Written by Chuck Palahniuk
“Fans of otherworldly demons, Hell and I, Lucifer should definitely have a look at the debauched, dirty world that is Palahniuk’s Damned.”
I’ve read some “imaginative” material in my time, but Chuck Palahniuk’s “Damned” is definitely one of those books you have to tell someone about, even if they aren’t into books. This read is definitely unique in its setting, style and downright filth. So much so in fact, that I read it cover to cover in one uninterrupted sitting (excluding the wincing that occurred on page 76.)
Damned tells the tale of a 13-year-old whip tongued girl named Madison, who is the daughter to billionaire parents and has an “ample” frame. Whilst her parents leave her behind to gallivant around adopting orphans left right and centre, Madison dies of what she suspects to be a marijuana overdose, and awakens to find herself in hell. Of course you read this and think “Marijuana overdose? Boll*ocks!” I know I did. Not to sound like “a bad ass gangsta” but I have in the past smoked the old Marley Magic in the past. Good stuff too, not that dodgy sort from the inner cities that just makes you feel hungry and leaves you with a due sense of exhaustion and dread. And despite all the hot boxing, hollowed out cider bottles with biro casings sticking out of them, and woman wearing little more than a pair of bunny ears on their heads (it was a chuffing interesting party I assure you,) I never once felt as if the dope was going to make me croak. But before I bound on and rip into what seems to be a major plot hole, I am pleased to say that actually there is more to Madison’s death than meets the eye, and the actual cause of death unfolds as the book transpires.
Upon waking up in the sinister domain of hell, Madison finds herself incarcerated in a prison cell with countless others in a mass prison. In the cell next to her she meets the first of her motley crew of young sinners, a vain aloof girl named “Babette” who-even in the fiery pits of hell- talks with Madison about eyeliner. After a quick look around the prison’s other inhabitants, Madison soon meets a nerdy young boy named Leonard who has since had an obsession with the beasts and demons in hell. According to Madison he also has “Dreamy brown eyes.” A punk named Archer who brandishes a big Mohawk, and Patterson who appears to be an American football player.
Together the group break out of their cells, and Madison decides that she wants to traverse the infernal landscape of hell in search for Satan. It is here where Palahniuk’s unique style really becomes apparent. When most people think of hell they think of torture, blood, screaming and blazing fire. Chuck however decides to take a different approach. In Palahniuk’s hell, there lies candy on grubby floors, lakes of vomit, mountains made entirely from toenail clipping and (probably the most disgusting of them all) the sea of lost wasted sperm. Archer remarks that since the invention of Internet pornography on mortal Earth, the sea of spunk has been rising at record rates and has become Hell’s very own version of global warming. Along their way in search of the infamous devil, the crews have run-ins with various beasts and dangers. It is here where the book takes an “exotic” turn to say for the least.
Fans of otherworldly demons, Hell and I, Lucifer should definitely have a look at the debauched, dirty world that is Palahniuk’s Damned. For in it you witness Madison respond to an attack from a giant female demon, by climbing up her leg and (how do I put this) “pleasure” the demonic being with a living, talking severed head. You also see Madison discover that there are only two methods of employment in Hell. The first is to do live webcam sex shows, and the second is to cold call people on earth and ask them to fill out meaningless surveys, and this is just to start.
From the strange happenings in Hell, to the dramas on Earth involving one of Madison’s sinister adopted siblings, the bizarre adventures that occur on Madison’s quest to find the devil are at the very least memorable. It also treats you to a serious twist as the story draws to a close that is sure to leave your jaw by your ankles. It could almost be Keyser Sozeesque in its delivery.
However, this book isn’t without fault. One or two of the characters within the book I felt were unnecessary, and didn’t really add anything to the story. The most obvious example is the American footballer “Patterson”, who says very little or virtually nothing for the most part; to the extent you could almost forget he was ever there at all. Another issue is at times Madison’s voice comes across as too eloquent for a sinning 13 year old and can detract that much needed teenage element within a few of the pages.
Regardless of a few hiccups with character and voice, if you like the idea of something a little unusual (such as a thirteen year old girl beating up Hitler and nicking his moustache,) or are a fan of dark comedy and the supernatural, then this is a book worth taking a look at.