I kept hearing about this TV show 'Survivor' that's supposed to be really popular (never watched it, myself); I made the connection then and there - Chuck Palahniuk wrote the novel 'Survivor' and since I really liked his debut novel 'Fight Club', I figured I'd better see what all the fuss about.
I'm well aware that 'Survivor' the TV show and 'Survivor' the novel are in no way connected, and I apologize to Mr. Palahniuk for any pain, embarrassment or loss of income through book sales my above statement may have caused him.
Whew! I'm glad I got that over with!
Okay, having just finished the novel, what I want to say is that it is insane. Oops, I mean I want to say that it is a satire! A satire! Of course, as they say there is a fine line between genius and insanity; likewise, I firmly believe that there is a fine line between satire and insanity. And this book certainly walks that line.
'Survivor' deals with the concepts of fame and all its trappings: public relations, image and the media machine; cults and religion; love and lust; life and death; the whole Martha Stewart/perfect housekeeper phenomenon; and everything in between.
This book starts at the end - you can tell it is the end because the first page of the novel opens at chapter 47 and is numbered 289. It weaves a convoluted path as the protagonist, Tender Branson, tells his story. At the outset of the novel, we find him hurtling towards his imminent death in a run-away jet airliner; he is relating his tale to the black box (the flight recorder, which in actual fact is orange in colour); he has ensured that the passengers have all safely disembarked, and once underway again, has also kicked out the pilot (making sure, first of all, he was wearing a parachute). He is well aware that he has limited time; in two hours, the engines will start to flame out, one by one, until all four engines are gone and the plane starts on its 'terminal descent'.
Tender Branson, through the course of his story, becomes the last surviving member of the cult in which he was raised. He has been assigned a social worker, courtesy of the government who is concerned that he might try and commit suicide; he has been trained in the domestic arts, and works for a demanding and socially inept couple whom he never sees but merely trades insults and commands with over a speaker phone; he starts a self-styled suicide help-line, but of the type most people aren't expecting; he meets the girls of his dreams. What more could anybody want?
Tender takes all this and runs with it, and when life throws him a couple of unanticipated bones, he makes the most of it - for a while, until things go sideways, big time.
Unpredictable, dark, painfully truthful, and surprisingly humorous, this book takes a deadpan look at our society and those who run it. Says Tender:
Everything the agent's been telling me makes perfect sense. For instance, if Jesus Christ had died in prison, with no one watching and with no one there to mourn or torture him, would we be saved?
With all due respect.
According to the agent, the biggest factor that makes you a saint is the amount of press coverage you get. (p. 152)
What sacrilege! Give it a read - I dare you!