March 18 2013 12:00 AM

Chuck Palahniuk is back, telling the tale of a teen who is eternally 'Damned'



    Tuesday, Nov. 1 — “Are you there, Satan? It’s
    me, Madison” opens every chapter of "Fight Club" author Chuck
    Palahniuk’s latest novel, "Damned." They say you can’t judge a
    book by its cover, but even before it’s opened it’s obvious that "Damned"
    is different.


    The novel is flesh-toned and
    embossed with a tattoo-style illustration of the capital-D Devil. It’s the
    story of Madison Spencer, the dead and eternally sentenced to damnation daughter of a movie
    producer father with a private jet and an actress mother who frequently models
    for the cover of Vanity Fair. A relentless people-pleaser, 13-year-old
    Madison is just another lost soul in Hell without an authority figure to
    impress. So, along with a motley group of condemned teens, she sets out across
    the Swamp of Partial-birth Abortions and the ever-growing Ocean of Wasted Sperm
    to find and entice the Lord of Lies.


    Madison’s style of narration comes
    across as too articulate for a 13-year-old, but I’d rather read a
    literate if slightly unbelievable young adult than try to decipher the text
    lingo, shorthand and homonym abuse associated with actual preteens of today:
    “r u their satin it me madi” would get old really quick.


    The next hurdle to overcome
    is the repetition, which is sort of a signature of Palahniuk. Nearly every
    chapter contains the phrase, “As my mom would say,” followed by an explanation
    of the quote.


    Between setting up the voice, the repetition and introducing the
    environment, the book starts relatively slowly. Then it picks up — a lot. As
    Madison meets celebrities, notorious historical figures and dethroned deities
    of yore, it gets perpetually more gripping, until the intensity is roaring like
    a great hellfire, only to end with To Be Continued.


    Yeah. Apparently "Damned"
    is part one of a trilogy, and there is no break in the action to give book one
    a satisfying ending. On the plus side, this means that book two should have no
    issues with a slow start, but God knows how long we will have to wait before it
    hits the shelves. (Oops, sorry Satan, I said the G-word again.)


    "Damned" does a great job of parodying both the environmentally conscientious hypocrisy of the rich and
    famous and the fire-and-brimstone rule-mongering of the Westboro Baptist clan.The narrator is
    accessible enough and the plot intriguing enough to convince this avid Palahniuk fan that "Damned" is the best novel of his to date. It may
    never reach the sales level of "Fight Club," but that’s because it isn’t
    very movie-adaptable, and because the content is a bit headier than his
    testosterone-fueled, anti-corporate claim-to-fame. Even if it doesn’t top the
    cult favorite, "Damned" is at least an easier read than his last three: "Tell All" featured too much Golden Age name-dropping, "Pygmy" was held back most by
    the narrator’s broken English and "Snuff" seemed to be more smut than
    plot.

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