This is the first book I’ve read by Palahniuk, though I’ve had a copy of ‘Fight Club’ sitting unread on my shelf for ages. This cover jumped out at me and I just had to pick it up.
Switching between four perspectives, the book tells the tale of several different lives. Some of those lives intersect more than others, but they all come together in the book for a gangbang of record-breaking size: 600 men, 600 sex acts in one future porno.
I’m not quite sure what I expected from this book, but it was at times darkly funny and at others a stark picture of what aspects of the porn industry and its inhabitants are like. While I do think that certain attitudes and mannerisms were exaggerated for the purpose of the book, I think the grain of truth was enough to give it a more real feel. There was no romanticism of the porn industry, save for some see-through perspectives of certain characters, which I liked. It could be argued that there was light demonization of the porn industry, though when the circumstances of the book are taken into account, all characters are participating of their own free will at the time.
The porn industry was definitely used for its shock value alone. I felt that the imagery in the book was purposely meant to shock, but I didn’t think it was done with much finesse. Instead it relied on the assumption that the reader would be repulsed by certain acts or attitudes that were displayed and written about many times over. The language was raw and at times overtly disgusting, but I wasn’t bothered by it – I was more disappointed that there wasn’t more to the book. It relied a lot on repulsing the audience rather than telling a story of any substance.
I had some trouble at first with the stream of consciousness nature of some of the conversations (as no quotation marks were used in some cases), but I soon adjusted.
I found myself re-reading to establish who was saying what. In some cases, this was because the voices of the characters didn’t sound very different to me. I found the characterization rather weak across the board. For the most part the cast was comprised of self-absorbed people who despised others for existing, or who disregarded others as unimportant.
I did wonder after reading this if the author’s writing has been sensationalized because of his commercial success, but I think that’s something I’ll be able to better assess after reading more of his work.
I also have to question the editing. The exact same sentence (a very distinctive, if unnecessary one) is found twice in the book and it seemed like an editing mistake that should have been caught on a read-through.
While this book isn’t my favourite, I don’t regret reading it. Don’t get me wrong: this was not a good book. I wouldn’t recommend it, but I was happy to finally read something from this author. I’ll be reading more of Palahniuk, in the hopes that he can deliver some solid characterization and story.