Reviews

Invasion of the Body Snatchers, by Jack Finney

marcus_bines's review against another edition

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4.0

Rating based on the audiobook, which was read very well.

I came to this having seen the first two movie versions of the story, from 1955 and 1976, but never having read it. It's a well written, pacey sci-fi take that explores some big themes (e.g. what does it mean to be human and alive) as well as, depending on interpretation, providing a mirror for some of the major political concerns of the 50s when it was first written.

The main characters (Miles and Becky) are likeable and engaging, and you feel for their plight as they grapple with the idea that people around them may be turning into pale copies of themselves. The plot never slows down for too long, but you do get moments to think about what it means to the characters and the world. The male-female relationships throughout do feel of their time, but that's no surprise, and when the heroine does finally step up and have some momentary agency it's a welcome change.

The only thing that disappointed me was the resolution - both movie versions did it better, but I won't say more than that in case of spoilers.

adjnn's review

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4.0

This book was a good time. There is something about 1950's small town America that makes a great setting for horror. There's very little technology, no internet, and that makes for a great sense of dread and foreboding. These characters feel very isolated in a way that is just not possible today.

I think the ending was a little bit easy and rushed, but I loved the closing lines.

4 stars!!

liviamello's review against another edition

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dark mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.75


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markyon's review against another edition

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4.0

Here’s another of those names that deserve to be better known, in my opinion. Though Jack Finney is a name you may have heard of, I doubt it’s one that immediately springs to mind in the SF canon, even though Jack was the recipient of the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1987, and Time and Again (1970) is often seen as one of the best time travel tales of all time, though not widely known.
And that’s a shame. Jack is one of those authors whose writing has been better well known through the films of his work, rather than the actual book.

So here’s perhaps a good place to start, with a re-evaluation of one of his better-known writings.
The Body Snatchers you may know as the films The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (both in 1956 and 1978) and The Invasion (2007). I say that with trepidation, in that knowing of the films perhaps devalues the book: many will say they know the book, having seen the film/s.

But, good though some of those films are, the book for me is subtler, and more refined work. Its apparent effortlessness as it unfolds and its rapid pace belies a work of deceptive power. This is perhaps partly due to the fact that the writer’s background in advertising enables him to write with precision and effectiveness.

The story starts with what seems to be a 1950’s idyll: August 1953 in small-town America, with a leisurely lifestyle and a homely nature. Our hero of the tale, told in the first person, is Doctor Miles Bennell, who lives a happy existence in Santa Mira (Mill Valley), California. When closing the surgery one night, Miles’ childhood friend Becky Driscoll visits to ask about her cousin Wilma’s strange behaviour. She doesn’t believe that her Uncle Ira is really her Uncle Ira...

Cunningly we are gradually told that this wonderful, if rather dull, life is changing, that people are not the real people. Miles and Becky find that their initial scepticism becomes something that may be real as the number of these cases that are reported increase. Friends also tell of similar cases. Manny Kaufman, a psychologist, is asked for advice. And then acquaintances Theodora and Frank Belicec find something in the garage that is just unbelievable...

The central horror is this: that in idyllic America, all white picket fence and Mom’s apple pie, with good people doing good things, we have a secret – that people are not who we think they are and that our friends and loved ones are changed from that which we know and love to something that is bland, conformative, where everyone is a blank canvas, programmed to be part of a communicatively conjoined society. And that is a creepy, illicit and supremely effective horror: it can happen any time, to anybody.

To this we have a character that lives in a place that he’s known for most of his life, who has things that have not changed throughout his life, yet seemingly change overnight. It’s the spinster librarian who fed Miles’s childhood reading habit but turns into something nasty, the main street of people who stop waving and smiling to each other, the decline of trade in the town as the aliens discourage ‘outsiders’ and in fact the blank indifference to outsiders and lack of human contact that creates the horror here.

Things are perfectly ordinary and yet they are not – and that is the horror. This book not only tells of fear, a trepidation of change and the possible decline of a person’s sanity, but a loss of things that are ordinary, rational and normal. And that’s why, even with its dated moments – it works.

The link between this paranoia and the secret threat of subversive Communism in the 1950’s has been made before. The invasion issue is initially left ambiguous in the novel: it is first posed as a psychological phenomenon, or even a dream-like condition, which the new cover shows admirably. Later of course we realise that it is an alien invasion, a point that in the book, unlike the 1956 film, is cleverly and subtly examined, counter-argued and eventually proposed as a viable explanation. By the end you believe that it is a possible and sensible solution.

