At first glance, this book seems undoubtedly science fiction. It is set in our modern world, where in the shadows lurks an alien creature who is disguised as a human. She hunts other humans, predominantly males, to send back to her home world. The reason? Her people are hungry, and well, we’re the menu. It’s a very simple premise in terms of science fiction, and because it’s pretty horrifying I think this book is much better suited to the horror genre.
Now, this certainly isn’t what you’d call a classic horror novel. There’s none of the typical cliché tropes: ghosts, a haunted house, spooky scenes set at night or a crazy murderer. Weirdly enough, you can’t help but feel pity for the main character who, from our perspectives as humans, is actually depicted as this murderous villain. She’s compelling and has a great transformation throughout the book, so much so that the ending left me feeling rather frustrated. The true horrifying impact of this book actually comes after you’ve finished reading.
the book definitely had some scenes that made me feel sick to my stomach while reading
What is most chilling is that the alien creatures refer to themselves as “humans”, and give another name to the actual humans they are hunting, as a way to justify their actions. Of course these aliens, despite being called “humans”, do not act in humane ways at all. They treat their food source as just meat, despite the fact we’re obviously capable of feelings and intelligence. I’m sure this is sounding a bit too familiar. There’s definitely an underlying argument for veganism running throughout, but I won’t get into that here. Essentially then, the real horror of the novel lies in what it reveals about our own realities. In our own world outside of this book, the real enemy is us and we’re just like these aliens.
As well as this haunting after effect, the book definitely had some scenes that made me feel sick to my stomach while reading. At one point the word “mercy” is written out and is misread as “murky”. The aliens (or humans) don’t actually have any concept of what this word means in their own world. The word “murky” crops up a few more times in the book and it just makes the scene even more unsettling. Without the concept of mercy, can someone really be human?
There’s also a rather disturbing film adaptation of the book under the same name
The true appearance of the main character isn’t pretty either. The aliens have long necks, are naked on all fours, covered in fur and large eyes at the front of their heads. When I was reading the only thing I could really imagine was a llama but with a human face. Perhaps the image of a llama isn’t that scary to you, but I feel like if I met one that had human eyes and a grasp of our language I’d be pretty horrified. Also, I won’t spoil anything, but remember these aliens aren’t shape-shifters and so it would take a lot more than a bit of plastic surgery to get them to resemble us.
There’s also a rather disturbing film adaptation of the book under the same name, which personally I’m not a fan of, because without knowledge of the book it doesn’t make much sense. But independent from the book, it’s definitely perfect for the spooky season. The way it’s filmed is rather jarring – at some points there’s just two characters on the screen with a completely black background. As a whole the movie also seems pretty low budget, despite somehow landing Scarlett Johannsen as the lead, yet I think this actually works in the film’s favour. It makes it even more uncomfortable to watch.
So, if you’re looking for a book (and a bonus film) that’ll definitely make your skin crawl this Halloween, then I recommend having a look at this book.