Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"Damned" by Chuck Palahniuk

I liked Fight Club enough that when I saw more books by Palahniuk I picked them up. This one is the first in a series. 

Summary: Madison Spencer is dead. At the age of 13 she got high, blacked out and woke up in a Hell surrounded by other damned souls. The form of the book is a series of letters that begin with "Are you there Satan? It's me Madison". She narrates two distinct stories that unfold side by side throughout the book.

The primary story follows her experiences in Hell in which she meets other kids and tries to figure out how things are organized in the afterlife. Demons roam the land slaughtering poor humans, whose bodies are reformed after every death to be eaten, dismembered, stabbed or squished over and over for all eternity. There is also a formal bureaucracy which manages incoming souls, career assignments and appeals. Madison's friends show her the ropes, including how to use the currency and how to make the system work for her. She finds a job as a telemarketer and acts on some bold initiatives.

The second story is made up of Madison's memories from her pre-dead existence. She was the daughter of a famous movie star and a powerful business executive, spending much of her life flying from home to home all over the globe. Her childhood is a mixture of normal growing up and totally bizarre events that might only happen to someone so wealthy as her. Palahniuk uses this as an opportunity to highlight some absurdities in our culture, especially criticizing rich liberal Hollywood elite. Madison recounts events that ultimately lead up to her death and discovers what was originally hidden from her.

What I Liked: This book is written in a compelling style, where Madison tells compact, but satisfying tales about herself, all of which build up to create a coherent narrative with a proper plot. It builds in such a way you have no idea what to expect until it happens, at which point the story only becomes more interesting.

What I Didn't Like: When I read it, I did not know it was first in a series, and so I thought the conclusion would be more complete. Instead, this ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, which leads into the second book.

Rating: I am realizing that Palahniuk must only write disturbing books. I am somewhat embarrassed by the idea someone else might read this book and wonder if I am a psycho for liking it. So it's hard for me to say this is a Must Read knowing that basically everyone will find something highly offensive or overly gross to continue reading it, but I recommend it despite that.

Also Read by this Author: Fight Club

Reviewed by: Nick

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