Victor Mancini, a medical-school dropout, is an antihero for our deranged times. Needing to pay elder care for his mother, Victor has devised an ingenious scam: he pretends to choke on pieces of food while dining in upscale restaurants. He then allows himself to be “saved” by fellow patrons who, feeling responsible for Victor’s life, go on to send checks to support him. When he’s not pulling this stunt, Victor cruises sexual addiction recovery workshops for action, visits his addled mom, and spends his days working at a colonial theme park. His creator, Chuck Palahniuk, is the visionary we need and the satirist we deserve.
The question is always: So what do you feel like chocking on tonight?
The first half of this book was great! I felt like I was flying through it (although I wasn’t because I currently pretty much exclusively read before/between lectures/seminars) because it was fast paced and filled with such an interesting set of narrative strands I could only expect from someone like Palahniuk. But, alas, the second half was kind of disappointing. I didn’t like where the story was going and it slowed down considerably. It wasn’t bad or anything it simply developed from a story I was constantly thinking about into a story I almost forgot. I’d rather send elaborate texts than read a couple of pages and when I was nearly finished I totally forgot to read the rest at home and write a review (because I like writing my reviews for books before starting another one and I don’t like writing reviews when I’m not at home, which is unfortunate because I’m definitely not at home at the moment).
One thing I find really interesting about Palahniuk’s writing is how he deals with violence. Obviously, his books are gross and graphic and violent but I never really find that disgusting. What gets me is the way his character perceive and comment on that violence. Suddenly, pretending choke to death is portrayed as something grand one should be praised for which causes a pretty violent disconnection between reader and book. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this book isn’t disgusting, just to me it isn’t. Instead, it’s fascinating, interesting, I think about society in a ruthless kind of way I never do when I’m not reading a Palahniuk.
Now, that’s all good and dandy as long as the story actually has something (preferably new) to say about society. As soon as it doesn’t anymore, I’ll get bored. This is, partially, because the characters are so consumed with and by themselves. It’s always “me. me! Me! ME!” and, more fatally, it’s always the same topics they’re screaming about. Still this could be good if there were a continuous development in story, which was lacking in this case. In Invisible Monsters the character is, on the most basic level, always dealing with the same problem but, as a reader, you only gradually understand what that problem really is while also being presented whit a variety of new perspectives, information, and backstory you weren’t aware of before until the book ends and you finally understand. In this book, though? Not so much.
However, even though I was rather iffy about the second part of the book, I did like the actual ending of the story. Or, at least, the last flashback-chapter. The rest I could have dealt without but I really liked the last flashback-chapter. It explained so much, it was fantastic.
These are doctors, lawyers, captains of industry, who, day to day, can’t master a zipper anymore. This is less teaching than damage control. You might as well try to paint a house that’s on fire.
If the first half was a 4/5 and the second half a 2/5 it seems fair to give it a 3/5.
Deutscher Titel: Der Simulant
Author: Chuck Palahniuk