Invasion of the Body Snatchersby Jack Finney, George Wilson Published 01 Jan 1999
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Originally published in 1955, Jack Finney's sinister SF tale has outgrown the initial debate about whether it satirized Communism or the conformity of US society at the time, to become a classic of paranoia; an examination of our fear of 'the other'. Most people know the story from seeing THE INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, the classic 1978 remake (one of the few Hollywood remakes said to better than the original, made in 1956) starring Donald Sutherland. Here's your chance to read the original source; a story that has resonated with readers and viewers for more than 50 years.
"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" Reviews
THE BODY SNATCHERS (the longer title came later) first appeared as a serial in the general-interest magazine COLLIER'S in 1954, then was published as a novel the year later. In 1956 the movie version appeared, the first of several. As a book, BODY SNATCHERS is more influential than outstanding in its prose and composition. When it first appeared, the mysterious "invading force" was seen as a metaphor for the depersonalization of Soviet Communism; two decades later for gentrification, as in the 1978 movie remake set in San Francisco. It appears that our fears of losing our souls, our friendly neighbors and our communities are still easily invoked by Jack Finney's novel and easily transferred to whatever's going on in the world.
In construction, the book's a tad clunky: the physician protagonist does not notice how his hometown Mill Valley's business district and through streets have been deteriorating until it is too late -- a process which would take probably a year in that climate, not a few weeks as in the novel. Inevitably, and routinely, a "professor" type (actually a lecturer in Botany) shows up to explain how pod-peopling could work. The 1956 movie is one of the rare adaptations that surpasses the print original, possibly because an off-screen narrator is a less intrusive technique than the first-person-limited perspective coming from the book's town doctor. Nonetheless I urge the reading of this novel for anyone who's interested. It's a quick but highly influential read.
“Grey-haired Miss Wyandotte, who twenty years ago had loaned me the first copy of Huckleberry Finn I ever read, looked at me, her face going wooden and blank, with an utterly cold and pitiless alienness. There was nothing there now, in that gaze, nothing in common with me; a fish in the sea had more kinship with me than this staring thing before me.”
*Shivers* Just the thing for Halloween! For my month of spooky reading, it is nice to be able to include a sci-fi horror title among the supernatural shenanigans. Off the top of my head, I can think of very few sci-fi horror books, the recent Bird Box, I Am Legend, Watchers, The Tommyknockers (and several other Stephen King titles), that is about it, please feel free to add more in the comments. The best example of this subgenre is probably Alien which a novelization of Ridley Scott’s movie. The movie adaptations of Invasion of the Body Snatchers are better known than the source material by Jack Finney. More on them later.
First published in 1955 (as “The Body Snatchers”), Invasion of the Body Snatchers is set in a fictional town called Santa Mira, California. One day Dr. Miles Bennell has a visit from Wilma, a lady friend who reckons her Uncle Ira is no longer her Uncle Ira, he has gone all weird. The doctor goes to visit Uncle Ira and finds nothing unusual and prescribe a good night sleep for Wilma (or something along that line). Soon, however, multiple patients come in with the same complaint, their wife/father/daughter etc. are not who they are supposed to be. Then a weird blank-faced body with no fingerprints is found at his friend Jack’s house. The next day oozy pods containing what looks like work in progress bodies show up at the doctor’s house. WTF?
If I have not seen three movie versions of this book before it I would probably have rated it 5 stars in spite of a couple of issues. The story is just fantastic, eerie, well-paced and thrilling. The idea of people you have known all your life suddenly becoming emotionless weirdoes is all too easy to imagine. The description of the still developing, incomplete pod people is also effectively vivid. The distribution of the pods by the townspeople is also an oddly disquieting scene. Unfortunately, these excellent features are a little offset by a few issues. The writing is unexceptional and even becomes clunky at times, the characterization is rather bland, and the female characters generally have no agency to speak of (except in one scene where Dr. Bennell’s girlfriend uncharacteristically becomes a badass out of the blue). The ending reminds me of The War of The Worlds, one of the greatest sci-fi books ever, almost ruined by a “cop-out” ending. Without going into details Invasion of the Body Snatchers has a similarly disappointing denouement, a bit of a damp squib after all the preceding thrills. Still, if you are unfamiliar with the story I absolutely recommend this book for its vastly entertaining thrills and creepy atmosphere. If you are a fan of some of the (four) movie adaptations you may find that there is no surprise left and that the moviemakers have unusually improved on the story. Even so, I would still recommend it with the reservations I have mentioned so far.
• I absolutely love the 1978 movie version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It has a great cast and some startling visuals. Better still, it hugely improves on the book’s ending by going into a darker – and more believable - direction.
Nimoy, Sutherland and Goldblum. What’s not to love?
Not to mention this "dog":
• The 1956 adaptation, released just one year after the book’s initial publication, is generally considered a classic. I have seen this on TV a few times and it is indeed excellent and even somewhat scary, but I still like the 1978 remake better.
The movie is actually in black & white.
• I have not seen the 1993 version so I cannot say anything about it. The 2007 version stars Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, and still manages to be crap. OK, guys, you can stop adapting this book now.
