Review: Survivor – Chuck Palahniuk





Although I don’t really know how to pronounce his last name, I do know this: Chuck Palahniuk writes really strange books. His books almost always deal with some sort of marginalized individual who ends up resorting to self-destructive tendencies. His protagonists tend to have distorted and bizarre philosophical opinions on death, morality, sexuality and religion.

Fight Club, Palahniuk’s first published novel and by far his most popular, launched this trend in 1996. His second work of fiction, Survivor, closely follows suit. The book begins with chapter 47, page 289, on a hijacked Boeing 747. It is empty except for one man telling a story into the plane’s black box. The book ends back in the plane on chapter 1, page 1.

Tender Branson is a member of the Creedish Death Cult. The entire cult is in an enclosed compound with no understanding of the outside world. The first-born males are groomed to stay on the compound and be church leaders. The rest of them are sent into the secular world as “missionaries” to work odd service jobs. In fact, the first-borns are given real names – his older brother’s name is “Adam” – and all younger children are named “Tender”, so it’s more of a title than it is a name.

After leaving the compound, Tender finds himself working as a housekeeper and an etiquette teacher for a wealthy family. He also gets regular phone calls due to a newspaper printing his phone number as a suicide hotline by mistake. Instead of trying to save them, Tender is excited by his opportunity to enact divine judgment on people. Usually he finds their name in the obituary within a couple days.

Then one day, believing they were participating in God’s deliverance for their society, there was a mass-suicide in the Creedish Church. All but a few hundred members were dead. Then the rest of them outside of the compound began participating in the deliverance. Slowly and slowly (over ten years) they all disappear until Tender Branson is the only remaining member of the Creedish Church – the Survivor – which turns him into a mega-celebrity.

People begin to turn to him for advice and wisdom. They put their faith and hope in Tender Branson. What transpires is a roller coaster of speaking tours, tabloids stories, spiritual novels, botox injections, tanning salons, and plastic surgery – all culminating in that hijacked Boeing-747 on page 289. Weird weird stuff.

Although the book provided a super interesting look into religion and cults, the book wasn’t my favorite. In fact, I didn’t like it at all. I’m sure there are certain people who read Palahniuk’s novels and absolutely love them, but I’m probably not that guy. His outlook on the world is just too twisted for me – as surprising as it may sound, mass-suicide isn’t my favorite topic.  I wouldn’t recommend it, but if you’re a Palahniuk fan, then maybe you should give this one a chance.

To be totally honest, I only read this book because I was at a used book store in Antigua, Guatemala, looking for a good novel to read on the flight home. The “Inglés Ficción” section was really tiny.

About APC

Following his days in the Octagon, APC worked for an undisclosed amount of time tracking and studying a colony of Yetis in eastern Nepal (read more about his travels in his memoir, "Backgammon 101: Let the Yeti Win"). Nowadays, he spends his time in Havana fitting model ships inside glass bottles, and counting his gold bullions with his chimpanzee, Don Ultimo.
Currently Reading:
-Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson
-East of Eden by John Stienbeck
-Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie

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