Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

(Doubleday 2011)

(I’m reading Chuck Palahniuk’s follow-up to this book, Doomed, right now and will review it shortly. Until then, here are my brief impressions of Damned, first posted on Goodreads Jan 16, 2013.)

Thirteen-year-old Madison finds herself in hell after dying from a “marijuana overdose.” But really, Chuck P’s version of hell isn’t so bad. Instead of eternal torture it’s more like eternal mild irritation, but this even can be overcome with the right attitude.

There’s nothing shocking in Damned. Those expecting something more subversive from Chuck Palahniuk might be disappointed. Certainly, certain locations in hell, like the Swamp of Partial Birth Abortions, Sea of Wasted Semen and the Desert of Toenail Clippings may raise eyebrows with the grossness of the ideas momentarily, but it’s all pretty glib and fails to affect the characters (and readers) in any significant way. In fact, the novel as a whole ended up seeming somewhat unfocused and ultimately lacking in impact. There was very little payoff for the reader upon completion of the story.

Although this is perhaps one of his weaker novels (hard for me to say– I’ve only read two now– will read more), this isn’t to say it wasn’t good. It was good, just not great. Funny, funny stuff and Madison’s first-person narration keeps you interested (although I find that Chuck P has a penchant for repeating phrases with some variations for comic effect throughout his stories. This can be somewhat irritating). Damned is never boring and is at times a great ride, but when you reach your destination you find that the fair is closed and everyone’s packing up to go home.

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