Wednesday, May 30, 2012

SF/F: Under My Skin by Charles de Lint

Charles de Lint is one of the ranking names in SF/F. With 36 novels to his credit, as well as 36 collections of short fiction, he is prolific as well as fiercely talented.

While de Lint has published fiction for young readers in the past, those works have been much overshadowed by his novels and stories for adults. For instance, 2007’s Little (Grrl) Lost and The Painted Boy from 2010 seem to have been well enough liked by both readers and critics, but they didn’t ever get the kind of traction we know this writer is capable of. Under My Skin (RazorBill) is different and we can’t help but think that it will receive at least part of the attention a book with this pedigree deserves.

The premise is very good. Something is happening to the young people in a town called Santa Feliz. And the thing that is happening is so dramatic, it’s difficult to believe. The kids are changing shape: shedding their human forms and becoming various animals. Basically, if you can think of it, the animal is represented. These are shape-shifters with a difference.

The action focuses on Josh Saunders who shifts for the first time during an argument with his mother’s boyfriend that, from Josh’s perspective, goes from argument to Josh standing over the man, as blood drips from his mountain lion claws. Josh’s experience almost undoes him, but he will emerge from his experience as one of the leaders of the wildlings.

de Lint is credited with the creation of the urban fantasy and readers will encounter that in this story. The setting is perfectly contemporary -- anytown and any group of kids. In a way, that’s what makes the story so chilling and helps make it work this well.

As well, de Lint captures the voice and concerns of youth perfectly in this novel. The master storyteller at play. The book is a wonderful exploration of a very good idea, but it is also a deeply human tale. ◊

Lincoln Cho is a freelance writer and editor. He lives in the Chicago area, where he works in the high-tech industry. He is currently working on a his first novel, a science-fiction thriller set in the world of telecommunications.

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