Damned – Chuck Palahniuk


So, I’m killing some time the other day, browsing for bookspiration in a Barnes and Noble when I come across Damned¬†prominently displayed on a table of suggested reading. The book is by the author of Fight Club (it says so right on the cover!). I’ve never read anything by Palahniuk, though I enjoyed the movie version of Fight Club well enough. Scanning the back cover, the book promises to be a “dark, hilarious, and brilliant satire about adolescence, Hell, and the Devil “. Despite the gratuitous use of the serial comma in the claims, I decided to give it a try. It turned out to be a mixed bag.

The Bad

The story is about a 13 year old girl who nominally dies of a marijuana overdose and wakes up in Hell.¬†Palahniuk’s style is ‘quirky’ and I felt he relied too much on gimmicky structural tricks, constantly repeated throughout the book. Cute after the first few instances, annoying thereafter. The main character is written as smart and sassy, but the dialog becomes repetitive and shallow, never quite achieving the edginess I think he may have been trying for. There are explicit references to, and plot developments inspired by, The Breakfast Club, plus each chapter begins with a Judy Blume-like paragraph that starts “Are you there, Satan? It’s me, Madison”. Overall, too gimmicky for my tastes.

The Good

Palahniuk’s vision of Hell is kind of interesting. Also, there was some metaphysical commentary around the nature of life and death that was pretty engaging. However, despite these interesting elements and some nicely dark humor, I don’t think it managed to come of as anything other than a curiosity for me.

I noted that the book ended with a “To be continued…” line. Checking the Interwebs, I see that this book (published in 2011) is the first of a trilogy. The next book, Doomed, is due out in October 2013. I think I’ll be taking a pass.



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