Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Book Review: Survivor

I managed to squeeze another little weekend to Rome, and my first book accompanying me on the way down was Chuck Palahniuk's Survivor.

If you've never read any of Palahniuk's books before, a warning is in order, the tone is incredibly nihilistic and his main characters tend to be fairly misogynistic, not as bad as Ian M. Banks' The Wasp Factory, but in the same league. If you are going through a depressing time in your life, not feeling like it's really worth living or just bored to death with society at large you should definitely wait before reading this book, unless you're the type of person that feels better about their own lives when reading about the misery of others.

Survivor starts at the end, with a man on a flight he has just hijacked (although it is now completely empty, including the pilot) and he wants to record his story in the black box so that it will be found after the plane crashes, so that he has a chance to explain himself and his actions. The entire book is his story, what his childhood was and how he ended up committing suicide by hijacking a plane. Even the chapters and the pages count backwards, which may not sound like much, but it really adds a finality to the story that makes you anxious, realizing that you only have 40 pages to go, or you've reached chapter 1.

In classic Palahnuik style the book is a grossly exaggerated satire on today's Western culture, what we value, what we are willing to believe and what image we will buy in to with the right marketing. Although he definitely has a point his incredibly nihilistic way of delivering it makes sure you're not laughing (unless you are the most cynical person I know), and you have to make sure you are able to take a step back and understand that it is still satire, without getting to depressed about the direction our culture is taking.

So what gives, did I like it or not? I can't really say for sure, because I'm always so torn with Palahniuk's books. I acknowledge that he is an amazingly gifted writer. I concede that his overall message is valid and that he has a very original way of saying what he has to say. I never walk away from his books with a real smile on my face, but rather an expression of shock, which is why I suppose I refrain from giving them my all out praise.

But I keep coming back to his books, which means I must like them, I just haven't put my finger on why yet.

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