An eerie tale of a small town where people start behaving slightly different then they used to. At first this is attributed to a mass delusion, but soon the real threat to humanity reveals itself...
A fascinating story written in 1955 about an alien invasion of a special kind. The plot is mostly dense and fast paced making it a thrilling listening experience.
Another one of those classic novels that inspired multiple cult-classic films, but have rarely been read by the people who saw the movie(s).
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a classic "B" movie, and this book is a classic "B" novel. I was not blown away by it, but it's a decent page-turner. Also, it gets extra credit for creating many of the tropes that are now old hat in sci-fi.
Set in Mill Valley, California, the protagonist is a psychologist, recently divorced, who sees several patients in succession who report to him a conviction that their husband, sister, or English teacher isn't really who they're supposed to be. The "patients" can't explain how they know - the supposed dopplegangers are exactly like the originals in every respect. They have all the original's mannerisms, they remember things only the real person could know, they have all the correct scars and other distinguishing marks. There is just something missing.
Dr. Bennell, being a pragmatic and compassionate sort, initially assumes his patients are deluded in some fashion. He takes great pains to explain to the first woman to come to him that she's not crazy, and patiently goes over other explanations. Then when more patients start reporting the same thing, he begins to believe it's a case of mass hysteria.
Then he finds a body lying on a shelf, hidden in an unused cupboard. A "blank" body, missing distinguishing features and fingerprints, yet still warm.
Gradually, he and his new sweetheart, an old flame who is thrust together with him by circumstances, realize that something is very wrong in Mill Valley. They enlist others who have also realized the same thing, and skeptics like another psychotherapist.
The aliens are really less interesting than the psychological tension created by the story, first as the reader, like the protagonist, is forced to wonder whether there really is an alien invasion going on or if people are simply losing their minds, and then, as it becomes evident that people really are being replaced by aliens, by the question of who's really an alien and who can be trusted. One by one, they'll get you... or your friends... or your family...
Invasion of the Body Snatchers has later been interpreted as a metaphor for the spread of communism, or the paranoia of McCarthyism, or whatever else people wanted to project onto it. In the afterword for the audio edition, the narrator, who is the son of the producer of the original movie, says that his father never had any such ideas in mind. He was just trying to make a good movie on a very limited budget.
I doubt Jack Finney, the author of the novel, intended any highbrow interpretations either. At its heart, this book is just a straightforward invasion story. As a work of science fiction, it's a bit weak - the premise of alien seeds being carried to Earth by stellar winds is fine, but the book stretched my suspension of disbelief after that, as the biology of the invaders made no kind of sense, nor did the ending. (The ending of the book is significantly different from the movie versions.)
The book is popcorn entertainment, but as a modern classic based on an idea that definitely has a creepy quality all by itself, it's worth reading.
I listened to Jack Finney's "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1955) during several evening hikes in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. The Santa Ana winds were blowing, and it was warm. The lights across the valley shimmered and danced with each gust. Homes, people and safety are never too far in Los Angeles County, but on the dusty fire roads, with only coyotes and other night animals close, the aliens that sailed on cosmic winds to make the clones in Finney's book seem not only very near but very possible.
Some critics/teachers argue that Finney's book is intended to be an allegory for the fear of communism that was the hallmark of Dwight D. Eisenhower's America. Maybe it was, or maybe, just maybe, Finney came up with a good story and let nascent psychiatrists and pop psychologists think what they wanted.
I do have a complaint, and it's not one I have often: I would have liked a longer book. Not on the plot - that's fine - but on the description. Finney analyzes and draws Freudian conclusions in ways that successful modern fictions writers don't today (although non fiction writers, presupposing the reader has some familiarity with a topic do). The result is a book that's too sparse. In print, it's 191 pages; as a listen, it's only 6 1/2 hours.
Finney's spartan language allowed some truly great movie adaptations of the book, which overshadow (over-echo?) the listen for me. I've seen the original 1956 black and white movie, first on late night Channel 13 back when there were only 5 channels on TV; and then the 1978 remake in its original theater run. During this listen, I kept imagining Donald Sutherland as Matthew Bennell - especially at the end. A little Donald Sutherland can resonate for years. I've heard that there was an exceptionally mediocre more recent remake, but I'm not going to torture myself.
The narration was a little uneven, a little mechanical in places.
The title of the review is from a psychological disorder. "People experiencing the Capgras delusion claim that others, usually those quite close emotionally, have been replaced by near-identical impostors." (Ellis H..D. et al, "Reduced autonomic responses to faces in Capgras delusion" Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B (1997) 264, 1085–1092, available at PubMed.)
[If this review helped, please press YES. Thanks!]
Predictable, bland, long-in-the-tooth 70s-era soap opera style sci-fi horror, at times reaching appreciable artistic content ala Twilight Zone.
On the Twilight Zone you might watch two guys having small-talk in a small town cafe, and one's an alien, but hasn't revealed it yet. Suspense is built with bland small talk between 2 average guys, which keeps going and going until: BAM -- one guy pulls off his cap and reveals a 3rd eyeball on his forehead!
This novel is like that, but stretched-out 7 million times longer like a long roll of TP and without the shock effect of a third eyeball. Well, maybe once there was a semi-shocking thing. A moment in a basement with a body, but it seemed to add more for atmosphere than anything else.
Does it even matter
Address the following warnings:
WARNING: Women in this story are emotional jellyfish props with limited behaviors:
2.) Making facial expressions
3.) Passing out
5.) Being afraid
6.) Being happy and colorful only when they have an apron on and are cooking
7.) Special powers: ability to look into people's eyes and intuit something is wrong.
