Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Length: 8 hours
Narrator: Paul Michael Garcia
Original Publication Date: 1999
Genre(s): Adult fiction, Thriller
Tender Branson is the last survivor of the what has become known as the Creedish Death Cult. He has hijacked Flight 2039 and is preparing to nosedive into Australia. But before he does—while the engines slowly go out one by one—he decides to tell his life story. He details exactly how a child born and raised Creedish ended up on a plane headed to oblivion. Testing 1…2…3… Testing 1…2…3… If you are listening to this, Tender Branson is dead.
Chuck Palahniuk is a weird dude. And I think that’s why I really like him. Survivor is only my second Palahniuk novel (and no, Fight Club was not my first), but I intend to read all of them, eventually. The only reason I started Survivor was because it was listed under “horror” on the Ohio Digital Library (as it is Spooky Reads Month, you know) and was only 1 of 60 audiobooks available without being put on a hold list. Turns out, tons of other people want to listen to spooky books this month. Go figure.
The novel is told in first-person by Tender. As mentioned in the synopsis, he is speaking his life story to the black box on Flight 2039. This aspect made me especially happy I was listening to it, as it felt authentic. The novel starts where it ends—Tender aboard the plane, ready to die. Then he launches into his tale about where it all went wrong. We soon find out that Tender, like all Palahniuk narrator, is incredibly disturbed. He’s weird. He knows a lot about cleaning. He gets a boner from shoplifting. He encourages people to kill themselves. He’s a weird dude. And I didn’t like him all too much at first, because he just seemed like a bad guy. And clearly he’s alluding to the fact that he’s had a horrible childhood, but still, having a bad childhood doesn’t excuse you from being terrible. So, no, I didn’t like him right away. But I was intrigued by him.
The story progresses a little slowly at first, but I didn’t care too much because Palahniuk is a master with words. I was just enjoying listening to his rhythmic writing. But the story slowly takes off and becomes something I never imaged it would become. The novel is clearly a criticism of organized religion, as well as celebrity and fame. The story slowed down again towards the middle, but again, I didn’t care, because I was so intrigued at what Palahniuk was writing about under the surface. It was interesting. It was terrifying. It made me want to write an academic paper about it.
And of course, the end bit takes off again, and it ends on that sudden question of, what happened? Well, it’s open-ended, but if you want to read how the author decided it ends, check it out here—just scroll to the bottom to find a quote from the author. By the end of the novel, I was seriously rooting for Tender. And I can’t tell you why until you read the book, as you wouldn’t understand. When I first started listening to the story, I told my girlfriend about the whole “assisted suicide” thing, and she called him a trash can. And then, when I finished it, I told her how I felt about the main character now and she gave me a weird look. So. There’s that.
But seriously, what an intriguing story! I wouldn’t necessarily say the book should be categorized as “horror” like the ODL labels it; I would say it’s more…unsettling. Unnerving. Creepy. So it is a spooky read for Spooky Reads Month! Just not in the classic horror type of way. Honestly, the novel kind of reminds me of a Tarantino film. Huge Pulp Fiction vibes. I feel like all Palahniuk novels are going to feel like that.
All in all, I’m sure it’s not the best Palahniuk novel, but I certainly enjoyed it. It has its ups and downs, but it’s a fascinating criticism with some cringe-worthy moments, and it will definitely teach you the different ways of getting various stains out of a myriad of surfaces.
–“A girl calls and asks, “Does it hurt very much to die?”
“Well, sweetheart,” I tell her, “yes, but it hurts a lot more to keep living.”
–“You have a choice. Live or die. Every breath is a choice. Every minute is a choice. Every time you don’t throw yourself down the stairs, that’s a choice. Every time you don’t crash your car, you re-enlist.”