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Cold Skin

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Cold Skin.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Albert Sanchez Pinol(Author)

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On the edge of the Antarctic Circle, in the years after World War One, a steam ship approaches a desolate island far from all shipping lanes. On board is a young man, on his way to assume the lonely post of weather observer, to live in solitude for a year at the end of the world.

But on shore he finds no trace of the man whom he has been sent to replace, just a deranged castaway who has witnessed a horror he refuses to name. The rest is woods, a deserted cabin, rocks, silence, and the surrounding sea. And then night begins to fall . . .

Albert Sanchez-Pinol's Cold Skin is one of the strangest, most unsettling novels you will read this year, a tour de force full of dark resonance and sexual anxiety.

In this grim, H.G. Wellsian fable, an unnamed European of unspecified nationality is hired to spend an unspecified mid-20th-century year logging wind conditions on a tiny Antarctic island. Anticipating solitude, the bookish young man soon discovers that he has a neighbor—the pathologically reclusive Gruner—and that each night, the island is overrun by humanoid killer amphibians. He and brutish Gruner—who has tamed a "toad" of his own—join forces, killing monsters by night and fornicating with Gruner's pet by day. Inspired by the creature's ability to laugh and cry—to say nothing of her perky breasts, knack for housework and wordless submissiveness—the narrator begins to think of the cold-blooded creatures as human. When he tries to befriend them and their children, his efforts pacify the humanoids, but not Gruner; the hopeful idyll ends when the older man launches a last suicidal effort to exterminate the "monsters." Gruner's death plunges our hero into a rut of battle, drunkenness and bestiality so complete that when his replacement arrives, he has become as feral as Gruner was before him. Sentence by elegant sentence, Piñol's first novel offers a tightly crafted allegory of human brutality both fascinating and repellent. (Nov.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. A best-seller translated from Catalan, Cold Skin features gothic characters, plots, and writing, all to horrific, sometimes comic, effect. Behind the narrator’s self-reflections and actions—from night battles to bestiality—Piñol, an anthropologist, asks big questions about men and monsters, power and submission, sanity and madness. The horror of the book’s opening transforms into something more bizarre, more unnameable, as the characters breach the human-animal boundary. It’s a wholly original premise, but not without faults: some of the plotting seems mechanical; Aneris comes across as a confused stereotype; and the ending leaves loose threads. But the questions that seem so simple will keep haunting.Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Book details

  • PDF | Unknown pages
  • Albert Sanchez Pinol(Author)
  • Canongate Books Ltd, Edinburgh; First Printing edition (2007)
  • English
  • 3
  • Other books

