When asked to review any book, I instantly get a nervous-excited feeling. Anyone that takes the time to commit words, emotions, and thoughts to paper has my utmost respect. But when I received my copy of Danger Slater’s latest, Puppet Skin, I couldn’t help but believe my excitement would be immediately justified.
“tHE MUSIC IN HER HEAD WAS A ZEPHYR AND SHE WAS A FEATHER AND SHE HAD SURRENDERED HERSELF TO THE CADENCE OF HER OWN HEART.”
In Puppet Skin, Hannah is a budding, science-loving, adolescent human girl living in an idealistic suburban town filled with trees, parks, and families with 2.5 children. It’s a place anyone would want to reside, until you realize all the adults are wooden marionettes controlled by strings coming from the depths of outer space and all children go through a violent and brutal graduation ceremony into puppetdom after eighth grade. Literal puppets: they’re gutted, brained, strung-up, and controlled by a preternatural puppet master in the sky.
Growing up in this environment, Hannah tries to escape her surroundings, mentally at first, then physically. She is consistently stopped by therapists, teachers, family, friends, and her “mompet,” her puppet mother. The mother is a classic stereotype of the non-doting maternal figure. Ignoring Hannah and pushing her wishes to the side is her mompet’s modus operandi. When Hannah ends up in another part of town after losing herself in her thoughts, it’s another world for her. In what is described like a dystopian ghetto, she is attacked by an adult puppet desperate for help from an infestation coming to the surface from inside his body. Coming home late, dirty, and injured is a concern for Hannah, but her mompet doesn’t seem to be fazed by anything. Her only concern is convincing her daughter that she needs to go through “graduation” and become a puppet like everyone else.
Soon, other adults are being “attacked” like the stranger Hannah encountered. Why is this happening and why doesn’t anyone seem to care? Will this be happening to her once she goes through the procedure after graduation?
Hannah has other plans for her future. She’s not meant to exist in a world of dolls. She wants emotions, sickness, and love. She wants to remain human and she’ll go to the end of the universe to prevent her transformation.
“gROW UP AND GIVE In.”
Puppet Skin is a story in which everyone can relate. It’s a slice-of-life tale of a life no one wants to live, but everyone has, even if only metaphorically. Slater has taken bizarro fiction to the next level. He writes because he loves it and it shows. It’s not only to shock, not to just get a laugh. There’s substance to Slater’s words and, like his previous works, Puppet Skin proves it can also have a heart.