Survivor: A Novel

( 307 )

Overview

“A wild amphetamine ride through the vagaries of fame and the nature of belief.”—San Francisco Chronicle
Tender Branson—last surviving member of the Creedish Death Cult—is dictating his life story into Flight 2039’s recorder. He is all alone in the airplane, which will crash shortly into the vast Australian outback. But before it does, he will unfold the tale of his journey from an obedient Creedish child to an ultra-buffed, steroid- and collagen-packed media messiah. Unpredictable and unforgettable, Survivor is ...

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Survivor

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Overview

“A wild amphetamine ride through the vagaries of fame and the nature of belief.”—San Francisco Chronicle
Tender Branson—last surviving member of the Creedish Death Cult—is dictating his life story into Flight 2039’s recorder. He is all alone in the airplane, which will crash shortly into the vast Australian outback. But before it does, he will unfold the tale of his journey from an obedient Creedish child to an ultra-buffed, steroid- and collagen-packed media messiah. Unpredictable and unforgettable, Survivor is Chuck Palahniuk at his deadpan peak: a mesmerizing, unnerving, and hilarious satire on the wages of fame and the bedrock lunacy of the modern world.

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Editorial Reviews

Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“A dead-on sendup of the media, celebrity and pop culture.”
Bret Easton Ellis
“Maybe our generation has found its Don DeLillo.”
Esquire
“Maniacally comic.”
Esquire
“Maniacally comic.”
Newsday
“A turbo-charged, deliciously manic satire of contemporary American life.”
Entertainment Weekly
...[A] cynical high-wire satire of media and religious frenzy...
Sven Birkerts
..[H]e has made it his job to gather up the vectors of our collective unease and brandish them in our faces....[Survivor]...applies the firing-squad principle to extort tortured eloquence from its doomed narrator.
Esquire
Kirkus Reviews
A morbidly fascinating black fantasy about a young cult member's rise to fame and his fall from grace, written by West Coast novelist Palahniuk (Fight Club, 1996). When an airliner goes down, the first thing the authorities look for amid the wreckage is the "black box" that contains a recording of the pilot's last words, which are usually grim but fairly restrained-almost always because the pilot doesn't expect (almost always) to die. Tender Branson's situation is unusual: the last survivor of an obscure American religion known as the Creedish Death Cult, he is dictating his confession into the black box of a 747 that he knows will soon crash somewhere over the Australian outback. "What you've found," he declares, "is the story of what went wrong." That's putting it softly. Like all Creedalists, Branson, raised for a life of obscure service to strangers, chose to hire himself out as an unpaid domestic while still in his teens. Probably he would have spent his life keeping house for the yuppie vulgarians who took him in, but an FBI raid on the Creedish Church compound in Nebraska resulted in a mass suicide within the cult. Since then, surviving Creedalists living in the field have been killing themselves on a regular basis, so that Branson is soon the only Creedalist left. As such, he becomes a genuine celebrity, complete with an agent who gets him book contracts, movie deals-and with a good lawyer intent on winning him uncontested title to all Creedish Church properties. A marriage is arranged for him and televised live from the Super Bowl during halftime. But things turn sour when evidence mounts that many of the suicides were, in fact, murders-and that Branson's brother Adam maystill be alive. Is Branson a serial killer? Or Adam? Can they ever lead a normal life again? Brilliant, engrossing, substantial, and fun: Palahniuk carves out credible, moving dramas from situations that seemed simply outlandish and sad on the evening news. (Author tour) .
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393338072
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/5/2010
  • Pages: 289
  • Sales rank: 127,457
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Chuck Palahniuk is the author of the best-selling novels Fight Club, Survivor, Lullaby, Diary, Rant, Damned, and many other works of fiction. He lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Biography

Readers of Chuck Palahniuk's novels must gird themselves for the bizarre, the violent, the macabre, and the just plain disturbing. Having done that, they can then just enjoy the ride.

The story goes that Palahniuk wrote Fight Club out of frustration. Believing that his first submission to publishers (an early version of Invisible Monsters) was being rejected as too risky, he decided to take the gloves off, so to speak, and wrote something he never expected to see the light of day. Ironically, Fight Club was accepted for publication, and its subsequent filming by directory David Fincher earned the author an obsessive cult following.

The apocalyptic, blackly humorous story of a loner's entanglement with a charismatic but dangerous underground leader, Fight Club was the first in a series of controversial fiction that would keep Palahniuk in the spotlight. Since then, he has crafted strange, disturbing tales around unlikely subjects: a disfigured model bent on revenge (the revised Invisible Monsters) ... the last surviving member of a death cult (Survivor) ... a sex addict who resorts to a bizarre restaurant scam to pay the bills (Choke) ... a lethal African nursery rhyme (Lullaby) ... and so the list continues.