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Review Text

  • By James J. Bloom on February 24, 2013

    The editorial and Amazon reviews have covered the particulars, but they bear re-examination. A bookish young man, desiring to escape from the brutality of humankind in the wake of unspecified wars early in the 20th century (likely World War One), undertakes a peculiar assignment as a weather observer on an obscure and untraveled miniscule island somewhere in the South Atlantic or Antarctic Sea. Some have speculated that the mysteriously disappeared Thompson's Island is meant, but the book locates the tiny (roughly an L-shaped two miles long, by perhaps 3/4th of a mile wide) island 600 leagues southwest of Bouvetoya, which makes it to be somewhere between South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands. Wherever it may be located, this island is rarely visited by any ship not expressly headed there---and these are rare. When he arrives on the island, the weatherman's shack is disheveled and deserted so the Captain walks with the unnamed protagonist to the nearby lighthouse, less than a mile away. Here they encounter a stupefied, incoherent brute of a man, who arises from his bunk reluctantly and then refuses to answer any questions, apparently berserk. Sensing something horrific has transpired here, the captain vainly entreats his passenger to return to the ship and to civilization. The young man stays and watches the ship disappear beneath the horizon, wondering what he has gotten himself into. The first night, he discovers the apparent cause of the surly, inexpressive lighthouse keeper's drunken dementia: at nightfall, the weather official's frail shack is beset by strange amphibian mutants, who try to get within his shack with apparent murder in mind. He barely manages to fend them off with blows from instruments at hand. The next night he opens the crates left by the captain and finds two rifles and many boxes of cartridges. These he uses to some effect the next night. He is determined to hole up in the lighthouse with the churlish keeper since he realizes that it has been fortified against the ravenous creatures. He hikes once again to the light tower but the keeper shoos him away, threatening to kill him. He establishes that this man, an Austrian named Gruner, keeps a mascot, a female of the half-shark, half-lizard race, to do his domestic chores. He kidnaps the piteous creature and threatens to kill her, thereby gaining entrance to the "fortress". His 12-month sojourn with the keeper and the mascot marks the young man's descent into madness as night after night hordes of the creatures attack and are driven off with pyrotechnics and rifle fire, aided by the redirected rotating beam of the tower lantern. The need to drive off the invading hordes, the terror inspired by the rapidly dwindling cartridge supply, certainty of annihilation by the monsters, and sexual trysts with the female "monster"--whom he has discovered to offer carnal pleasure to the bestial keeper as well--accelerate his own descent into the same frenzied madness he once reviled in the keeper. Not wishing to spoil the ending for the reader, I will only say that it is at first reading very vague, incomplete and incomprehensible. But upon re-reading the book, and reflecting one may grasp how the young meteorologist has struggled to understand and befriend the "monsters", whom he recognizes as merely defending their own turf against rapacious human invaders. Reason and compassion, even to those he once misconstrued merely to be man-eating beasts, struggle with vengeful fury to destroy those who might destroy him. As to whether he succeeds in gaining the trust of the creatures, who he finds call themselves "Sitauca", or must resume battle, is left unanswered and, after reading the last page, each reader may draw his or her own conclusions as to how this saga might end. Perhaps a key to the enigma can be found in the title of a book the protagonist finds in the lighthouse the first night-- Frazer's THE GOLDEN BOUGH. He tries to engage the taciturn and beast-like Gruner in a discussion of the book, only to be fobbed off with the curt "The book isn't mine". The book is mentioned several times in the narrative, and in hindsight, its examination of birth, death and rebirth cycle myths in all religions up through Christianity may hold the key to one's interpretation of the ending and what may lie in store for the weather official. The saving grace of the innocence of children--of all species--and their uncomprehending primeval curiosity about alien beings, no matter how oddly shaped in contrast to themselves, is another consideration that may help to imagine the possible fate of the disillusioned scientist.Very thought-provoking and haunting. No mere Gothic monster horror story, though it works on that level as well. I will be interested to see the cinematic version, now "in pre-production", tentatively due out in 2014.

  • By Kindle Customer on October 15, 2014

    When I was a teenager there was an especially cruel prank kids would play on other kids. It involved telling a long-winded joke with a punchline that made no sense. But all of the kids in on the joke would laugh hysterically at nonsensical punchline telling the kid not in on the joke they couldn't believe he/she wasn't getting it. Then they'd tell the joke over and over until the kid not in on the joke suddenly started laughing and saying they finally got the joke. Only then the other kids would reveal that the joke made no sense and the person who finally pretended to get the joke would be made to look like a loser for pretending to have finally gotten the joke.Well, despite all of this books five, four, three and two star reviews, I refuse to pretend this book is anything than a steaming pile of you know what. Now it's possible that if read in the original Catalan it's a wonderfully compelling story, but in this English translation its a boring, repetitive, incoherent mess.It actually starts off pretty great with a wonderfully creepy setting -- a tiny, remote Antarctic island where there is only a lighthouse and a weather hut, each occupied by a man supposedly fulfilling their duties. But when the new weather official arrives to replace his successor, he's gone missing and the lighthouse keeper refuses to say what happened to him. Then that night strange amphibious creatures attack the weather hut.Unfortunately the book simply descends into mind-numbing repetitiveness as the two men wage war on the two creatures until one decides it's a mistake for a bunch of incoherent reasons that he keeps changing his mind about. Some reviewers have said this morass of a book has something to stay about Jungian psychology. So if you're into books that really don't have a coherent plot, consistent characters, much tension, or anything else worthwhile, BUT might be some kind of bizarro expression of Jungian psychology this book is for you. Everyone else, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!

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