Maybe it was just the time period this story is set in but at times it reminded me of Sweeney Todd. Just without the random song outbursts and with a main character who was extraordinarily creepy in his complete lack of humanness.
It's the extreme lack of humanity in Grenouille that is what made this book so creepy for me. The narrator likens him to a tick, a person with cold detachment from anything remotely resembling human emotion and with a self-serving drive that is the only thing spurring him onward through life. From the moment he's born Grenouille is shown as lacking a key component that signals humanness, a smell. His lack of smell immediately disturbs people, even if most of them don't understand why they have such a strong aversion to a child. Because of this, he gets passed around and generally has a pretty shitty childhood. Yet, despite seeing how sadly his childhood unfolds, Grenouille evokes no sympathy because he has no emotional reaction to anything that happens to him. He just accepts whatever is thrown his way and quietly watches the world while he bides his time. When Grenouille finally decides on a path he wants to pursue he does so in a methodical and ruthless style that is chilling in how easily he seems to accomplish it.
While Grenouille was terrifying in his lack of humanness, humanity itself was disturbing in how the book managed to boil them down to being purely animalistic beings who ultimately are led by baser instincts despite their belief otherwise. Grenouille manages to lead masses of people by using nothing more than their basic sense of smell. He creates perfumes for himself that evoke specific emotional reactions that he changes to meet in correspondence to what his needs are at the moment. His ultimate goal in this is to create a scent that would cause humanity to worship him as a god. This is where my one problem with the book came up, which was actually more of just a mild irritant. The key element for Grenouille's ultimate scent is young virgin women. This had me rolling my eyes that somehow young virgin girls smell so different and so pure that a condensed and large amount of their smell would cause people to believe that the person wearing said scent was some kind of deity. Gag. Other than that, I loved this book and would strongly recommend it to anyone who is fan of horror or psychological thrillers.