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22 August 2005 @ 11:21 pm
Book review: Survivor  
True to his form, Chuck Palahniuk (Haunted, Fight Club) offers one hell of a fun ride in Survivor. This novel, told from the point of view of main character Tender Branson, details his life as one of the two hundred and some remaining survivors of the Nebraska-based Creedish death cult.

The first thing the reader notices about the story before even story begins with Chapter 47 on page 289 and counts down from there. Chapter 47 explains that Tender is alone in an airplane he hijacked earlier. The passengers deplaned and the last pilot aboard parachuted out. Then Tender begins telling his story to the flight recorder “black box.”

As the story progresses, he becomes the only survivor after the questionable suicides of all the other remaining survivors. He’s turned into an overnight celebrity of his own “feel good” religious conglomerate (think Anthony Robbins; “a media-made messiah,” as Publishers Weekly puts it) by an agent and the events spiral even more out of control. The one constant in Tender’s life is Fertility Hollis, a woman who can see the future in her dreams.

As I’ve come to expect from Palahniuk, the book is written very, very tightly (every single word is important in some way), with a mix of intricate detail and big picture design. The way that he sprinkles the story with alternating paragraphs that comment on it in very matter-of-fact manner is sheer brilliance:
“Do you know,” Adam says and swallows, “do you know what happens to men in prison? You know what happens. Don’t let that happen to me.”

A magazine nearby says, Backdoor Gang Bang.

I’m not going to deliver him to Heaven.

“Then destroy how I look,” Adam says. “Make me so monstrous no one will ever want me.”

A magazine says, Anal Fixation.
In such a way, Palahniuk is able to interject very short, very biting commentary as if it comes from a different narrator (perhaps even Fate — a recurring but inconspicuous theme throughout this and other Palahniuk books) instead of Tender Branson.

I recommend Survivor to anyone with an intellectual sense of humor. It won’t appeal to those who’d rather watch The Bachelorette than Family Guy, but if satire, sarcasm, and wit are your cup of tea, this book should be at the top of your reading list. It serves as much as a commentary of “celebrated celebrities,” the pharmaceutical age, get-rich-quick schemes, Bill Clinton, and self-help gurus as anything else, and it does it with panache, skill, and wicked entertainment. And, hey, you already know it’s only 289 pages before you even begin!