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 narrators self-reflections and actionsfrom night battles to bestialityPiñol, an anthropologist, asks big questions about men and monsters, power and submission, sanity and madness. The horror of the books opening transforms into something more bizarre, more unnameable, as the characters breach the human-animal boundary. Its 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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