There are lapses in the tale that show its 1950’s origins – the role of women in the tale is rather stereotyped, events are ’queer’ and also ’gay’, boyfriends and girlfriends are chaperoned, characters smoke and drink as if they’re competing with characters from one of the latest episodes of Mad Men – and yet, at its core is a sense of creeping paranoia, of things not being right, in what should be an idyllic Bradbury-esque small town environment, striking that feeling of unease. (Interestingly, the book was slightly revised in 1978 by Finney to tie in with the second movies release. Here we have the original.)

There’s the odd clunk and info-dump, but nothing too jarring.
Would this work as a novel today?

Perhaps not (see the 2007 film The Invasion for why not): and consequently, it is perhaps something that works best as a product of its time. It works when towns were often isolated things, communications between places less common than today and everyone in a settlement knew everyone else.
Is this communism or urbanisation? Is it post-war malaise or something more insidious? That’s what makes this book creep, and why it has created one of the genre’s most enduring lodestones.

The introduction by Graham Sleight, as you might expect from the Locus writer, is both informative and knowledgeable, though may be best read after you’ve read the tale. I think there’s a great deal of mileage in reading this novel with no background at all: not easy for such a now-well-known genre trope.

In summary, this is a brief, yet still effective tale. Though it has dated a little, it is still powerfully successful.

Recommended.




theburningclem's review against another edition

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4.0

Very creepy! Including the way the narrator talks about women!
It’s interesting. For every way the Body Snatchers story has been interpreted, I never considered that the source novel would be pretty explicitly about the death of small town America. The ending is waaaaay too pat and cheerful, but overall it was pretty solid.

shanbro's review against another edition

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4.0

Four stars up until the end. One star for the last twenty pages or so after chapter 18! The ending becomes just plain comical, one bad writing idea after the next. I laughed out loud as I was finishing it. Then I gave it to my husband so he could read it, and he was laughing, too! Bad, bad, bad.

horrorghoul's review against another edition

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3.0

TW: Racism, sexism, scary scenes

*****SPOILERS*****
About the book:On a quiet fall evening in the small, peaceful town of Mill Valley, California, Dr. Miles Bennell discovered an insidious, horrifying plot. Silently, subtly, almost imperceptibly, alien life-forms were taking over the bodies and minds of his neighbors, his friends, his family, the woman he loved—the world as he knew it. First published in 1955, this classic thriller of the ultimate alien invasion and the triumph of the human spirit over an invisible enemy inspired three major motion pictures.
Release Date: 01/01/1955
Genre: Sci-Fi Horror
Pages: 216
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

What I Liked:
• Love the plot
• The characters seem interesting
• Shorter book that fits a lot into it

What I Didn't Like:
• Writing is very bland & dry
• Can definitely tell it was written by a man of the 50s

Overall Thoughts: After reading the house next door this was my next stop. This is the top 10 books Stephen King has rated as his favorite.

A lot of dialog didn't hold up in this book vs today. There are many pages where Miles makes comments about women's weight and looks in a very harsh tone. You can definitely tell this book was written by a man of the 50s even going so far as Becky being carried out of her house by Miles and finding herself in her nightgown in the street. She wakes up and asks him what's going on, to which he replies he'll tell her at his house and not to get too excited as other people are there. She comments that with "Too bad," she muttered. "The biggest adventure of my life: kidnapped from my bed, by a good looking man in pajamas. Carried through the streets, like a captive cave woman. And then he has to supply chaperones." That wouldn't be a women's first thought at being removed from their home in the middle of the night.

Honestly there were chapters where it just felt like the over explaining went on and on. It's a short book but it felt like it was an extra 100 pages with the way things were over explained. I can definitely see why Stephen King is a huge fan of this book and where he picked up some writing style from.

I loved the part of the book where Mannie takes us on a different turn that maybe everyone is having an hysterical episode and there is no bodies.

Some parts of this story just don't make sense. In the beginning she has no shoes so he loans her a pair of loafers to wear but at the end of the story they're sharing shoes and his shoes are too big for her. Like whose loafers were those that she was wearing but he just had an extra pair sitting in his house?

Final Thoughts: I seriously think this would make a great TV show. I'd like to see the issues continue and see what happens. It was meh okay.

IG|Blog

lochnessvhs's review against another edition

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adventurous mysterious tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.5

sailorsauce's review against another edition

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adventurous lighthearted reflective fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.0

jeansbooks's review against another edition

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adventurous dark mysterious tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

5.0