The Body Snatchers  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Body Snatchers is a 1955 science fiction novel by Jack Finney, originally serialized in Colliers Magazine in 1954, which describes the town of Mill Valley 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.

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

Damon Knight criticized the novel's scientific incoherence:

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:

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.


First edition

  • Finney, Jack. The Body Snatchers. New York : Dell, c1955

Revised edition

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

Film adaptations

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Body Snatchers" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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