Saturday, March 8, 2014

Damned

by Chuck Palahniuk
427 pgs

I don't gamble, but I can understand the allure of it to those who do. The disappointment from losing can be severe, even devastating at times. But the rewards and gratification from winning can be tremendous, enough to keep people doing it again and again, even when it's been awhile since they won. For me, picking up a Chuck Palahniuk book to read has been a lot like gambling; there have been some real disappointments recently (Pygmy and Tell-All) but it's the excitement of his earlier winners (Fight Club, Rant, Diary) that keep me coming back to the table for more. I'm hoping for that big payout again. Unfortunately, I didn't get it with Damned.

The book begins when 13-year-old Madison wakes up in hell--literally. She believes she died from a marijuana overdose and finds herself in a hell that is both horrific and humorous. A hell that could only have come from the mind of Chuck Palahniuk, full of people who don't wash their hands after using the bathroom, or who have used vulgarities more than the threshold allowed. It's where telemarketers work, calling the living during dinner time to complete surveys. She and the cellmates next to her: a jock, a rocker, a nerd, and a beauty (a kind of breakfast club group) embark on a tour of hell.

The book is written in epistolary form with each chapter beginning: "Are you there Satan? It's me Madison"--a Palahniuk-esque nod to a book for young girls by Judy Blume. In each chapter Madison describes hell as well as the life she lived before waking up there. She was the only child of mega-rich famous parents, and as such, had no chance for a normal childhood. 

Damned is a step in the right direction for Palahniuk after his last two missteps, but not a giant one. It has its moments and accomplishes what I think he set out to do when he wrote it--spotlighting some of the aspects of religion and the ideas of the afterlife that some people have. At times Palahniuk does his damnedest to try to gross you out with his vision of hell. But overall the book fell flat with me. His most recent book Doomed recently came out which is a sequel. I'll probably read it eventually. You never know, I might hit the jackpot with that one.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

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