The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney
It’s strange, I often feel as though I’m familiar with certain classic novels even if I’ve never read them, and when I do finally get round to reading them I’m always surprised. I realise that everything I thought I knew about it wasn’t the half of it, or that it wasn’t anything like that at all. My feelings about it were second hand, given to me from those who experienced it years ago and whose memories of it had faded and warped with time.
When I picked up The Body Snatchers I thought I knew what to expect: it was going to be trashy horror, weird and silly in a unique but forgettable way. I thought it would feel like the start of something, like an unformed idea still needing to develop.
I was so, so wrong.
To me, Jack Finney’s renowned novel was just as exciting and compelling as if I had never heard of the concept and was reading it blind. I felt like I didn’t know what was going to come next, even when I did, and I was utterly enthralled by this spine-tingling tale.
In case you didn’t know, The Body Snatchers is about an alien race that invades earth. They quietly arrive on the planet and create identical lookalikes to their human victims so that they may take over their lives and identities. They look and act like their human counterparts and have all the same memories and physical attributes; the only difference is a subtle lack of emotion and a coldness to certain responses. The aliens can pretend to be emotional but it doesn’t show behind the eyes.
The story felt fresh and was surprisingly frightening. I didn’t think it would be scary as the horrors it was pertaining to were from another era, but it repulsed me and creeped me out in ways I really wasn’t expecting.
Of course, there were some jarring indications in the prose that it was a 1950s sci-fi and occasionally a small bout of sexism would throw me off, but all in all it was really enjoyable. It did everything I thought a horror story should do…
…it made me paranoid, afraid of the dark and scared to fall asleep.