Unfinished Business: A Sort of Review of Chuck Palahniuk’s Survivor

A few years ago I picked up a copy of Fight Club, because I’d loved the movie and was interested to see what the source material was like. I loved the book, it was a little grim but it had a certain, dark gritty tone and was blackly comic.

As a result of this, my book addiction and HMV’s ridiculously cheap paperbacks I wound up quickly loading up on  more of Palahniuk’s work- Lullaby, Pygmy and Survivor.

I kicked off with Lullaby, which was another darkly comic gem about a dude who discovers an ancient tribal song which he thinks is a lullaby, but turns out to have been used to those in pain to ease them into death. He uses it to kill once or twice, but soon it becomes out of control and even thinking the lyrics can make people pop their clogs. It’s a wonderful idea and a twisted hypothetical question for the reader- if your thoughts could kill someone would you be able to control them?

Pygmy still sits, virtually untouched in my bedroom, mainly because of Survivor.


Survivor has an awesomely intriguing  premise, the sole survivor of a religious cult who all commited suicide hijacks a jet, kicks off the passengers and heads off to certain death when the fuel runs out. As he flies off, he begins to record in the black box the story of how he wound up there.

I’ve never got past the first four chapters. The reason for this is that it’s unbelievably grim. Palahniuk isn’t exactly a sunshine and lollipops writer, but at least with the previous works I’ve read there’s been some access point with the protagonists being jaded, cynical types but who on some level I found I could relate to.

The main character here however has such a weird background and is such a twisted dude I never really got on board with him, and the dark, unpleasant tone was just too overbearing for me, and I’ve found myself feeling uncomfortable. It felt like I’d got something on me, something smelly, sticky and disgusting, and I just want to run to the shower and clean myself off.

So, last week I found myself taking the book out of my bag, I couldn’t face it on a night shift and I replaced it with a Philip K Dick collection- he might deal with paranoia, dystopian futures and the threat of nuclear annihilation, but at least it doesn’t feel like it’s souring something inside you.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


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