I loved reading Cold Skin so much that I scoured the bookstores for any other books by Albert Sanchez Piñol. Yesterday I received an email about a new book by Piñol. I rushed to Amazon and bought the first copy I could find. You should know that Piñol is a Catalonian writer, from Barcelona, and his book has been translated into English (along with 28 other languages). So it shouldn’t surprise you that the copy I bought of Pandora En El Congo was in Spanish. I panicked. I know I wanted to read this novel and I wouldn’t wait for the eventual translation for the U.S. markets. I dug around on the Internet and found a copy of Pandora In The Congo on Amazon UK. Of course with the dollar buying what it does, the hardback, with shipping, cost me nearly $50. So why go through such an effort for a book? The answer lies in his first novel, Cold Skin. Read it and you’ll be addicted like I am. Check it out at Amazon.
There are copious reviews of this novel, more than I can count. Try reading a few: lletra, The Agony Column Book Review, The Complete Review. What I’ve found so compelling about Piñol’s novel is what it doesn’t have. I love reading horror, but so many of the novels out these days lack characters with any depth. The genre format is a cookie-cutter plot: insert psycho killer here, the requisite devil’s pentagram there. Not that there’s anything wrong with these things when they’re done right. But often they’re not. Cold Skin is a horror novel, but it steers way off course from genre.
Piñol writes with a literary flair. His commentary on what monstrosities lies at the core of humanity drives the book from page one (reminiscent of Heart of Darkness). Yet he also dives so deeply into fear that Cold Skin should not be considered literary fiction either.
Cold Skin is Robinson Crusoe turned on its head. There are only two characters in the story (humans that is). The isolation on the sliver of land near Antarctica is as compelling as frog-monsters that slink from the ocean waves each night. The creepy atmosphere works so completely on the reader’s mind that I found myself turning on the light at night just to walk to the bathroom. I devoured this work of terror, gore and sex in only a few days (I’m a slow reader, so that’s quick for me).
I anticipate Pandora In The Congo to be equally compelling. I will pounce on it as soon as it jumps the pond. Until then, I leave you with a quote:
“There are times when we must bargain for our future with the past. You sit on a lonely rock and try to negotiate between the devastating failures that came before and the utter darkness that is on its way. In that sense, I trusted that the passage of time, contemplation, and distance would work miracles. Nothing less would have brought me to that island.”