Survivor

“You realize that our mistrust of the future makes it hard to give up the past.”

*Despite the cover design, this is not a book in the Left Behind series.

Once upon a time, Chuck Palahniuk, a man with a name that will always be easier to type than to say aloud, wrote a book called Fight Club.  This book was a huge commercial success for its darker Vonnegut-esque sensibilities and spawned a movie that was so popular that it encouraged the meatheads in my high school to start their own “fight club.”  (Yes, certain kids in my school would meet up and religiously beat the shit out of each other for a good time.)  To follow up this acclaimed transgressional fiction novel, Palahniuk released Survivor.

The story is centered on a protagonist named Tender Branson, one of the last members of a once-massive cult.  The narrator tells us of his life, job, and unexpected rise to fame, all while piloting an empty 747, speaking into its black box.  For this reason, the story goes in reverse order because Tender’s demise is inevitable.  It is certain that the plane he is flying will crash, eventually.

The cult of celebrity (not-so-ironically surrounding a member of a cult) is the main attraction here, and Palahniuk does his best to employ satire where he can.  His writing style is original and fans of his oeuvre consider this book to be one of his best, however I still had difficulties immersing myself in the novel.  Certain self-congratulating lines and descriptors remind me of what it might be like to listen to the teacher’s pet of a Short Story 101 class read his work aloud to the class.  It was almost too clever… as if the cleverness was manufactured; it didn’t come naturally.

I know I’m likely in the minority when I say this novel was mediocre.  Regardless, it was a decent (and quick) read, and if you haven’t visited the world of Chuck Palahniuk, this book will be a good litmus test.  After seeing countless girls in college whip these books out on the train, I had to see what I was missing.  At the very least, I gained an informed opinion, and from what I have read, this book is an utter masterpiece next to some of Palahniuk’s latest offerings.  Read this book if you’re in the mood for some light entertainment.  Do not expect to be blown away.

-Tavis

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