I always look to Palahniuk’s work for palatable cultural commentary, Survivor offers that in spades. The simple, repetitive writing style which has become a staple of Palahniuk’s work, sets a perfectly befitting rhythm throughout the book. After all, Survivor is about superstition and fame, how closely those two nouns relate to each other.
Palahniuk is a very polarizing author who has gained acclaim for his willingness to find the line that separates the degenerate from the suburbanite and destroy it; Survivor is no different. Long story short, the protagonist is the last survivor of a death cult and is recounting his life to the black box of a plane he’s hijacked. There really is a sense of deranged acceptance that I felt as I read through chapter after chapter waiting for the flight to run out of fuel. This anticipation of destruction as you read through the real-time account of Tender Branson (the protagonist) watching the engines go out on the passenger plane he’s commandeered builds that underlying sense of urgency for the narrative. Although the story Tender Branson tells isn’t some high-speed, action-filled epic, the setting propels you forward.
This is something I love about Chuck’s books, there is always this sense of forced empathy, uncertainty, devil-may-care whimsy. There’s a childlike naivety he likes to inject into his work, this idea that the most broken people carry the same weight that you do. The ability he has to implicitly shape the way you see the world, for better or for worse, is murderous and stunning.
At the end of the day, Chuck Palahniuk holds a special place in my heart as a pioneer in transgressive fiction. As with all books, they are a map of someone’s mind, how the writer sees the world; Survivor bridges the gap between creator and creation as you feel Chuck’s sheer contempt for the superficial.
Jarring, politically incorrect, haunting; Survivor is a must read for anyone looking for an irreverent black comedy that reaches beyond shock value to unveil the most base instincts of humanity.