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review 2019-08-01 02:42
Skin by Kathe Koja
Skin - Kathe Koja

I originally read Skin when it was first released in 1993 by Dell Abyss back when they had their horror line. I remember stalking my local bookstores for their titles and now those bookstores are long gone. I miss those days. Because my memory is poo and it was over 20 years ago (OMG!), I remembered none of the little details and only had vague memories of it disturbing me in the best way. I’m so glad I had the chance to revisit it again on audio and I’m thrilled that it held up to my memories and I could love it all over again. This book is something special and even now, so many years later, it managed to disturb and entrance me.

Tess is a welder who sculpts amazingly eerie pieces out of scraps of metal. Bibi is a performance artist into body modification who wants Tess to become a part of her group when she spots her work. Tess melds metal into moving pieces that fit into Bibi’s vision of the dark and bloody show she wants to create. The show becomes a huge underground hit melding flesh and pain awash in blood but the show is only the beginning step in this horrifying body horror tale.

Skin is about taking things to the extreme, yes, but also so much more. Bibi is all sharp angles and metal and torn and scarred skin and she has an intoxicating effect on Tess and all of those around her -intoxicating to the point of obsession and blind worship. Skin is about love and sex and friendship and toxic relationships but mostly it is about obsession and all of its nasty little tentacles and what happens when one takes things too far. It is an experience.

The prose is different and unlike anyone else I’ve read in all of these in-between years. It’s descriptive and to the point without being overly wordy. A scene is clearly and thoroughly set within a few words or a sentence. It’s a little stream of consciousness at times but never in a mind-numbing way. It’s amazing and it may take you a moment to adjust and it is SO hard to describe so I’ll just give you the opening lines.

“Dust. Above a party store, LIQUOR, LOTTO, keno machines fed by the poorest of the poor with coins rattled black by pocket tumbling, machine sounds nervous as a nervous cough. Grit-rimmed eyes, grit beneath her nails like powdered bone, fresh solder burn on her inner wrist a party-red, still too sore even to bandage. Dirt like sugar between her teeth.”

Dirt like sugar between her teeth. I LOVE that.

It evokes images in such a unique way that plunged me right into its dark, moody world. This isn’t a book you can skim (nor would you want to). You have to pay attention because the pace is fast. I usually speed up my audios but this is one where you won’t want to do that. Narrator Suzanne Fortin does a great job with the tricky prose. She emotes when needed, her cadence and tone fit the story and she never lost my attention. I have no complaints about anything. It’s a miracle, haha.

This is body horror so be ready for that. It is gory and disturbing but it’s all written in a way that doesn’t smack you over the head with it. That doesn’t mean it won’t make you cringe. Honestly, I think it’s more unsettling for just that reason. I don’t know how Koja managed this but she did it amazingly well.

Bonus recommendation: Have you seen the movie American Mary? It’s focused on one obsession in this book and would be a fun companion piece (if you find this stuff fun). It’s about people into extreme body modification and it is so horrifying that I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. You probably won’t be able to turn your eyes away either, even if you should.

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review 2019-07-25 16:42
SKIN by Kathy Koja, narrated by Suzanne T. Fortin
Skin - Crossroad Press,Suzanne Fortin,Kathe Koja

SKIN was way out of my comfort zone, but I'm so glad I gave it a shot. It was amazing!


This is the story of two women, Tess and Bibi. Artists. Body Art. Performance Art. Body Horror. Body modifications. Cutting. Lesbians. Bisexuals. Heart. Sculpture. Welding. Feeling. Cult Mentality. Hangers-on. Groupies. Darkness. Death. Wish you were dead. Wish I was dead. And finally? Love. I love you.


Written in a prose that was sharp, stabbing, and staccato-like, SKIN takes some getting used to. I took a stab at it above, (get it? HA!), and it's much harder than it looks. (Or in this case, harder than it sounds, since I listened to this on audio.) I was amazed at how much the author was able to get across in so few words. Seriously, I was and still am astonished by it all.


I don't want to go into the plot too much, because it should unfold as the author intended. However, I did feel for these characters, I felt their pain and their need to be heard and loved. Though at other times I wanted to punch them both in the face. Either way, this book reached out to me and made me FEEL. Also, I feel like I accomplished something by surviving the experience, because this book was brutal at times.


At first I didn't care for the narration at all, but then I realized it was the prose that bothered me. As I said above, it takes some getting used to. Once I was more familiar with the writing style, the narration settled right into my head and this became more of a visual experience than a literary one. I'm not sure I'm making sense here, but looking at the other reviews, I don't think I'm the only one having trouble describing this book.


It's gory, heartbreaking, thrilling, cringe-inducing stuff. SKIN makes you think, it makes you face your fears, even as the characters attempt to face theirs. This tale isn't going to work for everyone, but it certainly worked for me!


Highly recommended!


*I was provided an Audible Audio code for this book by the narrator, in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*

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review 2018-10-26 00:00
Skin - Kathe Koja The horror in this book was more subtle than I expected. It was mostly a feeling that there's something wrong here, and not so much an in-your-face gore fest, though there was a bit of that too. Overall a unique read, unlike anything I've seen before.
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text 2015-07-04 15:59
Top 5 Reads of 2015 (so far)
Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury
We Are All Completely Fine - Daryl Gregory
The Cipher - Kathe Koja
Bubba Ho-Tep - Joe R. Lansdale,Don Coscarelli
Kiss Me, Judas - Will Christopher Baer
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review 2015-05-21 00:00
The Cipher
The Cipher - Kathe Koja I came across this book on a few "best horror" book lists. If this is one of the best I'd hate to read the worst.
The actual premise of the book could have been a good short story with a better author.
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