Monday, 26 May 2014

Book Review: Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

Book Review:

Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

In the aftermath of Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted, with the first few books that followed it, I thought I was the only one aware of the downfall of this once very clever author. During the time between Haunted and Pygmy I was confused by Palahniuk's rise to becoming a big name author happening in parallel with the diminishing quality of his writing with each subsequent release. Haunted I thought was a fluke; it did has some potential with the main story, and a few of the shorts were impressive. But with Rant, then Snuff, then Pygmy, I noticed a lack of effort and unique cleverness that made his earlier works so impressivc. His experimentation with prose has always felt to me like an author too afraid to deviate away from trademark style, which for Chuck is his clever and witty first-person narrators, while still trying to make an effort to be cutting edge.

When the plot of Damned was initially announced, I was intrigued. The plot sounded like it could just possibly be a return of the fresh satirical author I praised so much. Unfortunately this is not the case. Damned is another exercise in shallow writing by the once great author of the satirical masterpiece Survivor.

The idea of a young girl overdosing on marijuana and going to hell in a riff on The Breakfast Club sounds interesting enough, but it's not. The plot and the ideas therein contained lack cleverness. The endless lake of semen is not so much gross as it is uninspired. I realize this is just part of the hell that Palahniuk came up with, but this goes to show what he's been doing with his last few novels in an effort to entertain and shock. These days he goes for the gross-out. But he's not fooling me; I know he's running out of creative steam.

The narrator is a young girl named Madison Spencer. She is 13 years-old and a child of celebrity parents. Madison is very witty for a 13 year-old. There is always a quip waiting to be said. And this is the problem: Madison's voice is almost inseparable from the narrators of Palahniuk's previous stories. And unfortunately I don't think he will be deviating from this style anytime soon. 

I don't dislike Chuck Palahniuk, but I do dislike Damned and his previous four novels. Damned is just another misstep. I hope that one day he get's back to writing material that is as ambitious and inspiring as his early work. A sequel to Damned named Doomed is available; it should come as no surprise that I will not being checking it out anytime soon.

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