Blog Archive

View My Stats
Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Loosening Skin by Aliya Whiteley review



OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFO: Aliya Whiteley writes across many different genres and lengths. Her first published full-length novels, Three Things About Me and Light Reading, were comic crime adventures. Her 2014 SF-horror novella The Beauty was shortlisted for the James Tiptree and Shirley Jackson awards. The following historical-SF novella, The Arrival of Missives, was a finalist for the Campbell Memorial Award, and her noir novel The Loosening Skin was shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke Award.

She has written over one hundred published short stories that have appeared in Interzone, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Black Static, Strange Horizons, The Dark, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and The Guardian, as well as in anthologies such as Unsung Stories’ 2084 and Lonely Planet’s Better than Fiction.

She also writes a regular non-fiction column for Interzone

FORMAT/INFO: The Loosening Skin, published on October 17, 2020 by Unsung Stories, counts 147 pages and is available as ebook and paperback. Cover design by Vince Haig. Cover artwork by Sam Chivers.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Aliya Whiteley’s The Loosening Skin is weird. It pays no attention to genre boundaries and trends. In Whiteley’s world, people shed their skin (and with it their emotions and feelings) every seven years. Or so. Some people, including Rose - the story’s protagonist, shed their skins more often. When Rose sloughs off a layer of herself, she simply abandons everything (and everyone) and starts a new life.

Her ex-lover, a movie icon, can’t get to terms with losing Rose. Poor bloke is still in love with her. He asks her to find a missing skin from his collection (normally, people burn them, not Max, though) and she agrees. The intriguing investigation gives the story a thriller vibe, but it ends quickly. Perhaps too quickly, and this will disappoint readers seduced by the idea of getting into a weird SF whodunnit story. And I get it, that’s what marketing materials promised them. I think negative reviews on Amazon reflect their disappointment. Many readers who bought The Loosening Skin looked for a weird crime story but got a slow-burn literary fiction instead. Whiteley has little interest in action and mystery. She’s more interested in the nature of love, illusions we create to feel good, the role of intimacy in our lives, and the destructive nature of time.

Most of the time we follow Rose, but the third part of the novel involves a switch in POV. It takes a closer look at the repercussions of the discovery of a medication binding people to specific skins. It’s told through the eyes of a member of the Stuck Six, a famous polyamorous sextet famous for their determination to stick together despite love’s passing nature. The way it describes the societal change feels too abrupt, too unrealistic. People who treated skin-swaps as something normal suddenly treat it as outdated. There’s a wealth of great ideas here (the black market of skins, the use of public incinerators, weird fetishist possibilities). While most of them got a nuanced treatment, I felt the story could use more focus on how the inevitability of moulting skin (and love) influenced society and relationships. 

While there’s a lot of thought-provoking discourse here, the world-building and the resolution didn’t convince me. On the other hand, I loved the metaphor and the focus on emotions and the bitter truths of life. I loved slow reveals and Whiteley’s elegant writing. 

The Loosening Skin has a terrific plot hook, and once I made peace with its moody rhythms, I found myself hooked, devouring the story in two sittings. I didn’t love it. Heck, I'm not even sure if I liked it. But I can’t get it out of my head. I still think about it and it’s quite possible I’ll reread it soon. 

0 comments:

Follow by Email

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “The Boy Who Walked Too Far” by Rob J. Hayes!!!


Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “Beggar's Rebellion” by L.W.Jacobs


Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “The Arkhel Conundrum” by Sarah Ash!!!
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “The Company Of Birds” by Nerine Dorman!!!
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “The True Bastards” by Jonathan French!!!
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click Here To Order “Rumble In Woodhollow” by Jonathan Pembroke!!!
Order HERE