A review of the novel COLD SKIN, by Albert Sánchez Piñol
I first learned of Cold Skin when Dark Discussions watched and reviewed the 2018 film last November. When the film was released, most reviewers went on about how it was a “twist” on The Shape of Water. If they’d bothered to look a little deeper, they would’ve realized that it was based on a book of the same title by Albert Sánchez Piñol—and it was published in 2002.
Cold Skin is an elegant rendering of a pair of men stranded at the edge of the Antarctic Circle on the heels of World War I, and what happens to them when they are confronted by beasts—the likes of which no human has previously seen—from the sea. While David Mitchell’s blurb heralds it as “[The] bastard offspring of All Quiet on the Western Front and J.G. Ballard”—and I definitely agree with that—there is so much more going on here.
Dealing with identity, grief, madness, and civilization versus savagery—among other themes—Cold Skin is part Lord of the Flies, part Heart of Darkness, part Moby Dick, part the works of Poe. In the end, the reader is left questioning the definition of sanity, the bond of love, and the consequence of action. While taking itself seriously, it moves at the brisk pace of a tautly-written scarefest, complete with shocking moments that leave indelible impressions. Aside from that, the language is gorgeous (I’m aware that it’s translated) while managing to be clear and succinct. This prose is not bogged down, and the world of this Antarctic island springs to verdant life in just a few brushstrokes.
Honestly, there has been a lot of wonderful horror (and magic realism) writing coming out of Spain. While it’s probably due to the translation, at least in part, the lush, poetic language I’ve discovered in these books puts American work to shame. If you’re tired of the same-old same-old, start looking at Spanish authors. If you like zombies, start with Manel Loureiro’s Apocalypse Z (that whole series is fantastic). Otherwise, definitely climb into Cold Skin.
You can purchase your copy of the novel here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1841958832/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_pQiqDbAPC28G6
The film is on Shudder and is therefore free if you have a subscription. If you don’t, the film is available for rental on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/B07H3M1Z57/ref=cm_sw_em_r_pv_wb_YA0PKLR8MHmz0
Posted on September 15, 2019, in Reviews and tagged Albert Sánchez Piñol, books like Lord of the Flies, books like Moby Dick, books that are set in World War 1, Cold Skin, magic realism books, Spanish horror, stories set in Antarctica, stories with sea monsters. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.
I hadn’t heard of Albert Sanchez Pinol. Thanks for the introduction to this author. I read the “look inside” preview on Amazon and honestly want to read more!
It’s so awesome. Honestly, there is, in my opinion, a LOT of good dark writing coming out of either Spanish or Latin writers. The key is really the translation. I can’t stand Zombie fiction, but Manel Loureiro’s APOCALYPSE Z series–which is three books–has some of the most haunting, gorgeous writing I have EVER read. I couldn’t put those books down. There’s one image he does with a zombie baby that haunts me to this day, and I think I read that first book longer than three years ago, possibly five or six.