SKIN by Kathe Koja


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 Torqued! Twisted, man, as the new Abyss line plunges forward with its plan to advance through the frontiers of psychological horror. Koja fulfills Abyss's hopes with a savage hymn to industrial culture--a first hardcover whose breakthrough originality is unique but will leave many fighting off its overload. Metal sculptor Tess Bajac's days are spent scrabbling through junkyards, scraping bucks together through odd jobs as a welder, and soldering poems in steel. Unlike many in the field, who shape abstracts out of found objects, Tess does her own welding. (Koja at times follows the imitative fallacy and welds scrap sentences into Burroughs-like cutup paragraphs that mimic her heroine's sculpture. Which can be hard on the reader.) Into Tess's life creeps Bibi, a dancer turned artist in body metal, blood, burns, scars, and pain. Tess longs for motion in her sculpture. Bibi brings it, making love-dances to the sharp-edged pieces that leave her ripped and bleeding. Together with some dirty young dudes and studs who are artists in explosives and weird soundtapes and strobe lights, they form a group called the Surgeons and put on Grand Guignol horror shows that make them famous among subcultures. Then Bibi's lover Paul is killed during one show, the Surgeons fold, and Bibi splits from Tess, who desponds. Later, even more beringed through all the lips on her body, Bibi returns and seduces Tess into her first lesbian tie. But Bibi is bent and invents endless injustices on Tess's part so that she can justify more scars, pain, and body metal. A strong stylist, Koja makes white-hot the pains of metal sculpting and draws a big picture of S&M bars and byways before bringing on her big show as Bibi decides to go all the way and, with razor and scalpel, just about get out of her skin--or help a friend out of his. Beyond the styptic pencil and safety blades.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-385-30899-X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993


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