Although Palahniuk makes occasional forays into nonfiction, (e.g., Fugitives and Refugees and Stranger than Fiction), it is his novels that generate the most buzz. His outré plots and jump-cut storytelling are definitely not for everyone—some have likened them to the horrible accident you can't tear your eyes away from—but even critics can't help but be impressed by his flair for language, his talent for satire, and his sheer originality. Newsday wrote, "Palahniuk is one of the freshest, most intriguing voices to appear in a long time. He rearranges Vonnegut's sly humor, DeLillo's mordant social analysis, and Pynchon's antic surrealism (or is it R. Crumb's?) into a gleaming puzzle palace all his own."

Palahniuk has said that he has heard a lot from readers who were never readers before they saw his books, from boys in schools where his books are banned. This might be the best evidence that Palahniuk is a writer for a new age, introducing a (mostly male) audience to worlds on the page that usually only exist in technicolor nightmares.

Good To Know

Palahniuk (pronounced paul-a-nik) worked as a diesel mechanic for a trucking company before he became an author, jotting story notes for The Fight Club under trucks he was supposed to be working on.

Palahniuk's family has had a sad history of violence: His grandfather killed his grandmother and then committed suicide; later in life, his divorced father was murdered in 1999 by a girlfriend's ex-husband. The killer was convicted and sentenced to death in October, 2001. Palahniuk's book, Choke, was driven by an attempt to look at how sexual compulsion can destroy (see essay below for more).

When not working on his novels, Palahniuk has written features for Gear magazine, through which he befriended shock rocker Marilyn Manson; and is reportedly working on a script of the Katie Arnoldi novel Chemical Pink for Fight Club director David Fincher.

While writing, Palahniuk has said he listens to Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, and Radiohead.

To a reader who asked in a Barnes & Noble.com chat why the novel Invisible Monsters was not released in hardcover, Palahniuk responded: "My original request was not to have any of my books released as hardcovers b/c I felt guilty asking for over $20 for anything I had done. With Invisible Monsters I finally got my way."

Invisible Monsters was inspired by fashion magazines Palahniuk was reading at his laundromat, according to an interview with The Village Voice. "I love the language of fashion magazines. Eighteen adjectives and you find the word sweater at the end. 'Ethereal. Sacred.' I thought, Wouldn't it be fun to write a novel in this fashion magazine language, so packed with hyperbole?"

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    1. Also Known As:
      Charles M. Palahniuk
    2. Hometown:
      Portland, Oregon
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 21, 1962
    2. Place of Birth:
      Pasco, Washington
    1. Education:
      B.A. in journalism, University of Oregon, 1986
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt



Chapter One


47


Testing, testing. One, two, three. Testing, testing. One, two, three.

    Maybe this is working. I don't know. If you can even hear me, I don't know.

    But if you can hear me, listen. And if you're listening, then what you've found is the story of everything that went wrong. This is what you'd call the flight recorder of Flight 2039. The black box, people call it, even though it's orange, and on the inside is a loop of wire that's the permanent record of all that's left. What you've found is the story of what happened.

    And go ahead.

    You can heat this wire to white-hot, and it will still tell you the exact same story.

    Testing, testing. One, two, three.

    And if you're listening, you should know right off the bat the passengers are at home, safe. The passengers, they did what you'd call their deplaning in the New Hebrides Islands. Then, after it was just him and me back in the air, the pilot parachuted out over somewhere. Some kind of water. What you'd call an ocean.

    I'm going to keep saying it, but it's true. I'm not a murderer.

    And I'm alone up here.

    The Flying Dutchman.

    And if you're listening to this, you should know that I'm alone in the cockpit of Flight 2039 with a whole crowd of those little childsized bottles of mostly dead vodka and gin lined up on the place you sit at against the front windows, the instrument panel. In the cabin, the little trays of everybody'sChicken Kiev or Beef Stroganoff entr‚es are half eaten with the air conditioner cleaning up any leftover food smell. Magazines are still open to where people were reading. With all the seats empty, you could pretend everyone's just gone to the bathroom. Out of the plastic stereo headsets you can hear a little hum of prerecorded music.

    Up here above the weather, it's just me in a Boeing 747-400 time capsule with two hundred leftover chocolate cake desserts and an upstairs piano bar which I can just walk up to on the spiral staircase and mix myself another little drink.

