Snatch Squad

Jack Finney. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Prion Books, 1999.

Originally published in 1954 as a three-part series in Collier's Magazine, titled "The Body Snatchers", this gripping story of alien possession has served as the direct inspiration for three Hollywood movies.

It was first published in book form in 1955 with the more familiar "Invasion of . . . " prefix, but Don Siegel's film version, which appeared in 1956, set new standards in science fiction cinema and Cold War paranoia.

Going back to the original book, which has not been available in the UK for the past 20 years, you can appreciate the snappy dialogue and the laughable pulp-fiction earnestness of the characters. Philip Kaufman's 1978 film version is faithful to the book in its references to weird/Fortean news clippings. One of the characters, Jack Belicecs, says he has clipped "a couple hundred queer little happenings" and the book itself ends:

"You read these occasional queer little stories, humorously written, tongue-in-cheek, most of the time; or you hear vague distorted rumours of them. And this much I know. Some of them - some of them - are quite true."

This queer story of aliens replicating and replacing humans is the stuff of nightmares. Film experts and SF fans have noted how this taking-over of human minds and bodies is a great metaphor for Communism, and/or the numbing and dumbing effects of modern technological society. In the sectors of ufology where people actually claim to represent aliens, or that their actions are controlled by them, this story is virtually a documentary for their own tortured lives.

Strangely enough the blurb on the book does not mention Abel Ferrara's 1993 release, Body Snatchers. At the time, I wrote that this film "neatly articulates the fear of beings out there that are cold, methodical, emotionless, who by sheer weight of numbers infiltrate and take us over" (Strange Magazine, No. 14). In this version the invaders are more clearly metaphors for our growing indifference and fear of our neighbours, the threat of ecological doom and the spread of AIDS.

This book is a key text on the fear of alien invasion and the loss of human identity, and deserves to be on all ufologists' shelves. More importantly it warns us what one too many news clippings can do to us.
-- Nigel Watson, from Magonia [Monthly] Supplement 17, July 1999.

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