Chuck Palahniuk's "Damned" - a Review - In Which this Author Feels Faint Disappointment for what this Novel Could Be
"If The Shawshank Redemption had a baby by The Lovely Bones and it was raised by Judy Blume." And "it's kind of like The Breakfast Club set in Hell."
First, I must say I admire Chuck Palahniuk's writing greatly. I was an insufferable fanboy of Fight Club and the ideas of Gen-X rebellion it purported to encourage, and have read and enjoyed many his early works. (Both Survivor and Choke are both highly entertaining reads). He is filled with ideas of American parody, disgusting anecdotes, and generally disturbing and amusing ideas. His novels are great fun to read because of these ideas and we must forgive Chuck his failings in character development and dramatic arc, at least somewhat, because of his ingenious imagination. His writing is terse and to the point, like a contemporary Hemingway without all the subtlety and with a sense of humor. Just look at how Palahniuk describes his novel above; he is funny, but, unfortunately, Damned just does not quite live up to its promise.
For a writer whom is all too aware of plot-lines, inciting incidents, and character flaws, (like me) Damned was not a great read. It begins with a 13-year-old girl trapped in a cell in Hell, and then it sticks there was a while. When the girl, Madison, escapes with her new band of friends loosely based on the stereotyped characters from The Breakfast Club, they set off into Hell without purpose or destination. After sexually pleasuring a rampaging demon, they eventually all get jobs as telemarketers. There is a story, of a sort, and everything that happens is interesting for its creativity and commentary on American consumerist society, but Madison doesn't much act like 13-year-old, or much like a girl for that matter; the story is episodic, with a bunch of little moments strung together. The ending is a little more interesting, with a meta-fiction twist that I liked, but otherwise disappointing, leaving us hanging with the promise of a sequel. Is this novel really strong enough to warrant a sequel? I'm not so sure...
Overall, I would call this one a highly flawed yet amusing and entertaining read. It is: a "Chuck Book."