Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Cannonball Read III - Osaka Slide: #9 - Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk

Note: This is the second of five reviews in the Author Appreciation series, which is currently showcasing the work of Chuck Palahniuk.

Pygmy is probably one of the most brutal openers a book could ever deliver.  Within the first 19 pages we're introduced to our anti-hero character of no name (Pygmy is the handle folks around those parts brand him with) who is part of a sleeper cell of agents assigned with nothing short of the destruction of America.  Operation Havoc is their end game, an attack that will throw the nation into its final throes.  Millions are to be killed, and the entire culture subverted by any means nessicary. One major problem standing in their way...they're only about 13 years old.  The source of the brutality? Our main character (one of those 13 year old spies), who has just violated someone in a way that cannot be described in polite company.

While the dust jacket says it's, "The Manchurian Candidate meets South Park", I'd like to suggest that it's more along the lines of Fight Club meets Pinky and the Brain. (A lot of the humor is derived from Pygmy's broken English observations of our culture and our interactions with each other.)  Palahniuk has basically taken Tyler Durden's appetite for social destruction and married it to The Brain's constant mindset of, "God, what are these idiots around me doing?  I better play along, lest my true intentions be known".  It is with that combination in play that our protagonist leads us on an operation that evokes the memory of a not too dissimilar "Project Mayhem", except with fewer soliders and no bitch tits.

As a matter of fact, one could easily think of  Pygmyas the illegitimate sequel to Fight Club, something that the book can both trumpet and be less than proud of.  Even with its younger characters, alternate setting, and even the presense of a detailed backstory for our comrade of glorious revolution; it still manages to sometimes come off as Jack's Smirking Revenge part II.  One could even argue that Palahniuk has this obsession with tearing the walls of Humanity apart commercial by commercial, and leaving it to fend for itself in a barren wasteland where once was a proud people.  But that's only if you let yourself get caught up in the trap of comparison.  Similarities aside, this is still a work that's relevant to our modern times.  Even more so now as we wrestle with the logic of just what makes a terrorist, what makes a Freedom Fighter, and when we should celebrate or mourn their death.  (Be it literal or symbolic.)  Rest assured, this is an entertaining read where you will laugh, you will be offended, and you will sympathize with the enemy.

Up Next: Book Two in the Palahniuk Appreciation Series, Haunted


  1. I haven't read Pygmy yet, but have been considering it for some time. Your review makes me think I need to get out and get it.

    Be careful with Haunted. It is GROSS. Like, I am a pretty tough person and it nearly made me throw up on the bus GROSS.

  2. So I've heard, especially pertaining to the story Guts. That just honestly makes me more excited to read it.