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on 8 November 2010
My purchase of this book was spurred by a curiosity to read the stimulus for one of my father's greatest films:'Invasion of The body Snatchers'a 1950's cult classic (he tells me.)

Finney's compelling narrative doesn't disappoint, he writes with a fluency and clarity of prose akin to that of Stephen King. Behind the curiously dated 1950's furniture and haze of cigarette smoke lies a gripping tale of us and them, good versus evil. Forget the over analytical assertions towards the free world v communism in post McCarthyist USA, this is the story of a desparate fight to escape and survive - basic instincts of all of us.It is a story convincingly crafted and very well told.

Finney's writing has even the most scientific and sceptical of readers thinking that there may be some truth in those newspaper tales of spontaneous human combustion, crop circles and alien abduction and do you know what it's liberating!
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on 24 December 2010
Here's another of those names that deserve to be better known, in my opinion. Though Jack Finney is a name you may have heard of, I doubt it's one that immediately springs to mind in the SF canon, even though Jack was the recipient of the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1987, and Time and Again (1970) is often seen as one of the best time travel tales of all time, though not widely known.

And that's a shame. Jack is one of those authors whose writing has been better well known through the films of his work, rather than the actual book.

So here's perhaps a good place to start, with a re-evaluation of one of his better-known writings.

The Body Snatchers you may know as the films The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (both in 1956 and 1978) and The Invasion (2007). I say that with trepidation, in that knowing of the films perhaps devalues the book: many will say they know the book, having seen the film/s.

But, good though some of those films are, the book for me is subtler, and more refined work. Its apparent effortlessness as it unfolds and its rapid pace belies a work of deceptive power. This is perhaps partly due to the fact that the writer's background in advertising enables him to write with precision and effectiveness.

The story starts with what seems to be a 1950's idyll: August 1953 in small-town America, with a leisurely lifestyle and a homely nature. Our hero of the tale, told in the first person, is Doctor Miles Bennell, who lives a happy existence in Santa Mira (Mill Valley), California. When closing the surgery one night, Miles' childhood friend Becky Driscoll visits to ask about her cousin Wilma's strange behaviour. She doesn't believe that her Uncle Ira is really her Uncle Ira...

Cunningly we are gradually told that this wonderful, if rather dull, life is changing, that people are not the real people. Miles and Becky find that their initial scepticism becomes something that may be real as the number of these cases that are reported increase. Friends also tell of similar cases. Manny Kaufman, a psychologist, is asked for advice. And then acquaintances Theodora and Jack Belicec find something in the garage that is just unbelievable...

The central horror is this: that in idyllic America, all white picket fence and Mom's apple pie, with good people doing good things, we have a secret - that people are not who we think they are and that our friends and loved ones are changed from that which we know and love to something that is bland, conformative, where everyone is a blank canvas, programmed to be part of a communicatively conjoined society. And that is a creepy, illicit and supremely effective horror: it can happen any time, to anybody.

To this we have a character that lives in a place that he's known for most of his life, who has things that have not changed throughout his life, yet seemingly change overnight. It's the spinster librarian who fed Miles's childhood reading habit but turns into something nasty, the main street of people who stop waving and smiling to each other, the decline of trade in the town as the aliens discourage `outsiders' and in fact the blank indifference to outsiders and lack of human contact that creates the horror here.

Things are perfectly ordinary and yet they are not - and that is the horror. This book not only tells of fear, a trepidation of change and the possible decline of a person's sanity, but a loss of things that are ordinary, rational and normal. And that's why, even with its dated moments - it works.

The link between this paranoia and the secret threat of subversive Communism in the 1950's has been made before. The invasion issue is initially left ambiguous in the novel: it is first posed as a psychological phenomenon, or even a dream-like condition, which the new cover shows admirably. Later of course we realise that it is an alien invasion, a point that in the book, unlike the 1956 film, is cleverly and subtly examined, counter-argued and eventually proposed as a viable explanation. By the end you believe that it is a possible and sensible solution.

There are lapses in the tale that show its 1950's origins - the role of women in the tale is rather stereotyped, events are 'queer' and also 'gay', boyfriends and girlfriends in their late-twenties are chaperoned, characters smoke and drink as if they're competing with characters from one of the latest episodes of Mad Men - and yet, at its core is a sense of creeping paranoia, of things not being right, in what should be an idyllic Bradbury-esque small town environment, striking that feeling of unease. (Interestingly, the book was slightly revised in 1978 by Finney to tie in with the second movies release. Here we have the original.)

There's the odd clunk and info-dump, but nothing too jarring.

Would this work as a novel today?

Perhaps not (see the 2007 film The Invasion for why not): and consequently, it is perhaps something that works best as a product of its time. It works when towns were often isolated things, communications between places less common than today and everyone in a settlement knew everyone else.

