COLD SKIN by Albert Sánchez Piñol


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Published in Barcelona in 2002 and translated into 15 languages, this debut novel is a kind of Robinson Crusoe seen through dark glass.

Sometime after WWI, the young, unnamed narrator takes up an unlikely post. It’s the kind with appeal only for those who are embittered, angry and more than a little masochistic—all of which apply. He’s to serve a year on an uninhabited island somewhere in the Antarctic Circle, as the weatherman for a company that has an inexplicable—or at least unexplained—need for such a person. The island is not quite a mile long. Ships don’t go there. No friendly Friday type has ever gone there, and, at first, it seems as if the previous weatherman—the one about to be relieved—hasn’t gone there either. No trace of him in the cottage assigned to him as home, no trace of him in the forests surrounding the cottage, no trace of him anywhere. Instead, in the fortress-like, stone-constructed lighthouse, there is Gruner—German, gloomy, unwelcoming and beset. By whom? Or rather, by what? The answer to that soon becomes chillingly clear when our weatherman finds himself facing the onslaught of the mysterious, deeply enigmatic Sitauca—the humanoid horde that storms the lighthouse relentlessly. Indigenous to the island and seemingly hostile in the extreme, the Sitauca force the weatherman and Gruner into a partnership for survival. But what will happen to it when the bullets are gone? And what will be the fate of Aneris, the inscrutable female of the Sitauca species, whose siren-like lure to both men is irresistible?

Engrossing. For a novel that is as much parable as it is thriller, its impact is surprisingly emotional.

Pub Date: Nov. 2nd, 2005
ISBN: 0-374-18239-6
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2005


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