BOOK REVIEW: Pygmy, by Chuck Palahniuk

RELEASE DATE: May 5, 2009
PUBLISHER: Doubleday
FORMAT: Paperback
SOURCE: Purchased

“Begins here first account of operative me, agent number 67 on arrival midwestern American airport greater _____ area. Flight _____. Date _____. Priority mission top success to complete. Code name: Operation Havoc.”

Thus speaks Pygmy, one of a handful of young adults from a totalitarian state sent to the United States, disguised as exchange students, to live with typical American families and blend in, all the while planning an unspecified act of massive terrorism. Palahniuk depicts Midwestern life through the eyes of this thoroughly indoctrinated little killer, who hates Americans with a passion, in this cunning double-edged satire of a xenophobia that might, in fact, be completely justified.


I’m not even sure where to begin with this novel. The first book I had ever read by Chuck Palahniuk was Haunted, which wasn’t the most fantastic book that I’ve read, but it was fun and delightfully gruesome. After reading that one, I was hooked on the author and went out and bought a few of his other books. Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW: Haunted, by Chuck Palahniuk

RELEASE DATE: May 3, 2005
PUBLISHER: Doubleday (an imprint of Random House)
FORMAT: Hardcover
SOURCE: Purchased

Haunted is a novel made up of twenty-three horrifying, hilarious, and stomach-churning stories. They’re told by people who have answered an ad for a writer’s retreat and unwittingly joined a “Survivor”-like scenario where the host withholds heat, power, and food. As the storytellers grow more desperate, their tales become more extreme, and they ruthlessly plot to make themselves the hero of the reality show that will surely be made from their plight. This is one of the most disturbing and outrageous books you’ll ever read, one that could only come from the mind of Chuck Palahniuk.


I have heard so many great things about Chuck Pahlaniuk that one day, many years ago, I bought his book Haunted. Years passed and I still hadn’t opened the darn thing. Instead, I decided to wait until the day where I felt inclined to grab it off the shelf, walk away from the books (since it’s so easy for me to change my mind), and just start reading.

I don’t want to say that I was disappointed, but I kind of was. Don’t get me wrong – I really loved Pahlaniuk’s writing and hope to get into another book I have of his, Lullaby, sometime soon. What got me was that I read so many reviews where people were squirming in their seats and it was really only the first chapter that did that for me.

In my eyes, the first chapter is what sets up the rest of the book—it has to be enough to grab me so I can keep reading. The first chapter of Haunted definitely got me. I was quite happy that I wasn’t eating at the time, but after that, the book just didn’t have the same effect. It was a decent book, full of aspiring writers who are at a sort of writing camp. Little did they know that they were going to be kidnapped by a madman who wants them to write the best story of their life.

I kind of felt that the finger and toe chopping happened a little early that as the book progressed, I wondered what was going to happen next. Well, even though the stories written by the kidnapped (24 chapters in total, 23 “stories” written by characters in the book, along with an accompanying poem) seemed to get a little tame after the first chapter, what actually went on in the house started to make me squirm again—I don’t want to completely give it away, but it has to do with the “below the belt” area and very sharp objects.

I was happy to finish reading Haunted, but I did leave feeling intrigued by Pahlaniuk’s writing. I can’t wait to give more of his work a try. Haunted did a great job of taking seemingly ordinary people and showing the reader their dark side—as a reader, you start the book just knowing their nickname and then you’re slowly taken into the story of “why” behind that name. Of course, there’s not only the gory and gruesome, there are also some very hilarious moments. Someone hacking off their manhood, only to have someone else eat it and choke on it, leaving both characters dead, was just a funny part to read.

Thanks for reeling me in, Chuck Pahlaniuk!