A few weeks ago I started (and promptly finished) Survivor, a book that was recommended to me long ago and has been sitting — neon orange — on my bookshelf for the better part of a year. I have become quite a fan of Palahniuk’s novels over the last five years by bits and pieces, and the rapid, increasingly bizarre narrative in Survivor did not disappoint.
Tender Branson: fundamentalist terrorist? Domestic servant doused in bad luck? Or does the universe have a plan for even its most lost inhabitants?
Tender is one of the last surviving members of a death cult, checked on frequently by a listless social worker and called nightly by misguided souls on his phony suicide hotline. In the course of his lackluster existence, which he constantly questions as his fellow Creedish peers dwindle, he meets Fertility. She claims she can see the future, and Tender claims he doesn’t intend on having one. Between mysterious murders, premonitions, tips for getting blood out of fur coats, and a sudden media hype around Tender as a spiritual giant, Survivor tells a story about our contradictory desires for both destruction and redemption.
I quite enjoyed this book. The characters are complex individuals, sad people who make unreasonable, devastating choices but who don’t know many alternatives. The story of Tender Branson’s life is told by Tender himself into the black box of a hijacked airplane. It’s a thrilling set-up from the first page…Oh, that’s another interesting feature of the book: the page numbers are backwards, so as you read the book the pages count down to the end.
3, 2, 1.