    God forbid I should bore you with all the details, but I'm on autopilot up here until we run out of gas. Flame out, the pilot calls it. One engine at a time, each engine will flame out, he said. He wanted me to know just what to expect. Then he went on to bore me with a lot of details about jet engines, the venturi effect, increasing lift by increasing camber with the flaps, and how after all four engines flame out the plane will turn into a 450,000-pound glider. Then since the autopilot will have it trimmed out to fly in a straight line, the glider will begin what the pilot calls a controlled descent.

    That kind of a descent, I tell him, would be nice for a change. You just don't know what I've been through this past year.

    Under his parachute, the pilot still had on his nothing special blah-colored uniform that looked designed by an engineer. Except for this, he was really helpful. More helpful than I'd be with someone holding a pistol to my head and asking about how much fuel was left and how far would it get us. He told me how I could get the plane back up to cruising altitude after he'd parachuted out over the ocean. And he told me all about the flight recorder.

    The four engines are numbered one through four, left to right.

    The last part of the controlled descent will be a nosedive into the ground. This he calls the terminal phase of the descent, where you're going thirty-two feet per second straight at the ground. This he calls terminal velocity, the speed where objects of equal mass all travel at the same speed. Then he slows everything down with a lot of details about Newtonian physics and the Tower of Pisa.

    He says, "Don't quote me on any of this. It's been a long time since I've been tested."

    He says the APU, the Auxiliary Power Unit, will keep generating electricity right up to the moment the plane hits the ground.

    You'll have air-conditioning and stereo music, he says, for as long as you can feel anything.

    The last time I felt anything, I tell him, was a ways back. About a year ago. Top priority for me is getting him off this plane so I can finally set down my gun.

    I've clenched this gun so long I've lost all feeling.

    What you forget when you're planning a hijack by yourself is somewhere along the line, you might need to neglect your hostages just long enough so you can use the bathroom.

    Before we touched down in Port Vila, I was running all over the cabin with my gun, trying to get the passengers and crew fed. Did they need a fresh drink? Who needed a pillow? Which did they prefer, I was asking everybody, the chicken or the beef? Was that decaf or regular?

    Food service is the only skill where I really excel. The problem was all this meal service and rushing around had to be one-handed, of course, since I had to keep ahold of the gun.

    When we were on the ground and the passengers and crew were deplaning, I stood at the forward cabin door and said, I'm sorry. I apologize for any inconvenience. Please have a safe and enjoyable trip and thank you for flying Blah-Blah Airlines.

    When it was just the pilot and me left on board, we took off again.

    The pilot, just before he jumps, he tells me how when each engine fails, an alarm will announce Flame Out in Engine Number One or Three or whichever, over and over. After all the engines are gone, the only way to keep flying will be to keep the nose up. You just pull back on the steering wheel. The yoke, he calls it. To move what he calls the elevators in the tail. You'll lose speed, but keep altitude. It will look like you have a choice, speed or height, but either way you're still going to nose-dive into the ground.

    That's enough, I tell him, I'm not getting what you'd call a pilot's license. I just need to use the toilet like nobody's business. I just want him out that door.

    Then we slow to 175 knots. Not to bore you with the details, but we drop to under 10,000 feet and pull open the forward cabin door. Then the pilot's gone, and even before I shut the cabin door, I stand at the edge of the doorway and take a leak after him.

    Nothing in my life has ever felt that good.

    If Sir Isaac Newton was right, this wouldn't be a problem for the pilot on his way down.

    So now I'm flying west on autopilot at mach 0.83 or 455 miles per hour, true airspeed, and at this speed and latitude the sun is stuck in one place all the time. Time is stopped. I'm flying above the clouds at a cruising altitude of 39,000 feet, over the Pacific Ocean, flying toward disaster, toward Australia, toward the end of my life story, straight line southwest until all four engines flame out.

    Testing, testing. One, two, three.

    One more time, you're listening to the flight recorder of Flight 2039.

    And at this altitude, listen, and at this speed, with the plane empty, the pilot says there are six or maybe seven hours of fuel left.

    So I'll try to make this quick.

    The flight recorder will record my every word in the cockpit. And my story won't get bashed into a zillion bloody shreds and then burned with a thousand tons of burning jet. And after the plane wrecks, people will hunt down the flight recorder. And my story will survive.

    Testing, testing. One, two, three.

    It was just before the pilot jumped, with the cabin door pulled inside and the military ships shadowing us, with the invisible radar tracking us, in the open doorway with the engines shrieking and the air howling past, the pilot stood there in his parachute and yelled, "So why do you want to die so bad?"

