You probably recognise the author, Chuck Palahniuk, as the writer of Fight Club. If you have read or seen the film version of that gritty tale, you will be unsurprised to hear that this novel too, has a fair amount of grit of it own. The reader experiences this book as a recording from the flight box of a hijacked and subsequently crashed plane. We hear the first person narrative of Tender Branson, a one time member of the religious Creedish cult, as he gives us the frank account of exactly how he ended up recording that flight box message, as, one by one, the engines burn out and he hurtles ever closer to ground. Tender undulates along his journey, accompanied by murderous Creeds, sexualised, soothsaying young girls and homogenised, money-hungry hollywood agents. It is unpredictable and exhausting.
Throughout his story, Tender is haunted by a looming threat or as he sees it, looming destiny, of suicide. The author explores the power of brain-washing, and although in the novel it is mainly related to the oppressive dict of the Creedish cult, Palahniuk has alluded that the theme should be generalised to having an awareness of the power and danger of education. So it’s all suicide and The Deliverance and slavery and fate. There’s also a touch of genocide and porn for good measure. I told you there was grit.
It doesn’t sound that pleasant does it? It’s certainly not one of those comforting books that you turn to after a long hard day looking for a literary cuddle. Its a bit like that iron tang of blood in your mouth: grim, disgusting, painful but oddly enjoyable in a paradoxical kind of way. I think the reason that I enjoyed this book, and would recommend it, is because there is always room for philosophy in life. Epicurus said that an unexamined life is an unhappy one. This book forced me to examine issues in life which I often overlook. It kept me entertained as well as forcing me to look at the world and assess it more profoundly. If you’re not in it for the thinking though, the plot is active and exciting, the characters are complex and bold and the language is simple and readable. Plenty of merits rendering Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk a worthwhile read.