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Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk
If you know anything about author Chuck Palahniuk, you know that there is no such thing as a predictable story when you pick up one of his novels.
If you don’t, you probably just think he’s some guy you haven’t heard of with a funny last name.
Both of these are relatively true.
Author of thirteen different books, Chuck made his name with the infamous Fight Club, his first book, published in 1996. He followed this up with his second book, released three years after Fight Club, Survivor.
And oh my God, what a book it is.
When we first meet our doomed main character, it is aboard Flight 2039, a hijacked plane running on autopilot, due to crash somewhere in the Australian outback, with the main character talking into the microphone, saying, “Testing. Testing. One, two, three…” This character, he’s hijacked the plane, and, after letting the passengers off on New Hebrides Islands, is settling into the cockpit to tell his life story into the little black box, before he’s gone for good.
His suicide. His final moments, and he wants to get everything straight.
The character’s name is Tender Branson, and he is the final surviving member of a notorious Creedish Death Cult, and this simple fact rocketed him from obscurity, an obedient and humble domestic laborer, to media and international fame and glory, the entire world hailing him as the new messiah, a savior and beacon of hope to all, stuffed to the brim with chemicals and fake tans and arrogance.
Survivor is his life story. The story he’s hijacked the plane to tell. Hours of his words unscripted. Hours to tell the truth. Hours to explain how everything spiraled as far out of control as it did.
From a man with nothing to a man with everything. Or maybe it’s the other way around.
The book is, in true deadpan Chuck fashion, a satire. Hilarious, witty, brilliant, Survivor is a commentary on fame, infamy, the superficiality of pop culture, and all the people caught in between. It’s brief and it’s bright. It steps where many authors don’t dare tread, crossing lines to a startling and appropriate degree, reminding us all that Chuck’s writing is a whole new breed of literature. His words hit home harder than one would expect, and it isn’t something you’ll forget easily any time soon.
Another surprising (and friggin’ awesome) little detail of the story plays into the formatting. Chapter One is Chapter Forty-Seven, page one page two ninety-eight. We start from the top and work down to “one” in the chapter and page numbers of the book, counting down to the end of the story and inevitable crash-landing of Flight 2039.
Now, let me just say this: I loved this book. I was awed by it, left standing there with an idiotic look on my face, positively dumbstruck. It’s not, however, a kid’s book. This isn’t a walk through your Twilight park. If you can’t handle some more adult themes and contents, find something else to read. This isn’t your book. Wait a couple years, then come back to it. Believe me.
Whether you’ve read any of Chuck’s work before or you’re new to it, pick up the book and give it a go. Read Tender Branson’s story, locked forever in that plane’s little black box. You’ll be glad you did.