Under the Skin by Michael Faber

January 12, 2010
Under the Skin by Michael Faber was a complete reverse of animal rights. It provided you with a well-deserved example of animals considering themselves human, and treating us as animals. It included a perfectly sculpted collage of feminine rights, animal rights, and the tragic Romeo-and-Juliet-type romance between her and Amlis Vess.

Isserley’s character is the typical headstrong, independent woman plowing her way through a world full of patronizing men. You can detect Ensel’s longing for her in the very beginning of the book. How he says “Best one yet!” every time she delivers a vodsel at the front gate. Whether Isserley was aware of his ambiguous infatuation for her, or whether she considered that consistent comment another form of patronization made by a typical man asserting his superiority and making her feel lesser of a being determines on your own interpretation. Personally, I think she convinced herself all men were the same when she was used and abandoned by the male royalty on her home planet. She was sure that all men, Ensel included, would abandon her after they had their fill, so she secluded herself. She refused to allow herself to trust again because of her forced beliefs of men’s cruelty towards their fellow gender. A choice that protected her, but in some ways forced her to disobey the cruelest and most painful part of human nature. Love.

This story portrays a perfect example of the roles of animals and humans reversed. The quote on page 180 says: “ The ceiling was less than seven feet high, and the accumulated steam of cattle breath hung in a haze around the fluorescent strips. The vodsel enclosures, a corona of linked pens all along the walls, took up almost the entire floor space; there was just enough room left down the middle for a walkway…The cages were grimier and more cramped than she remembered; the wooden beams pitted and discolored, the wire mesh soiled, masked in places with the dark putty of feces and other unidentifiable matter. And of course, the livestock added stench and the looming density of flesh…The few remaining monthlings were huddled together in a mound of fast-panting flesh, the divisions between one muscle-bound body and the next difficult to distinguish, the limbs confused…All around the monthlings, their thick spiky carpet of straw glistened with the dark diarrhea of ripeness…Across the neatly swept division, the transitional in the cages opposite squatted torpidly, each on his own little patch of straw. By dividing the available floor space according to an unspoken, instinctual arithmetic, they managed to keep themselves to themselves, if only by inches.” Providing you with perfect imagery of the slaughter house which was ironically butchering human beings instead of animals, and even the actions of the humans which sounded more and more like an animal’s. What surprised me most about this quote was the way the superiors talked about them. Considering them “lifestock” and “cattle” just like humans do to animals in our society now. The employees of this slaughter house also cut out their tongues, leaving them with the inability to speak. The quote on page 183, states “Isserley watched, disturbed, as the vodsel scrawled a five-letter word with great deliberation, even going to the trouble of fashioning each letter upside down, so that it would appear right-way-up for those on the other side of the mesh…Isserley considered the message, which was MERCY…For an instant she racked her brains for a translation, then realized that, by sheer chance, the word was untranslatable into her own tongue; it was a concept that just didn’t exist.” This quote struck me as very strong and emotional. To me, it means that human beings really don’t have a concept of what “mercy” is. Animals beg for mercy every day of abuse, even if it’s one glance they give that shows for one minute they know what’s happening to them, they pray for mercy too. Humans refuse to believe that they do, though. They provide you, and more importantly themselves the lie “They can’t feel pain. They have no idea what’s happening to them,” in order to make themselves feel better about killing an innocent animal. Mercy will never exist as long as humans rule the world.

Amlis Vess attracted Isserley the very day he arrived on Earth. Perhaps it was his rugged good looks that lured her in, or maybe it was the concept of him being a stereotypical “bad boy” and going against his father’s wishes. Isserley had attempted to prevent herself from falling in love with him, but for some unknown reason, Amlis had an interest in her. I think it was because he saw a potential emotional connection between her and the vodsels. He knew that she had the potential to began identifying with them after being around them for so long. He took advantage of her, like every other man she’d ever had in her life. He planted the knowledge that slaughtering those “animals” was wrong, and left her with all that guilt and weight on her shoulders. The heartfelt talk in the transport ship wasn’t a meaningful conversation between two equally beguiled people, it was Amlis’s way of winning Isserley over. She was nothing but a mere convert, and Isserley being the typical love-seeking female, fell for his sensitivity and charm.

Human beings tend to lack the ability to realize wrongfulness unless it’s hurt them directly. This book gives you a whole new perspective, and as you begin to feel sorry for your own kind, you realize that’s not really who it is. “Your own kind” is really the kind you have been taught to patronize, animals, the ones you consider “inferior.” It will leave you with a feeling of hatred towards the human species.

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CatGoddess said...
Jul. 31, 2015 at 3:41 pm
Saw the movie, which I didnt understand so I got the book. It was nothing like the movie, better in fact. It was fantastic. The whole animal rights thing was a pleasant surprise for me, I did not see that coming. Yes, I hate the human race.
joyce_bazar!! said...
Jan. 17, 2010 at 10:43 pm
an awesome book review. it was so good that i bought the book and read it front to back in one day!!!!!!!!
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