Wednesday, 25 September 2013
The Bodysnatchers, by Jack Finney
I really enjoyed re-reading this- one of the easiest, creepiest and most swiftly-paced Science Fiction books I can think of. I can't say as there was anything profound and important that could only be discovered on a second read...but that's sort of the beauty of the style of this book- it's so easy and quick to read and the pages just fly past.
If Philip Marlowe is a hard boiled Private Detective and Walter Neff is a hard boiled criminal/insurance salesman, then Dr. Miles Bernell is very much the hard boiled GP. Born, raised and Doctoring in the small Californian town that his father practised in before him, Miles knows every soul in Santa Mira, knows their business, their jobs, their characters. He knows every hill and path through the valleys and every field on the edge of town. When he starts getting patients visiting his surgery telling him that their relatives aren't really their relatives, he doesn't know what to make of it. First it's just one. Then it's half a dozen. All convinced that despite looking, acting and remembering to the last detail like they always have done, they're just different. When Miles and his neighbours discover something impossible and undeniably horrific in the basement, something that looks like a dead body but has never been alive, never been completed or had the finishing touches put on it, they know they've got a potentially species threatening disaster on their hands. It's just a case of finding out how far it's invaded so far...
It has to be said, this book could be considered a tad dated in areas when it comes to gender roles- the women fix a lot of coffee, cook sausages, go into shock quite a lot. The men smoke cigars, make decisions and speed around in cars...Miles is certainly the gung-ho saviour dreamboat that was apparently so ubiquitous in the 1950s. His one-time sweetheart, the recently re-appeared future squeeze Becky has to constantly remind Miles that women can do more than stand clutching their faces frozen in horror at the sight of anything, which she proves later on. I'm not convinced this book would be published today, it's not gory enough, it's ending might be seen as a bit of a cop out and the horror of being turned to dust in your sleep just seems too subtle.
The story of the space spores drifting to Earth and perfectly replicating humans, turning the originals to dust in their sleep is always thought to be a metaphor for communism or free will or something...the idea of the doppelganger is nothing new, but this novel combines the uncanniness of the doppelganger with deadly organisation skills- a recipe for the end of humanity. Whatever it is, it's chilling, slick, in places quite funny, and generally a really enjoyable entertaining and highly original Science Fiction novel. Soooo some of the characters' actions and decisions are questionable... yeeees some of the science might be a bit made up...I knooooow the ending is a bit too convenient...It's a fun, hammy, B-Movie fan's dream come true and I love it.