disjointedness. The book hops from head to head as if it can't stand to hang out in any particular one for more than a few pages. In the first part, where the narrator isn't immediately identified, it felt like half the time I didn't even know whose head I was inhabiting. This sense of disorientation was relieved in the last part of the book, where the narrator was identified in the chapter heading, but even so, the skipping around between viewpoints left me dizzy.

Another major issue for me was that I didn't connect emotionally to any of the characters. I just didn't care what happened to them. None of them was developed in much depth; some of this was probably due to the head-hopping.

My lack of empathy for the characters was enhanced by the feeling of the outcome being predestined that pervaded the novel. We already know at the beginning that most of the characters on the riverboat will die. So the first half of the story, gruesome and energetic as it is, feels pointless. But even after those characters have dutifully sank to their watery grave, the writing still projects an air of predestination, as if what will happen will happen, and how we get to the end doesn't really matter.

So, it was ok. I'm glad I read it, because I enjoy most of Cherie Priest's writing enough that I wouldn't have wanted to miss one of her novels. But if a reader is looking for a "monster on a steamboat" story and isn't so attached to Priest, she might do better with George R.R. Martin's Fevre Dream (at least, if she doesn't mind some truly nauseating violence along with the character development and suspense).
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