A Guide to Chuck
highly-subjective guide to Chuck
Palahniuk works of fiction. He also has a few non-fiction books,
they're a different thing altogether, so I'm going to ignore them here
even though I've read them too.
Interestingly, I think
Chuck's books have the opposite pattern as the Star Trek movies. You know,
where only the even ones were any good and the odd-numbered ones ranged
from "just okay" to "skip it." I found that I liked every other
book by him, but the first one was good. I've liked everything
past Diary, however, except
Briefly, here are my thoughts in chronological order of his works
(which is almost exactly the same order as I read them):
Fight Club (1996) - This is a rare
case where the book isn't as good as the movie, but it's interesting in
that it's the basis of a really, really good movie. I happen to
enjoy reading books to see how they're constructed, and this one has
the conscious construction of using recipes as thematic elements based
on the way Like Water For Chocolate
did. Additionally, the infamous rules of Fight Club were written
as a similar exercise. I enjoy things like that when they're done
well. He isn't always successful with those sorts of games (e.g.,
Diary), but this is a case
where it worked really well.
(1999) - A lot of people like this one, but my two criticisms
are 1) It's too much like Fight Club,
so why bother? and 2) You will see the big plot twist coming from miles
away. On the other hand, if you liked Fight Club, it's a lot like Fight Club, so maybe you'll enjoy
Monsters (1999) - Loved it. Unlike the above, this one has
good plot twists that didn't seem contrived or predictable. I
think I figured out one of three of them. It also happens to have
a female central character, which was the first time he'd done
that. Update: Chuck recently published Invisible Monsters Remixed which is
an alternate, less linear telling of this novel. I haven't read
it, so I can't comment.
(2001) - I don't hate this one but I really didn't like
it. My biggest complaint is the fact that there's all this
build-up that ultimately goes nowhere. I remember reading it,
getting about twenty pages from the end, and thinking, "There's no way
this is going to wrap up in any way I'm going to find
interesting." And I was right. There are good bits in it,
but the end was just a big blah, and there are some attempts to be
funny where I'm like, "Yeah, yeah," like the ironic role-playing rape
scene in which the female "victim" is constantly giving her male
"attacker" a hard time because he isn't playing out her fantasy to the
very last detail. So, okay, he's being victimized and used.
Me: "Yeah, yeah. I get it already."
(2002) - Really good story, and it's probably the most
accessible of all his books. This has my vote for the most
film-able of all Chuck's books, and I think it would be a good
one. It's also the first time he shifted into a different
genre. This and the two that follow are considered his "horror
(2003) - It just didn't work. I thought the ending was
great, but I just didn't like it, and no one else seemed to either,
including the critics. I can't put my finger on why exactly,
other than the fact the "seams" were kind of obvious. By that I
mean that it was distractingly apparent where he was shoe-horning
assorted elements into the narrative, the way he previously did with
recipes for soap and explosives in Fight
Club, only it just felt so forced that I was annoyed with it.
(2005) - Good stuff. The main criticism people have with
this book is that it's brutal, like he pulled out all the stops.
My view of criticisms like that are that there ought to be novelists
out there trying to find the extremes, and maybe this deserves
commending precisely *because* it pushed the envelope.
Personally, I liked it. It's also unusual in its story-telling
approach. Chuck started changing up his writing style in
less-than-subtle ways around this point, which is something few point
out about him even though it's the mark of a great artist instead of a
hack who falls back on what was commercially successful. I mean,
he's still experimenting even though he has a loyal following at this
(2007) - Another stylistic change. Here the story is told
through oral history from multiple interviewees. It's probably my
least favorite of the ones I like, but I don't dislike it. As
with most other works, he always drops in weird things that keep it
interesting even when the story itself doesn't have enough going on to
keep your attention.
(2008) - Kind of an experiment as well. Most of the novel
takes place in the same day, other than in flashbacks. Good plot
twists too. It's also funny that a gay man writes a whole novel
about a heterosexual porn shoot.
(2009) - Starts kind of silly, and by the point it's
ridiculously unbelievable, that's where it's actually really
funny. I didn't think I was going to like it until the story got
going good. It's also another stylistic shift, where the entire
novel is a series of letters from the main character back to his
(2010) - I couldn't get into this one, and apparently I'm not
the only one. Even friends who read his stuff religiously
couldn't finish this book. I made it about a third of the way
through and decided to wait until I find the audiobook at the library.
(2011) - Haven't read it yet. Sounds interesting in terms
of the content. However, it's something of a parody of teen
novels like the V.C. Andrews crap that was the Twilight series of the late
'80s. I never really those, so I worry that I'll be missing
references to that material.
To sum it up...
Here are the ones I like, and possibly an order in which to read
them. Except for Fight Club
maybe, since you've probably seen it already.
Invisible Monsters (1999)
Didn't like these. I'm not saying they don't have their merits,
but my overall reaction to them was negative.
Haven't read any of it to form an opinion.
So take your pick. I will be curious to hear/read your thoughts
on whatever you start out with.
Copyright 2012 Alexplorer.