WARNING: The only Black man to appear in this book so far is a shoe-shiner, portrayed by the author rather unflatteringly.
The narrator (probably a senior citizen) with a thick New England accent, plays a 28-year old California doctor. His presence and dialogue is that of a cheeseball small-town conservative and it's done so well, the whole book could made into a humorous cult film. The narration shows top-notch professional older talent miscasted into a young man's role, in the tacky and insulting tradition of many 1970s soap-opera style radio dramas. *HE* did well.
This is a hard question to answer.
I've purposefully hacked through this jungle of unexciting, culturally biased, conservative blather to chapter 15 / 22 and not a whole heck of a lot has happened yet. I guess I'll just have to put on my big-boy pants and man-up so I can finish the last 7 chapters.
FOOTNOTE: Just endured a 30 minute chapter dedicated to describing every person on a street, their made-up names, their occupations, their relatives, what towns the relatives live in, knowing that all of these details are completely irrelevant because that's just the way the book is written.
So bad it's good. Almost.
In the hands of the right people, someone could make movie of this, and it would suck and win an award at sucking.
This was a deal of the day and one of the best values I've come across to date. Excellently written, excellently performed, and totally unnoticeable production (that's the best thing you can say about production values).
Get it. Hear it. Love it.
This was the first time I listened to the original story --and so glad I did.
The horror and suspense builds so slowly- so deliciously - it was a straight through listen with no breaks- what a great production!
The small town of Mill Valley California is about to be invaded. It isn't clear if these invaders are evil and threatening, or possibly some other type of creature - maybe coming to earth to save us from ourselves? The anxiety is there either way. The movie version differs in some ways- the movie was great in it's own way- but I still like listening better.
Dr. Miles Bennell is confronted with bizarre stories from some of his patients that people they know, or are related to, are somehow not themselves. They are convinced that family members are absolutely identical to the real people, but aren't them. He discounts this as a type of mass hysteria or something else- but certainly not to be believed. He is in for a wild ride.
The narration is a big part of the pure enjoyment of this book. An interesting twist --Kristoffer Tabori is the son of Don Siegel, who directed the 1956 film. Mr. Tabori is an amazing narrator.
Another spooky listen for October.
Enjoyable but a bit like a doctor who episode. The narrative was a tense and kept you listening. There are a few moments where you'll be scratching your head about why the characters who are "so smart" did a few things.
Live on edge of National Forest with lake, birds & wild animals. No more perfect place to indulge life-long love of reading.
There is a mini-prologue at the beginning of chapter 1. I made a mental note to relisten to this again after finishing the book. I did, and came darn close to listening to the whole book all over again ... such is the magic of Kristoffer Tabori's narration. I also strongly recommend listening to the epilogue. Tabori is the son of the director who made the first film version of this book. Much is explained during that interview.
Many have surmised that this book was a philosophical exposition on McCarthyism and/or Commies Under Every Bed scares in the 50's. That interested me and I looked for that theme while listening. I couldn't find that connection and thought that was too much of a stretch to explain what some of the characters called mass hysteria. Tabori confirms that his father wasn't focused on our troubled history.
Back to my fascination with the narration, which I believe to be more than fully justified. Tabori's enactment of this book made me feel that an older, wiser man has wandered into my library (or den or family room, you get my point) late on a stormy night; as he sits down in front of my hearth with roaring fire, beverage in hand, he leans forward and rather thoughtfully starts to tell me the story of what happened to him when he was a much younger town doctor in Mill Valley, Ca. He maintains this ambience throughout the book.
The story isn't exactly neat and wrapped up at the end, which may be exactly the right note. It seems that the author's intent is to leave his audience wondering ... could it really have happened ... could it really come again?
If you decide to listen, set aside some time. This one is hard to stop once you get started.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers / B002VACTHE
I bought this audiobook on the recommendation of a friend and I'm still uncertain how to rate it, especially as I haven't rated the book text itself elsewhere. I'll try to address both here, the book content and the quality of the audio book.
The audiobook itself is quite good. The narration is strong and does a lot to flesh out the narration voice -- indeed, I think the narrator manages to make an otherwise forgettable or even unlikeable character very sympathetic. The wry humor and deep weariness of the narrative voice comes through loud and clear, and it does a lot towards creating the atmosphere that this book is trying to evoke: when a major plot point is that the weary heroes cannot sleep or all will be lost, it's a plus to have a weary-sounding narrator. And it works very well as a whole.
The book itself I'm less enthused over. I recognize that this is a book from the 1950s and was revolutionary in its own way, but sometimes it doesn't feel like it has aged well. There's some casual misogyny here that may be distracting to the reader, and the heroes don't always face their apocalypse very sensibly. Readers will figure out major plot points long before the characters do, which makes them sometimes seem willfully obtuse. (This is one of the unfortunate side-effects of modern readers being genre-savvy to this form of literature, I suppose.)
Early in the stages of the apocalypse, the reasons given for why the heroes can't go to the authorities for help seem sort of flimsy, culminating at a point where they manage to call someone in Washington in order to register concern only to be talked out of it because, meh, it all seems kind of silly so nevermind. I get that this is supposed to be a commentary on the inefficient authorities against internal threats, but you'd think once you got through the phone lines, you'd at least TRY to register that stuff is about to go very, very badly.
Overall, if you already know you enjoy this book, I think you'll be pleased with the audiobook version. If you've heard of the book because it was groundbreaking for its time, and if you don't mind some of the usual flaws of 1950s science fiction -- genre-ignorant characters and sometimes very slow pacing -- then you may well enjoy this book. I give it 3 stars for the text and 5 stars for the narration itself.
~ Ana Mardoll