Saturday, June 29, 2013

Jack Finney's "The Body Snatchers" aka "The Invasion of Body Snatchers" (novel, alien invasion)

Cover of the novel The Body Snatchers by Jack FinneyI'm actually puzzled by the fame of this much filmed story. It's a very ordinary novel, action packed but often illogical, sometimes outright illogical. It touches upon two themes - human tendency to destroy the environment while exploiting resources & then move on to newer pastures for more exploitation, & the idea of not remaining ourselves but becoming something else as a result of some kind of foreign invasion. Former occupies so little time in the story as to be irrelevant. Becoming something else pervades the book, but in a form that left me untouched.

Then there is the issue of style. Use a dozen paragraphs where one would do. Tell us the life on the street below is ordinary today, & then get into painful detail of who is doing what for may be 2 dozen people none of which is really in the story. Tendency to tell rather than show...

I might have explained it away as a classic whose key ideas have been so well absorbed in subsequent literature they're no longer novel. Only that is not the case - the idea of foreign imposters slowly substituting local populations has been around in sf much longer. Some commentators seem to think it captures the paranoia about communist invasion in the US during 1950s, which might explain its appeal to an earlier generation of Americans. I finished it, but in a very unsatisfied way.

Story summary.

A local doctor in a small town is suddenly seeing a lot of cases where patients are exhibiting a strange delusion: they claim that someone they've long known is an imposter, though the "imposters" look & behave identically to their former selves!

Things will get horrifying when he discovers enormous alien plant "pods", recently arrived from space, are capable of turning into any kind of nearby life, including vegetable or animal, destroying the original...

Fact sheet.

First published: "as a three-part serial in Collier's Magazine (November 26 - December 24, 1954). Rewritten in 1978 as Invasion of the Body Snatchers."
Rating: B.