Review: Damned

book reviews

Damned by Chuck Palahniuk
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Earlier this year, I submitted a story for an upcoming anthology called Amazing Stories of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I don’t do this often, as I’m not so good with short fiction (it takes me a while to get a good handle on the story). But because of the subject matter, I decided to give it a shot. I love the FSM mythos. It’s funny and clever. My story was guaranteed to be accepted, I knew, because it was funny, original, clever, and better than anything else anyone could write. Ever. It went like this:

An asshole atheist dining in an Olive Garden chokes on a meatball and dies. Much to his surprise, he goes to Heaven. As it turns out, there really is a god and it is the FSM. He is loving and accepting and encourages our protagonist to join a support group for non-believers. These folks are determined to break free from this otherworldly paradise/prison and, with the help of the new guy come up with the perfect plan: crucify Jesus for a second time. So these boys nail Christ to a makeshift cross and are cast out of Heaven. They land in Hell, which they are more comfortable with because it makes more sense. Brilliant, eh?

Of course, my story was rejected. Cameron Pierce, the project’s editor, explained to me that my story was just a two part joke: an atheist dies and goes to Heaven, but, even when facing the facts, still doesn’t believe. Of course, I dismissed him as a fuckwit with no taste and walked away whilst stroking my dented ego. Clearly, Mr. Pierce was an idiot. Clearly, he wouldn’t know a good story if it bit him in the Assgoblin.

After finishing Damned, I now know exactly what he was talking about. Damned is a two part joke: a girl is accidentally sent to Hell due to a clerical mistake, but, when she learns the truth, doesn’t want to leave. . Speaking from experience, I can attest that this was probably a very fun book to write. I bet Chucky P. spent the entire time chuckling to himself and feeling quite self-congratulatory. Been there.

But as Cameron demonstrated, a quick read of such a story will quickly prove its pointlessness. The plot spent so much time on the joke that the details were forgotten. Why, for instance, are so many of the details of hell stereotypical and so many others are unexpected? Hell is quite a personal place for Madison (because of that whole Satan issue), which leads me to wonder if she’s even really dead. Is she making this shit up? Why use candy as currency? And the demon hierarchy? WTF? Why is there a functional bureaucracy working alongside a slapdash best-of album of religious bad guys?

To its credit, this book didn’t have The Voice. You know, the one present in every Palahniuk work (with the exception of Pygmy)? Madison is a first-person narrator, but she doesn’t sound like a twenty-something dude. I think that shows real growth. Some of Palahniuk’s typical shtick was there (the random pieces of information, the frequent repetition of key phrases), but, for the most part, it felt like its own book. I just wish it was better.

Message to the author (no one else is permitted to read):
Chuck, listen to me. Do not follow through on that threat. Do not write a sequel. Abort. I repeat: abort. Take up a hobby, such as canoeing or archery. Perhaps make a scrapbook. But don’t waste your talent on more of this crap. I beg you. I really, really, really want to buy your next book, but if it’s Damned Part 2, I will not.

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