Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

4.2 9
by Jack Finney

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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,

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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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

While Miles's patients start remarking about loved ones not seeming to be themselves, he merely chalks it up to paranoia. However, when he becomes witness to a distinct but subtle change in the personality of some townspeople, he and his friends realize something is afoot. Their fears are realized as they stumble upon faceless corpses and strange pods. But the "pod people" are spreading fast, and Miles is running out of places to hide and people to help him. Finney's classic tale of alien invasion is recreated anew with more terror than the book or the film. Tabori delivers a performance that will chill listeners with his intensity and sense of urgency. His lightly raspy and mature voice works perfectly through the first-person perspective of Miles. He captures the mood and adjusts his pitch, speed and tone accordingly. By the end of this production, listeners will believe they are listening to Miles himself and not just some narrator. A brief interview with Tabori at the end reveals that he's the son of Don Siegel, who directed the original 1957 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. A Touchstone paperback. (July)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Novelist Jack Finney (1911-95) had a big, long, successful career, and is probably the most influential science fiction writer you have never heard of.

Since his death nearly twenty years ago, his name has decidedly fallen from general recognition. Yet Hollywood once turned half a dozen of his books into major films, including Good Neighbor Sam, with Jack Lemmon, and Assault on a Queen, with Frank Sinatra. With a single novel from 1970, Time and Again, Finney brilliantly expanded and codified the subgenre we might call "timeslip romance," which today provides a nice living for scores of writers, and pleasure to thousands of readers. Many of his well-wrought Bradburian short stories, exhibiting a wistful and spooky vein of nostalgia, continue to be admired by fans.

And then of course, standing above all, there is The Body Snatchers, serialized in Collier's magazine in 1954, distributed in book form the following year, and then cinematically incarnated in 1956 as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the ultimately more famous title attached to subsequent printings of the original. Filmed four times in total, this book constitutes the flawless execution of one of science fiction's "power chords," namely the "alien invasion via subterfuge." Now, with a re-release from Olive Films of the primal Don Siegel-directed outing, we have a springboard to reassess Finney's contribution to the mythic hoard of modern literary paranoia, and to see how his vision has been transformed over successive generations of interpreters.

The mighty theme of alien invasion through deceptive mimicry had its best and most forceful early crystallization in the 1938 story "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell (filmed initially as The Thing from Another World (1951), with later reboots). Donald Wollheim conceived of his "Mimic" in 1942, although it would take until 1997 for the story to achieve life on the big screen under the guidance of Guillermo del Toro. In 1948, Ray Bradbury gave us "Mars Is Heaven!" wherein human astronauts landing on the Red Planet are seduced by doppelgangers of their loved ones — Martians in disguise.

1953's It Came from Outer Space, marked perhaps the first filmic instance of the trope — given that The Thing from Another World omitted Campbell's central riff of shape- changing. And absolutely simultaneous with Finney's book Philip K. Dick delivered "The Father-Thing." Certainly, after 1956 the notion was in wide circulation: I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958) begat The Invaders (1967), and so on. But there were things about Finney's novel that made it the new and persistent gold standard for such tales. Deftness of telling, sheer narrative brio, and craft are matched by the book's multivalency: multiple and fresh layers of meaning, symbolism, and interpretation.

Finney wisely chooses a first-person narrator for immediacy of impact, a man of science, Dr. Miles Bennell, M.D. A young small-town doctor in Santa Mira, California, Miles is hip without being a jerk. Instantly apprehendable and likable, Miles — by implicit virtue of surviving to recount his tale — also offers a rock the reader can lean on through whatever horrors lie ahead. The choice of California — archetypical hopeful American frontier and La-la Land both — was essential as well. Farewell to fustily haunted Europe or New England!

We are swiftly and vividly introduced to the milieu and the cast, especially Becky Driscoll, who will become Miles's love interest. Equally quickly, we learn of the strange phenomenon in town: people are reporting that their loved ones are "different" somehow, inexplicably replaced by perfect imposters. Miles consults local psychiatrists, is almost convinced to dismiss the notion, and then is treated to physical proof of the truth behind the fears. His writer pal Jack (with wife Theodora) has found a growing alien clone of himself in his basement. All of this within the first quarter of what is a very short novel by today's standards, under 200 pages. (Oh, for the days of lean and streamlined horror bestsellers! Are you listening, Justin Cronin?)

