Survivor - Chuck Palahniuk
Did you know that when summer rolls around, your luck of finding a copy of [b:Fight Club|5759|Fight Club|Chuck Palahniuk||68729] at the library is apparently as liable to happen as finding a decent Silent Hill game past number four? And I really wanted my first Palahniuk to be Fight Club, but I am limited by what I can get from the library and the Half-Price books next to my work, so Survivor it is.

Weird, but kind of an awesome kind of weird, Tender Branson's story goes from a long life of servitude cut with a truly well hidden feeling of contempt to a life that is spiraling out of control like a tire fire, with the only assured thing being what the opening of the book makes clear as well as the fact that even a tire fire cannot just burn forever.

I have heard that Palaniuk, in Fight Club, was a bit hard to swallow, and if you have seen the movie, maybe you can see some of the same problems that kind of just run amok in this book. I really get the feeling that this author propositions a book to a publisher in much the same manner as a carnival barker would a passing pedestrian in a fair grounds - "Come in and see a man, ravaged by a lack of sleep, become the leader of an Anarchist secret society! Come see the member of a cult become the idol of every religious person and then hijack an airplane to crash into Australia!"

Putting aside the fact that it is pretty hard to actually get a group of Anarchists together for anything, we are left with some pretty cool concepts that would be guaranteed to at least garner the morbid curiosity of almost any regular Joe. Like a carnival barker, once you get inside the tent after having paid your entrance fee, you are more than likely going to find a few problems with the main attraction.

After getting into the narrative in earnest, we start to very quickly chomp down on the rocks that will slice up your insides the whole book through. After we pass by two chapters that basically telegraph the past of the main character in as loud and obvious a manner as possible, we get into the small details of Tender's life. And by small details, I mean that we get small bits and pieces of the knowledge that Tender has gained through the years - a whole lot of tips on how to clean stains out of basically everything.

Ask me how to clean a red wine stain out of wool.

Ask me how to get ink out of a silk tie.

You get the idea; it sort of blends in between the narrative like it's supposed to be some sort of free-form poetry - something artful just for the sake of being artful. And for quite a many chapters, I was content to see the tips on housekeeping as a tic of Tender's, maybe something that calmed him enough to continue telling his story. After a number of chapters, though, that theory sort of fritters away into a blackened, inedible mass, as you consider the two things about this little "tic" that serve not only to be problematic, but permanently disables the story like a blood-hungry Annie Wilkes.

1. Nobody tells a story with the inclusion of these sorts of small and odd facts. Someone may rehearse a short speech that times in these sorts of little quirky bits of knowledge, but something this long would have had to of been completely read from some sort of a manuscript, which, when coupled with the perfect manner in which Tender tells his story, leads credence to a belief of mine that the only way that he could have told his story in such a controlled and uninterrupted manner would be if he had read the entire thing from a prepared manuscript.


2. It very quickly becomes unpleasant, a rather unfortunate and constant buzzing nuisance. These little quips start about housework and climb along with whatever it is that Tender is involved with - facts about steroids and weight loss - and when the change in his way of life comes, you cannot help but let out a sigh of regret that the unnecessary and tiresome interruptions in the narrative would be continued.

The interruptions are not the only problems with the text, and even though the interruptions make up a phenomenally large amount of the words in the text, next to some of what I perceive to be the other problems with the work, the interruptions seem like mere oversights in comparison.

One major problem was that the characters in the story appear to be the epitome of the complete opposite of the golden rule of characterization - you create living, imaginary people - not puppets, not paper dolls. Not just Tender Branson, but also the two or three other major characters don't seem to breathe or have back stories of their own. In my opinion, the amount of characterization offered in this book could have been fair in a short story, but in a novel length work of fiction, the profound lack of humanity and self will in these characters is utterly inexcusable.

Another problem that I have brought up before is that there exists a certain amount of disbelief that the audio that was recorded by the black box - which makes up all of the narrative of the story - was a story that was told completely off the cuff. I believe that the only way that the story had been told the way that it had was that the story had somehow been a prepared product that Tender Branson had repeated. It is not all that difficult to believe, with the only other theory for the story itself being dictated to the black box being that the complete story had been told by Tender in such a manner that there existed no problematic issue with his telling of the story - no major hiccups, not even to be at a momentary loss for words. Which would be obviously ridiculous, because Tender never once mentioned his writing any sort of a speech, and neither has he ever written any of his own speeches. And yet there the inaccuracies lie, just out of plain sight but, nevertheless, there.

I would also mention that there was never a moment in which Tender seemed to come to any sort of a realization, no major change in his character as he was telling his story, but I would actually not call that a flaw of the storytelling as much as it is, well, just stupid and lazy writing.

"Stupid and lazy," you may find, can describe, to a tee, the so-called thought patterns and motivations of his characters. They move to suit some pattern, to flit about at the will of the writer - in my opinion, it is not unlike a heavy handed form of puppetry. It's as though Palahniuk believes that he is putting on a puppet show and that, somehow, the characters in a novel are going to bounce around on tight strings and still present an interesting and well-developed personality. This, in my opinion, is why the dialogue is so very dry and why wackiness and shock value is stuffed continuously into the narrative. It's like the author is jangling keys in front of me to distract me from seeing the unformed nature of his homunculi.

And there we come to the harsh and unfiltered problem that I have with this book - coming back to the comparison of the leering carny, I would like to make yet another comparison - mainly that this book is akin to being promised a steak and instead receiving a McDonald's Cheeseburger. I suppose that as long as you didn't enter the tent actually expecting to see the steak pictured on the ad plastered on the side of the tent, then you might not be all that pissed of or disappointed.

The story actually is not that long - I finished it in my off time between two weeks of work and video games, admittedly a bit of a while, due to my lack of interest in the story itself. If Palahnuik had pulled a King and had turned this into his own [b:The Stand|149267|The Stand|Stephen King||1742269], then I would have gotten lost somewhere around the time that Tender met Fertility Hollis. And then I would have participated in my own happy book burning, made slightly worse due to the fact that I was destroying library materials.

The sheer anti hero quality to the whole thing also makes it somehow addictive in small doses and sometimes makes you think that you can overlook the mess that Palahniuk calls his characters, but the appeal only lasts me for not longer than five of the anemic chapters.

Take it for what it is, but this review took me two hours to write and what it all seems to come down to is that Palahniuk seems to need an editor and a first reader who can tell him what everyone seems to be blatantly ignoring in lieu of the flash-bang-wow effect of his writing at its best. If you are alright with eating a cheeseburger - and a drive-thru, dollar-menu, end of the shift wad of meat and greasy bread at that- and are willing to put aside the time, then by all means, do not let me stop you, but it appears as though there exists much better work out there that is, if not fully immersive, then at least better written than this one. I would urge you to seek those books out, and I would say that I am grateful to have never spent any money on this book.