Chuck Palahniuk: Pygmy (3 stars)

Chuck Palahniuk: Pygmy

Having tackled the taboo subject of porn in his last book Snuff, Chuck Palahniuk’s tenth novel sees the controversy-courting author moving onto another no-no topic with this wickedly witty tale of terrorism in the American heartland. A terrorist attack in the Midwest isn’t quite enough of a provocation for the sardonic satirist, however, so Palahniuk makes his terror cell teenage kids from an unnamed far eastern totalitarian state whose cover as foreign exchange students hides a very naughty scheme to breed with westerners before blowing them up.

All of Palahniuk’s novels are funny, but this is the first billed as an out-and-out comedy. And the humour is broader than previous books, making Pygmy read like The Manchurian Candidate meeting The Simpsons, all of which is in the service of ridiculing the widespread and inbred racism and religious fanaticism of his own country. One criticism, however: the broken English of the titular titchy narrator swiftly becomes grating.

(Jonathan Cape)

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