An alternately brilliant and frustrating novel, COLD SKIN reads like a fever dream. Piñol has lots to say about war, colonialism, the cyclical nature of history, and man’s inhumanity to man (and woman) in this allegory of a mostly deserted island being attacked nightly by strangely humanoid sea creatures. I enjoyed the novel very much, but I found myself stymied at times by two important elements. First, the prose is often too spare for its own good, which may or may not be a translation issue. Piñol is an excellent writer, frequently utilizing delightful or deeply profound turns of phrase. However, there are also times when I felt the thinness of the prose left certain important themes, actions, and motivations less deeply explored than I would have liked. The second is that our protagonist, a nameless first-person narrator, is no better than the antagonist, the madman Gruner with whom he is trapped on the island. It left me with little to root for other than the sea creatures themselves, which may have been Piñol’s point. I felt this way until the novel’s absolutely perfect ending, which to my surprise relies on this very moral disconnect to work so perfectly. In the end, COLD SKIN is one of those novels that stays with you and keeps you thinking about it for days afterward. It’s extremely well written, despite the spareness of the prose, and worthy of its praise from authors like David Mitchell and Yann Martel. Highly recommended to anyone interested.
Surprise! I’m going to be at Lunacon this weekend! Alas, I can only be there on Saturday, April 8th, but you can still find me on programming at these times:
10:30 AM – Reading (Dutchess). I’m not sure what I’m going to read yet. Maybe something from the novel in progress?
11:00 AM – Telling the Monster’s Tale, with Darrell Schweitzer (moderator), Elektra Hammond, Pauline J. Alama, Nicholas Kaufmann, Kate Paulk (Hudson). This is a writing workshop in which we’ll be focusing on writing from the monster’s perspective.
12:00 AM – Confronting the Monster, with Orin Davis (moderator), Bob Eggleton, Chris Adams, Terence Taylor, Matthew Shean, Rick Bowes, Nicholas Kaufmann (Grand Ballroom G). This should be a very fun and informative panel on “the monster within” and how it informs our work.
That’s a lot of monster talk for one man, but hey, when something’s in your wheelhouse… In fact, they also initially put me on a 7 PM writing workshop called Children Are Afraid of Monsters, along with the venerable John Langan and others, but I’ve had to let the convention know that unfortunately I won’t be able to stay late enough to be part of it. You’re in good hands with Langan!
This is my first time attending Lunacon, and I’m excited to see what it’s all about. If you can’t make it to any of my events Saturday morning, you’re sure to see me wandering around the convention until late afternoon. Come say hi!