Chuck Palahniuk - Damned (3 stars)

Chuck Palahniuk - Damned

Religion-targetting novel fresh and funny yet also more of the same

(Jonathan Cape)

Like the preceding 11, Chuck Palahniuk’s latest novel is a black comedy that satirises a taboo subject, features a protagonist with a malleable identity who is indoctrinated into a bizarre cult and is structured around repetition, most notably, some chanted catchphrases. With Damned, Palahniuk targets religion through the story of Madison, the 13-year-old overweight daughter of movie-star parents who dies of a drug overdose and finds herself in Hell, which turns out to be half Bruegel, half contemporary claptrap (call centres, crap movies).

There, Madison meets up with four more dead troubled teens (a nod to brat-pack hit The Breakfast Club) and the quintet duck eternal detention and go looking for Satan. As usual, the hip, flip prose skips along invoking and ridiculing pop culture. Palahniuk’s got a good formula and he’s sticking to it. To his seasoned reader it may feel stale, to the newcomer fresh and funny. So, in a sense, he’s damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

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