From here, events spill out rapidly. The scope and nature of what amounts to an alien invasion by "pod people," centered on Santa Mira, becomes explicit, thanks to the detective work by our quartet, who are struggling with no certainty, all other citizens being potential enemies. They trace the origin of the plague, try to fight back, are caught, escape, are cornered, and, then when all seems over for Miles and Becky, they are saved by the capitulation of the pods, who depart Earth en masse in a moment of previously unheralded anti-gravitic powers: the book's scientifically weakest moment, but still somehow satisfyingly fit and resonant.

Finney's sharp, efficient, bright-eyed characterization; his ability to capture contemporary life in a homey way that renders the terror all the sharper; his speedy pacing; and his suspenseful, logical but twisty plotting all make for a gripping, roller-coaster read. So much so that the reader might only begin to contemplate the many levels of higher meaning in Finney's book after the final page.

First: Can we trust Miles's narration? Maybe he and the others are all delusional, sufferers of what has come to be known in clinical terms as "Capgras Syndrome." It's a theory propounded but not totally resolved by the characters themselves. Ultimately, I think the reader has to come down on the side of "this is really happening." But the niggling uncertainty is never 100 percent dismissed, especially since the town finally reverts to normality with no apparent repercussions.

The curious biological nature of the invaders is also never decided. Animal, vegetable, mineral, or all three? And are they Darwinically superior to us? Their indeterminate place in the chain of creation endows them with a unique eerie quality. Considering their synchronization with the human sleep cycle (that's when they do their growing and stealing of personalities), they might even be terrestrial, or "monsters from the id," to use the terminology from Forbidden Planet, a film also from 1956. (Why are the pods always in the basements of houses, the subcellar of consciousness?) Finney even invokes, in all but name, famed paranormal expert Charles Fort, who focused on Earth-born phenomena, hinting at an immemorial link between pods and humans.

Also tied up in the nature of the invaders is human sexuality. The erotic tension between Miles and Becky somehow mirrors what the pods are doing to their victims, especially in the scene where the two humans are in bed in a motel, and Miles forces himself to resist having sex with Becky while she sleeps, almost as if it would be a pod-like transgression on his part. On an allied plane, the pods are like children, growing to usurp the role of their "parents."

The exact nature of the change in the victims is highly charged in an existentially intriguing manner. We are told that the pod people are perfect recreations of their victims, save for two factors: no emotions, and a subconscious set of alien memories. It's little wonder that this has continued to resonate as computer science and SF have together explored increasingly virtual worlds, populated by simulacra.

Yet, on another level, echoes of still-recent totalitarian atrocities and the Holocaust itself are impossible to ignore. When the entire town, including all the authority figures, becomes complicit, and the replacement citizens assemble in the town square to receive their marching orders, the readers of 1956, with World War II so fresh in mind, would surely have flashed intensely on the roundup of Jews by the Nazis, with at minimum the tacit consent of the non-Jewish populace. The role of our four heroes as Resistance fighters becomes clear then too.

But the most powerful multivalency of the book lies in the allegorical identity of the pod people. Can they be reliably mapped onto a 1954 sociopolitical-cultural spectrum? Are they Communists or McCarthyites? Liberals or conservatives? Sheep-like Levittown consumers or nihilistic beatniks? Elites or downtrodden proles? Finney carefully withholds all commitments to any one interpretation, leaving his book just as beautifully and powerfully open-ended almost sixty years onward.

Author of several acclaimed novels and story collections, including Fractal Paisleys, Little Doors, and Neutrino Drag, Paul Di Filippo was nominated for a Sturgeon Award, a Hugo Award, and a World Fantasy Award — all in a single year. William Gibson has called his work "spooky, haunting, and hilarious." His reviews have appeared in The Washington Post, Science Fiction Weekly, Asimov's Magazine, andThe San Francisco Chronicle.

Reviewer: Paul Di Filippo

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Product Details

Publication date:
Edition description:
1st fireside ed
Product dimensions:
5.44(w) x 8.45(h) x 0.54(d)

