Thursday, 29 September 2011

Tastes like chicken......

Number (64) on my 1001 Books And Authors List is the debut novel from Michael Faber, Under The Skin. 

Isserly drives the Scottish highlands every night picking up hitchhikers and taking them back to a derelict farm. But she is no innocent sweetheart heading out for one night stands. Isserly is not from our world, has been painfully and surgically altered to look like us and is bringing back "Vodsel" males (their name for our species) to her farm to be fed up and slaughtered like cattle; later to be shipped off to her home world as a rare and extremely expensive meat. Sounds preposterous? Maybe, but instead of just any old piece of imaginative Sci-Fi, what we actually get here is a highly addictive and strangely compelling narrative that aims to subtly undermine conventional society and question everything we thought we knew and often take for granted.

Under The Skin asks some very important questions. If it is okay for us to harvest other animals for food, why is it so wrong for us to feed on each other? Why are some animals more exempt than others? Why IS it okay for us to eat cows, sheep and pigs but not okay for us to feed on dog or cat? Wherein lie the distinctions?

Isserly and her fellow visitors look on us as just dumb animals, referring to themselves instead as human. Often in her travels on the road, Isserly looks upon our race in disdain. And when a high-ranking member of her society pays a visit to our world and the hidden manufacturing plant that processes the meat and asks whether she or anyone else there has ever eaten sheep, Isserly looks on him with disgust. Namely because her race, in their native form, closely resemble sheep in appearance and it would be unforgivable to slaughter something so close to what they think of as human!

This is one of those novels that defy convention. Its style of writing is very much similar to that of Iain Banks and reads a lot like The Crow Road or The Wasp Factory. In the fact that it is mainstream Sci-Fi without actually reading like Sci-Fi means that it has much in common with Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go and its ending is as poignant and it is tragic with a climax that will leave you gasping for breath. There is so much to like about this book that a single Blog Post cannot do it justice. It is everything I like to read in a very good novel ~ it has emotion, it has style and it forces you to ask questions both about yourself and the greater world you live in without you even realising you are doing it. I really cannot recommend this enough...which is why it makes the list!

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