Review: Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

While Damned certainly is better than Chuck Palahniuk’s last effort (cough, cough Tell All), it does not quite live up to his former work on books such as Rant and Fight Club. It does, however, set up a very intriguing premise.

What were my expectations? Read here:

While funny, the book is not entirely earth-shattering. Its satiric slant on Judy Bloom novels and The Breakfast Club are probably the best thing about this book. The thing is, the book falls flat.

Maddy ends up in Hell and constantly flashes back to her life to discover just how she ended up there. While she goes through a complex, though unrealistic character arc (from polite chubby girl to sad dead girl to complacent dead telemarketer to crazed ruler of Hell.)

I’m not sure how I feel about the whole book, honestly.

The descriptions of Hell certainly lend to Palahniuk’s taste for the vile and unclean, though these are tepid descriptions compared to his past novels:  Maddy encounters the Sea of Insects and Mountains of Toenail Clippings, along with more disgusting lakes and swamps. But honestly, these merely served to set Hell up as a gross kid’s bedroom.

I guess I can’t quite feel satisfied because the book isn’t truly OVER yet. It ends with a To be continued…

… meaning that Palahniuk plans a trilogy. Both exciting, but… can he really keep this idea interesting for three books? Will Maddy really make her way to Heaven? Sure, there’s a nice little plot twist toward the end, but then… poof!, it’s over. It doesn’t pack quite such a big punch, because well… to be continued…

That was what frustrated me most, being that I did not realize that I would have to buy more books to finish Maddy’s story.

While the book holds some of Palahniuk’s fun elements. Such as making the headquarters of Hell a place where damned teens can call the living during their dinners to perform surveys about flavored lip gloss. Or his intense study of the Hollywood family unit. Maddy’s parents are easily the funniest characters:  adopting children for the sake of publicity and exploiting Maddy for the media.

Oh, and Hitler shows up along with Vlad the Impaler.

All in all, I enjoyed the novel, but was just… disappointed. It didn’t quite live up to the premise. While Palahniuk played a lot with how political power works and musings about demonology. Honestly, he can do much better things but is restricted by the voice of his narrator. He pens a satire of the afterlife where mortals replace religion with recycling and the biggest worry for those who die is what shoes to wear.


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