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The Invasion of the Body Snatchers 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a big fan of the 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I enjoyed reading the 1955 novel on which it was based. Finney's book inspired Steven King in fact he wrote the introduction to my copy. The story is simple patients begin fearfully complaining to Doctor Miles Bennell that their loved ones have been replaced by identical duplicates. Bennell, dubious at first, begins to believe the assertions when he is confronted with more concrete evidence. The novel works by slowly building an eerie sense of foreboding. This isn't a typical horror book in fact I would qualify it more as science fiction. Finney errs by explaining a bit too much in the last third of the story, and the ending seems contrived -- the original film corrected this to a degree but still had a tacked-on happy ending at the studio's insistence. I enjoyed it, but it does feel somewhat dated and the plot doesn't really hold together well down the stretch. NOTE: Finney re-wrote portions of the book in the mid-1970s, moving the story from the fictional Santa Mira to the real-life town of Mill Valley, California, and some plot details were changed as well. I read the revised version.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Scarier than the movie versions and they were both great
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Overall, the story was pretty good. The first 50 pages started out kinda slow. It had it's few suspenseful moments, but all-in-all it was an enjoyable read. It was no edge-of-your-seat thriller, but it was pretty good. I liked the idea of the pods and the importance of the pods and what happens to the people later. I keep in consideration that this story was written in the 1950's so maybe that has something to do with it's mild-intensity. If this story was written today, it may have been more intense with blood or gore. Who knows, but overall I was pleased. I never for one moment wanted to stop reading it because of boredom. It kept my interest peaked. I give it 3 out of 5 stars. With Barnes & Noble standards that means it's ok but not great.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dont you want to know how it feels like to think that your loved ones are not actually what you think they appear to be? They are aliens who tooken over their bodies. And had planned to take over the world? Wouldnt you like to know how that'll feel like? Well this book is amazing for that, it builds up alotta suspense in this story, alotta freaky things happen in this book. The major theme for the dominant way of looking at life in this book is that life is short, some pretty freaky unexpected things can happen. The significant characters of the story is Dr. Miles Bennell, a local doctor, sotic health inspector, who finds a rash of patients accusing their loved ones of being impostors and discovers that the people of his home city are being replaced by simulations grown from plantlike pods, perfect physical duplicates that kill and dispose of their human victims. Another significant character is Becky, the one who tells Dr. Miles about Wilma and her not thinking that her loved ones, which is her uncle and aunt, are acting like themselves lately. And how this case ever gotten opened up with. She is like Dr. Miles assistant or sidekick in this investigation. Another character is Dr. Dan Kaufman, the town's only psychiatrist, indifferent doctor, who also has had a number of troubling referrals in the past few weeks, and who dismisses the cases of delusional paranoia as in 'epidemic mass hysteria'. Another character Jack Belicec, an intellectual friend of Dr. Miles, who asks Dr. Miles and Becky to come over. He shows them both a strange, corpse-like cadaver lying on his pool table-with an unfinished, half-formed, mannequin-like humanoid face and no fingerprints. The setting of this story is significant to the story because it shows that the setting which is California, LA. Is a normal, peaceful, quiet place and that anything could unexpectedly happen to a kind of place like that. It has some relative importance to the story. A different setting for this story wouldn't make it possible to work. This story can work with any setting whatsoever. The major conflict or controversy in this story is between the people who knows what has been going on and are trying to find out how in an investigation and the aliens or whatever they're called whom replaced the bodies of the characters' loved one. The writer, Jack Finney, likes to use dark elements of evil, and he uses suspense alot, because he wants to make his readers want to know what happens next. He uses some flashbacks in the story. Suspense he uses of how the ending is going to turn out like. The author uses this time of element to give readers, and get them hooked on this book and interested. The significance to the character and the overall story/point of the author is that Dr. Miles Bennell plays a good part in trying to find out what's wrong with the investigation and the people who say that their loved ones have been replaced by aliens and at the same time he's trying to rekindle his romantic/love life with Becky. This book is a 1st point of view, you can only see through Dr. Miles mind. The narrator is full reliable, the point of view cannot be changed. The author did everything well, I really liked this book and I recommend to book to anyone who likes suspense and crime investigation kinds of book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Dr. Miles Bennell is a small town practitioner in a small town in the middle of no where in California with one road in and out, either way. He is confronted by his nurse and several people in town with a sudden epidemic. Everyone is not the same anymore. Becky Driscoll (Miles' highschool girlfriend) has an uncle, Uncle Ira, who came down with this 'disease' only his middle aged neice, Wilma, can notice. With this in mind, everyone else comes down with this sickness that only close friends notice. Soon enough, Becky and Miles are on the run in a Sci-fi horror classic. A must read for science fiction junkies. Drink and enjoy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Why is this not available as a nook book???
Guest More than 1 year ago
So far I am on page 50 and some interesting stuff is starting to happen. This is my first 'sci-fi' and right now it's not too bad. It started out a little slow, but then some interesting events have started happening so now my interest is peaked. Not an edge of the seat thriller so far, but pretty good nonetheless. I will rate again once I am finished.