Is this communism or urbanisation? Is it post-war malaise or something more insidious? That's what makes this book creep, and why it has created one of the genre's most enduring lodestones.

The introduction by Graham Sleight, as you might expect from the Locus writer, is both informative and knowledgeable, though may be best read after you've read the tale. I think there's a great deal of mileage in reading this novel with no background at all: not easy for such a now-well-known genre trope.

In summary, this is a brief, yet still effective tale. Though it has dated a little, it is still powerfully successful. Recommended.
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on 21 November 2016
Whilst, if you've seen the film versions, there is a lot to recognise, the interesting thing is the ending, which I won't spoil for you, but adds a new element that I'd not known about.

There's a bit of a clunky, sappy 50's, man and his little lady vibe, but actually when the going gets rough, the little lady shrugs off the screamer stereotype to wade in.

Great evocation of paranoia whilst at the same time celebrating what's good about being human and it never goes over the top in its depiction of events.

It truly is a classic.
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on 19 January 2011
I have been seeking this book for some time and now with the amazing facilities at Amazon I have located this work.

There are two aspects pertinent to readers with an interest in science fiction who have 1. seen the original movie from 1955 with Kevin McCarthy and 2. those who, incredibly, have not.

For those who have seen the movie, I can confirm that the movie is very true to the book, not surprisingly as Jack Finney created the screenplay. There are still many extras that the film had no time for - such as the delicious scene in the library, and many others. These scenes add to the movie and are worth the purchase costs in their own right. I was surprised that the scenes were excluded, as they would have enhanced the film.

If you have not seen the film, this is a must have book and a superb read, amongst the best of the stories in this genre - comparable to the great 'Who Goes There?' by John W Campbell. Both are stories I wish I had found years ago and I will read over and again!

Fascinatingly the book compliments the film AND VICE VERSA.
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A fantastic story and an excellent read. The book was made into the films of the same name.

The protagonist is a local doctor who is approached by townsfolk claiming that their loved ones have been replaced by an identical clone. At first the doctor thinks it's some kind of hysteria, but he then learns that it's actually true - aliens are invading Earth and cloning the inhabitants one by one.
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on 21 January 2016
I have read this book many times,my paperback version is stuck together with sticky tape, But now I have it on android. If you like a good sci-fi read, you can't go wrong with The Body Snatchers.
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on 11 July 2014
It's really hard to believe that this science fiction book was written in the 50s. Often in novels of this genre that are a bit dated you notice the so-called expiration effect, which affects both the plot, rich of anachronistic elements, but also and especially the style of author (or translator, in this case, as I've read it in Italian), in which expressions that do not belong to our everyday language are evident. In a very surprising way I have not noticed anything like that in "The Body Snatchers". It is a story set in the time in which it was written and contains all its features, but it could have been written yesterday.
Finney involves us in a plot full of mystery, told from the point of view of a doctor of a small California town where people are changing in an indefinable way. Halfway between horror and science fiction this novel drags the reader through its pages, imparting a constant, growing feeling of anxiety until he makes them believe that the protagonists have not really any way to escape.
Unique recognizable aspect of this type of classic science fiction is actually the end in which the threat disappears in an almost random, fortuitous way. The protagonists are not the true markers of their victory, but get to it with amazement. This aspect is perhaps one of my favourites, because I consider it extremely realistic. Often in contemporary novels, the protagonists are heroes, people who, prior normal, take control of the situation and save the world against powerful enemies. A story in which the victory against the villains is due to a waiver of the latter or an outside fortuitous factor returns to the protagonists their normality and allows us, normal readers, to identify ourselves better in their joys and their fears.

Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli, author of Red Desert - Point of No Return
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on 5 September 2015
That was a great read. I've seen lots of the movie adaptations so I had an idea of what was going to happen anyway, but that didn't take anything away from the story.
I was concerned that the book was going to feel dated, with it being written in 1955. It's not. This guy was well ahead of his time! Reading this felt the same as reading something written now a days.
Really good read. I know Finney hasn't written much more than this but I will be taking a look at his other stuff.
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VINE VOICEon 2 September 2011
For a sci-fi novel to still be entertaining and not feel particularly dated over fifty years later is definitely an achievement. The menace that The Body Snatchers builds is still palpable today. With interesting and entertaining leads the much imitated (and indeed re-released) Snatchers is a solid piece of history that should be in every readers to-do list. It's relatively short, although larger than a novella, and refuses to outstay its welcome by remaining sharp and to the point at all times. Go on, invest a couple of hours with it - it won't even feel like nostalgia.
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on 17 December 2014
This is one of Jack Finney's Masterpieces. Not knowing who to trust anymore. Finding a pod in your potting shed...to big for garden peas...so what do they contain???
This is an excellent read and will make you wonder the next time you meet an old friend, and they start to act
strangely, then beware.....
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