Book Review: Doomed by Chuck Palahniuk

Doomed by Chuck Palahniuk follows Madison Spencer, the liveliest, snarkiest dead girl in the universe, who continues the adventures in the afterlife begun in Damned. Having somewhat reluctantly escaped from Hell, she now wanders the Purgatory that is Earth as a ghostly spirit, seeking her do-gooding celebrity parents, fighting the malign control of Satan, recounting the disgracefully funny (to us, anyway) encounter with her grandfather in a fetid highway rest stop in upstate New York when she…oh, never mind, and climaxing in a rendezvous with destiny on the new, totally plastic continent in the Pacific called, not at all accidentally, Madlantis.

DoomedI have read every novel Chuck has written, and this is – by far – his most ambitious and apocalyptic. It also is the second book in his first series. Still, I’m not new to Chuck and have grown to expect something that challenges the norms and pushes so far beyond good taste, it bypasses bad taste and gets deep into downright revolting.

Doomed does not disappoint in this regard. The story unfolds in a number of blog posts by dead, 12-year old Madison Spencer, who is now wandering the earth as a ghost, and it repeatedly rewards readers of Damned (the first book in the series) by the events that occur, but reading Damned is not a prerequisite to enjoying Doomed. It is encouraged, though.

The story is quite good in a  vulgar way. I have a feeling that I would have enjoyed the outline of this novel more than the novel itself, because it’s the details that Doomed gets wonky.

 

   Warning!  Spoilers Ahead

 

 

 

 

My problems with the book are the same as in Damned, and that is the voice of Madison does not sound like anything close to a twelve year-old.  It sounds like an adult who is trying to sound like a twelve year-old. Sadly, there were scenes in Doomed that completely failed for me because of this, and one of them was a key scene in the highway rest stop. For a girl who came across so worldly and knowing in the things she says, to not be able to tell an erect penis from a dog poop (and yes, she lost her glasses and it was blurry to her but, c’mon) left me completely unable to buy-in on the events that transpired.

The silly, middle-school-speak attempts like, “CTRL+ALT+Surprised” and “Fatty-Miss-Fat-Fat” and “Pervy Mr. Perv” slang – that is far too prevalent throughout the book – only accentuated this failure more. It was weak and ineffective, and I know Chuck has been challenged on this point before in reviews for Damned. Other times, Madison spoke in far more educated and worldly terms. I think Chuck is trying to address that by having Madison sentiently comment about her comment, but it did not work for me.

That might sound like a foundational failing of the novel but really, it isn’t at all. It does make Doomed less than perfect, but there were some fantastic moments, like the chapter about the adopting the cat or the parts about the Boorish Religion that absolutely floored me. These had me laughing out loud.  So few authors can actually solicit a true laugh from me, it is worth noting and should matter for something.

With such a mixed bag, I have trouble rating this one, but Chuck really defies pigeon-holes, don’t you think? Still, I have to go thumbs up or down.

Recommended, but only if you read Damned and liked it enough to want more. For new readers of Chuck – consider Fight Club, Choked or Survivor, which are early Chuck P. primers.

Chuck Palahniuk’s new novel, ‘Doomed’ Officially Announced

Chuck Palahniuk does weird like no other author I read.  Some of his stuff makes Naked Lunch read like Goldilocks.  You’ve got to love the chances he takes with his characters and – to some degree – with his readers.

The sequel to the 2012 novel, Damned has been officially announced, and it’s Doomed.  The news broke over on The Cult, and pre-orders will soon  be accepted for the October 8, 2013 release by Random House.

Here’s the official pitch for Doomed:

doomed-usHaving somewhat reluctantly escaped from Hell, she now wanders the Purgatory that is Earth as a ghostly spirit, seeking her do-gooding celebrity parents, fighting the malign control of Satan, recounting the disgracefully funny (to us, anyway) encounter with her grandfather in a fetid highway rest stop in Upstate New York when she . . . oh, never mind, and climaxing in a rendezvous with destiny on the new, totally plastic continent in the Pacific called, not at all accidentally, Madlantis. Dante Alighieri, watch your back, Chuck Palahniuk is gaining on you.

I like Chuck’s description better:

The next novel will follow Madison back to earth as a ghost, doomed to haunting her parents for a year.  In flashback we see her earlier childhood, including the death of the kitten whose dead body subsequently clogged the plumbing of the Beverly-Wilshire Hotel.  That death is not Madison’s doing, but another death is.  Whether it’s murder or self-defense, as a ten-year-old Madison kills someone horrifically, and that’s the most-likely reason why she was damned in the first place.  We also begin to recognize a centuries-long conspiracy engineered to train and test Maddy for her role as the savior of all spiritual beings.

Nope, nothing subtle, here.

Oh, I forgot to mention it but the world ends in this next book.

 

Well, alrighty then.  Soooo… it’s a romance novel?

As always, when it’s Chuck, I’m in.  Therapy has finally helped me block out all memory of reading Snuffed, and I’m good to go.  Bring on more Madison.

Chuck Palahniuk on Writing

If you’ve been even a semi-regular reader of the Life64 blog, you know that I’m a fan of Chuck Palahniuk’s writing.  He’s put out some of my favorite books, including Survivor, Haunted and Choke.  One thing about Chuck that’s different from so many other authors is how accessible he makes himself to the public.  More than that, he is willing to share his experience with struggling writers. 

Granted, Chuck is not everyone’s cup of tea – he takes huge risks in some of his stories that cost him readers, but the ones that stick around are a loyal lot.  If you have never read Chuck and want to give it a go, I’d recommend Survivor, Invisible Monsters, Choke, or Fight Club.  I would never recommend Snuff or Pygmy to anyone, ever. 

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In this post, I just want to share some of that Chucky experience I’ve gleaned from the corners of the internet.   Some of this advice is common sense and some is opinion, but it’s coming directly from Chuck and I think it is worth considering.

 

Chuck on forcing yourself write

 

Chuck on the value of belonging to a writer’s workshop (via LitReactor)

A warning about the following clip:  Chuck discusses research for his novel, Snuff, which is a gross story.

The value in this for me (starting around 1:35) was his insight on the social model and characters, with reference to Fight Club, and fiction that resolves itself by killing a character.

Chuck on how to research gangbangs for Snuffed (via TWRpodcast)

And though I expect no one except hardcore Chuck fans to be interested in this, the following video is Postcards from the Future: The Chuck Palahniuk Documentary, an 89 minute film made in 2003.  It’s about Chuck, his books and what people think of Chuck.  It is full of Chuck and all sorts of Chucky goodness. 

If you want a highlight moment, click in around 17 minutes and catch Chuck talking about transgressional fiction.

via Chuckpalahniuk.net