My Thoughts on Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor

Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Title: Survivor
Publisher: Anchor Books
Year: 1999

289 pages
Where I got it: Bookman's in Tucson, AZ
Challenges? I Want More Book Challenge @ Tea Time with Marce

This is the fourth Chuck Palahniuk book I've read (along with Fugitives and Refugees, Lullaby, and Haunted), and probably my favorite of the four.  Survivor tells the convoluted story of Tender Branson, the lone Survivor of the Creedish suicide cult, or so everyone thinks.  From the first page (289 and counting down), we know that Tender is on an airplane, which he has hijacked (but with no hostages), and which he plans to fly until he runs out of gas, crashing somewhere over the Australian outback and fulfilling his ultimate destiny - to commit suicide.  Tender is many things: an expert in stain removal, a kleptomaniac, a virgin, a lover of artificial flora, and a religious icon, to name a few.  Palahniuk is a sharp satirist, skewering everything that crosses his path, from yuppie lifestyles, to the cult of celebrity, to religious fanaticism.  It's all here.

One of the things that impresses me most about Palahniuk's writing is his ability to adopt other discourses, in order to create a pastiche- a patchwork quilt of different voices.  Tender sounds like everything from a walking DSM-IV, to Martha Stewart's website, to Prairie Home Companion.  Palahniuk's detailed lists, of writing on a bathroom wall, or mental conditions, or titles of pornography magazines are brilliant and obsessive.  Tender is less a character than he is a reflection of all these other voices.  He very literally, does not speak for himself, which is exemplified most strikingly in the latter chapters of the book when he reads only what his Tele-Prompter tells him to say.

This book is strongly fatalistic, from beginning to end; however, the last moments leave the novel open in many ways.  I always find myself more satisfied with open endings, but maybe that is just me.

I would recommend this novel, most certainly to fans of Palahniuk's style, but also to those looking for sharp, contemporary satire and unique characterization.

What do you all think about this book?  Have you read Palahniuk's other books?  What's your favorite?


  1. I've only read 2 by Palahniuk so far. First, Fight Club, which is awesome (but probably even better as a movie). Then, Tell-All, which I really didn't care for. Normally I wouldn't have given him another chance, but based on Fight Club, I plan to read more of his.

  2. I can't even wait to read this book!!

  3. @Kathy: I love Fight Club the movie so much, I'm a little afraid to read the book. However, I hear it is one of his best. I have also heard good things about Choke and Invisible Monsters.

    @Mrs. DeRaps: I hope you like it. Palahniuk's style is unique, and takes a little getting used to, but in the end I think it is pretty brilliant.

  4. Nice review, you have peeked my interest. I have only read Fight Club, the movie is better but the book is still great.

    I want to read Haunted or Snuff, did you like Haunted?

  5. @Marce: I didn't like Haunted as much as the others. It was a little too gory for me, which is saying a lot (since I love Bret Easton Ellis). And the gore seemed a little gratuitous, sometimes. . I didn't dislike it, but I definitely liked Survivor better.


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