• It has been said that Invasion of the Body Snatchers is an allegory for “the dangers facing America for turning a blind eye to McCarthyism”. Make of that what you will, unfortunately, what I know about McCarthyism can be written on a UK postage stamp and still leave the queen’s head unblemished.
• Thank you, Cecily, for reminding me of another classic sci-fi horror The Thing, three adaptations made (from the novella Who Goes There?), again the second version (directed by John Carpenter) is the best.
“I warn you that what you're starting to read is full of loose ends and unanswered questions. It will not be neatly tied up at the end, everything resolved and satisfactorily explained. Not by me it won't, anyway. Because I can't say I really know exactly what happened, or why, or just how it began, how it ended, or if it has ended; and I've been right in the thick of it.”
“There was — always — a special look in his eyes that meant he was remembering the wonderful quality of those days for him. Miles, that look, way in back of the eyes, is gone. With this — this Uncle Ira, or whoever or whatever he is, I have the feeling, the absolutely certain knowledge, Miles, that he's talking by rote.”
“We're trapped by our own conceptions, Doctor, our necessarily limited notions of what life can be. Actually, we can't really conceive of anything very much different from ourselves, and whatever other life exists on this one little planet. Prove it yourself; what do imaginary men from Mars, in our comic strips and fiction, resemble? Think about it. They resemble grotesque versions of ourselves — we can't imagine anything different! Oh, they may have six legs, three arms, and antennae sprouting from their heads" — he smiled — "like insects we're familiar with. But they are nothing fundamentally different from what we know.”
A pretty sinister book, this, containing some really creepy moments. It also happens to be written quite well, so, it goes without saying that I enjoyed it. Another forerunner of modern horror, The Body Snatchers, along with I Am Legend, pretty much set the stage for modern paranormal horror a la King, Koontz and co. Both of these books happen to be in the Science Fiction Masterworks series, as well.
There is some oddball science in here, but come on! It was written in the fifties, and still carries a hefty punch. A commentary on 50s politics? Who cares - it entertained me and scared the pants off me, so I just have to recommend it.
Oh, and check out that scene with the skeletons...
If there are any aliens reading this who are looking for a body to take over, hmu. Living is hard and I am ready to hand over that responsibility to some other life form. I will not (repeat: NOT) attempt to save the world through any self-destructive means necessary like these buffoons.
Just let me know.
Anyway this book was mildly entertaining but had a really awful boring female character (read: love interest) who almost never did anything except to cling to Our Hero's elbow and, like, make him carry her and cry into his chest and dumb damsel sh*t like that. Hated it.
She came up with a plan once, and it was referred to as "Becky's flimsy notion" and honestly even if that wasn't the way it was handled one plan is not enough for 206 pages of full-on DAMSELING, BECKY.
Bottom line: No thank you, 1950s gender roles!!!!!!! I'm not interested bye!!!! (But to the aliens: I definitely am interested still please message me for my contact info my inbox is open kthanksbye.)
Some trove from the 50s and its brooding obsessions!
First-rate immersion thanks to the dialogue which feels like one in some good ol' corny Hollywood script! :)
Reto #1 PopSugar 2018: Un libro hecho en una película que ya has visto
Cumplido este reto por partida doble, ya que de las cuatro adaptaciones al cine que se han hecho de esta novela, he visto las últimas dos: la muy gore versión de 1993 dirigida por Abel Ferrara y la muy descafeinada versión del 2007 que protagonizaran Nicole Kidman y Daniel Craig. Creo que aprovecharé el impulso de esta lectura y me pondré al día con la versión que en 1978 dirigió Philip Kaufman, considerada por la crítica como la mejor de todas. Como dato, la primera adaptación se realizó en 1956 (un año después de la publicación del libro) y por ahí leí que ya se ha dado el vamos a una quinta producción, pero aún sin fecha de lanzamiento.
Volviendo al libro, claramente ya se puede considerar un clásico de la ciencia ficción y el terror, aunque no cuente con la misma popularidad de sus contemporáneos. Escrito en primera persona desde la perspectiva de Miles Bennell, el médico local del pequeño pueblo de Santa Mira y uno de los pocos que se da cuenta de lo que está pasando, la narración traspasa de forma muy efectista el sentido de urgencia e impotencia ante los espeluznantes hechos que se suceden, con un ritmo ágil y vertiginoso que sólo se ve ralentizado con algunas explicaciones de tipo científico, pero que resultan muy interesantes y convincentes, como cuando al principio se intenta explicar el fenómeno desde la psicología, como un caso de histeria colectiva, hasta llegar a la biología y el origen de la vida.
Sin embargo, todo lo anterior se ve opacado en un final que, si bien me gustó en su significado, fue demasiado abrupto, precipitado y algo deux ex machina.
Por último, comentar que la edición de Bibliópolis que leí cuenta con una especie de epílogo literario, en el que se narran extrañas experiencias de autores de la talla de Stephen King y Paul Auster y sus encuentros con especies de “dobles”. Desconozco si esto último es ficción o no, pero a pesar que son curiosas, no encontré el sentido de incluirlas en el libro.