The Body Snatchers

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For other uses, see Body Snatcher.
The Body Snatchers
Dell1st042.jpg
First edition cover illustrated by John McDermott
Author Jack Finney
Country United States
Language English
Genre Science fiction novel
Publisher Dell Books
Publication date
1955
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 191 pp
OCLC 7148659

The Body Snatchers is a 1955 science fiction novel by Jack Finney, originally serialized in Colliers Magazine in 1954, which describes the fictional town of Mill Valley, California, being invaded by seeds that have drifted to Earth from space. The seeds replace sleeping people with perfect physical duplicates grown from plantlike pods, while their human victims turn to dust.

The duplicates live only five years, and they cannot sexually reproduce; consequently, if unstopped, they will quickly turn Earth into a dead planet and move on to the next world. One of the duplicate invaders suggests that this is what all humans do; use up resources, wipe out indigenous populations, and destroy ecosystems in the name of survival.

The novel has been adapted for the screen four times; the first film in 1956, the second in 1978, the third in 1993, and the most recent in 2007. Unlike two of the film adaptations, the novel contains an optimistic ending, with the aliens voluntarily vacating after deciding that they cannot tolerate the type of resistance they see in the main characters.

Critical reception[edit]

In 1967, Damon Knight criticized the novel's scientific incoherence...[1]

The seed pods, says Finney, drifted across interstellar space to Earth, propelled by light pressure. This echoes a familiar notion, the spore theory of Arrhenius. But the spores referred to are among the smallest living things - small enough to be knocked around by hydrogen molecules...In confusing these minute particles with three-foot seed pods, Finney invalidates his whole argument - and makes ludicrous nonsense of the final scene in which the pods, defeated, float up into the sky to hunt another planet.

...and its crude plot development:

Almost from the beginning, the characters follow the author's logic rather than their own. Bennell and his friends, intelligent and capable people, exhibit an invincible stupidity whenever normal intelligence would allow them to get ahead with the mystery too fast. When they have four undeveloped seed pods on their hands, for instance, they do none of the obvious things -- make no tests, take no photographs, display the objects to no witnesses. Bennell, a practicing physician, never thinks of X-raying the pods.

Under Jack Finney's entry in The Science Fiction Encyclopedia, John Clute remarks concerning the novel:[2]

Horrifyingly depicts the invasion of a small town by interstellar spores that duplicate human beings, reducing them to dust in the process; the menacing spore-people who remain symbolize, it has been argued, the loss of freedom in contemporary society. Jack Finney's further books are slickly told but less involving.

Galaxy reviewer Groff Conklin faulted the original edition, declaring that "Too many s-f novels lack outstanding originality, but this one lacks it to an outstanding degree."[3] Anthony Boucher found it to be "intensely readable and unpredictably ingenious" despite noticeable inconsistencies and its sometimes lack of scientific accuracy.[4] P. Schuyler Miller reported that, once Finney sets out his premise, the novel becomes "a straight chase yarn, with several nice gimmicks and a not entirely convincing denouement."[5]

Editions[edit]

First edition[edit]

  • Finney, Jack (c. 1955). The Body Snatchers. Dell. 

Revised edition[edit]

  • Finney, Jack (c1954, 1955, 1978). Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Revised and updated ed.). New York: Dell. 

Film adaptations[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Knight, Damon (March 1967). "Half-Bad Writers". In Search of Wonder (2nd ed.). Chicago: Advent. pp. 72–75. ISBN 0-911682-15-5. 
  2. ^ Clute, John (1979). The Science Fiction Encyclopedia. New York: Doubleday & Co, Inc. ISBN 0-385-13000-7. 
  3. ^ "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf", Galaxy Science Fiction, July 1955, p.92
  4. ^ "Recommended Reading," F&SF, May 1955, pp.71.
  5. ^ Miller, P. Schuyler. "The Reference Library," Astounding Science-Fiction, September 1955, pp.151-52.

External links[edit]