Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

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Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Not quite the author's best, but putting a young, outspoken girl in hell and seeing what becomes of her is right up Palahniuk's street - and probably ours, too.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: September 2011
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780224091152

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Are you there, Satan? It's me, Madison. I'm a spunky, lively tweenage girl, except I'm a dead one, and I'm in Hell, to my surprise. While I'm here I'll find out just where it is all those cold-calling telegraphers ring you from just while you're settling down to your evening meal, and where the world's wasted sperm and discarded toenail clippings fetch up. I'll have very hairy encounters with demons of Satan's and mankind's making, and with some superlative plotting and flashbacks, I'll find a clearer approach to why I was put here in the first place.

Madison is one of the greater Palahniuk creations. Young and bubbly, with an intelligent approach and great vocabulary, which she's not too proud to assure us she can use properly, she's a most engaging first-person narrator. This book harks back to the author's Fight Club in having her address her living audience with scathing sarcasm, regarding how our holier-than-thou healthy lifestyles will keep us alive, and we'll never be caught short by the grim reaper and sent to join her. It appears, however, that one only need say 'Fuck' a certain number of times, or only fart in a lift a handful of times, to be irredeemably damned.

But Madison was caught short, and once we settle in with her new friends down below, we get more and more clarity to what's happened so far in her life. Her parents are ultra-rich celebrities, her mother particularly, having a Jolie time adopting random hard-done-by foreign children. It's one of those rarefied circumstances only a Palahniuk girl can live under. But mostly she doesn't live in these pages, as her adventures in Hell are to the fore. With some token stereotyped young friends to help her out, she becomes employed down below, never giving up what she realises is a rare commodity where she is, surrounded by discarded battlefield limbs, foetuses and rivers of warm vomit - hope.

It's not quite Palahniuk's best, however. At times it fails to completely grip, and it seems a little quickly written. There's a loopiness to some of the plotting before it settles into a fully-established mould, where all the comebacks and twists are set up, and we see a different side to things. In the end, we race quite happily and pacily to a double-stranded open(ish) ending, where it could be said a fuller look at either of those elements alone would have been perhaps better.

But despite my quibbles, this is still an enjoyable novel. Again, the young Maddie is well worth spending time with, and this particular hell (one where the only entertainment allowed is endless reruns of the English Patient movie) is enjoyable from this remove. The clarity of the writing and situation (and revoltingness of the environment) will make this a memorable evening's read.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

For me the author's best late work is still Pygmy. You might also enjoy Beautiful You and Doomed.

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Buy Damned by Chuck Palahniuk at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Damned by Chuck Palahniuk at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Damned by Chuck Palahniuk at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Damned by Chuck Palahniuk at Amazon.com.


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