    And I yelled back for him to be sure and listen to the tape.

    "Then remember," he yelled. "You have only a few hours. And remember," he yelled, "you don't know exactly when the fuel will run out. There's always the chance you could die right in the middle of your life story."

    And I yelled, So what else is new?

    And, Tell me something I don't know.

    And the pilot jumped. I took a leak, then I pushed the cabin door back into place. In the cockpit, I push the throttle forward and pull the yoke back until we fly high enough. All that's left to do is press the button and the autopilot takes charge. That brings us back to right here.

    So if you're listening to this, the indestructible black box of Flight 2039, you can go look and see where this plane ended its terminal descent and what's left. You'll know I'm not a pilot after you see the mess and the crater. If you're listening to this, you know that I'm dead.

    And I have a few hours to tell my story here.

    So I figure there's maybe a chance I'll get this story right.

    Testing, testing. One, two, three.

    The sky is blue and righteous in every direction. The sun is total and burning and just right there in front. We're on top of the clouds, and this is a beautiful day forever.

    So let's us take it from the top. Let me start at the start.

    Flight 2039, here's what really happened. Take one.

    And.

    Just for the record, how I feel right now is very terrific.

    And.

    I've already wasted ten minutes.

    And.

    Action.


Chapter Two


46


The way I live, it's hard enough to bread a veal cutlet. Some nights it's different; it's fish or chicken. But the minute my one hand is covered in raw egg and the other's holding the meat someone is going to call me in trouble.

    This is almost every night of my life now.

    Tonight, a girl calls me from inside a pounding dance club. Her only words I can make out are "behind."

    She says, "asshole."

    She says what could be "muffin" or "nothing." The fact of the matter is you can't begin to fill in the blanks so I'm in the kitchen, alone and yelling to be heard over the dance mix wherever. She sounds young and worn out, so I ask if she'll trust me. Is she tired of hurting? I ask if there's only one way to end her pain, will she do it?

    My goldfish is swimming around all excited inside the fishbowl on the fridge so I reach up and drop a Valium in its water.

    I'm yelling at this girl: has she had enough?

    I'm yelling: I'm not going to stand here and listen to her complain.

    To stand here and try to fix her life is just a big waste of time. People don't want their lives fixed. Nobody wants their problems solved. Their dramas. Their distractions. Their stories resolved. Their messes cleaned up. Because what would they have left? Just the big scary unknown.

    Most people who call me already know what they want. Some want to die but are just looking for my permission. Some want to die and just need a little encouragement. A little push. Someone bent on suicide won't have much sense of humor left. One wrong word, and they're an obituary the next week. Most of the calls I get, I'm only half listening anyway. Most of the people, I decide who lives and who dies just by the tone of their voice.

    This is getting nowhere with the girl at the dance club so I tell her, Kill yourself.

    She's saying, "What?"

    Kill yourself.

    She's saying, "What.>"

    Try barbiturates and alcohol with your head inside a dry cleaning bag.

    She says, "What?"

    You cannot bread a veal cutlet and do a good job with only one hand so I tell her, now or never. Pull the trigger or don't. I'm with her right now. She's not going to die alone, but I don't have all night.

    What sounds like part of the dance mix is her starting to cry really hard. So I hang up.

    On top of breading a veal cutlet, these people want me to straighten their whole life out.

    The phone in my one hand, I'm trying to get bread crumbs to stick with my other. Nothing should be this hard. You flop the cutlet in raw egg. Then you shake it dry, then crumbs. The problem with the cutlet is I can't get the crumbs right. Some places, the cutlet is bare. The crumbs are so thick in other places you can't tell what's inside.

    It used to be this was a lot of fun. People just call you on the verge of suicide. Women would call. Here I am just alone with my goldfish, alone in my dirty kitchen breading a pork chop or whatnot, wearing just my boxers, hearing somebody's prayer. Dishing out guidance and punishment.

    A guy will call. After I'm fast asleep, it happens. These calls will come all night if I don't unplug the phone. Some loser will call tonight just after the bars close to say he's sitting cross-legged on the floor in his apartment. He can't sleep without having these terrible nightmares. In his dreams, he sees planes full of people crash. It's so real and then no one will help him. He can't sleep. He can't get help. He tells me he's got a rifle tucked up under his chin and he wants me to give him one good reason not to pull the trigger.

    He can't live with knowing the future and not being able to save anyone.

    These victims, they call. These chronic sufferers. They call. They break up my own little tedium. It's better than television.

    I tell him, Go ahead. I'm only half awake. It's three in the morning, and I have to work tomorrow. I tell him, Hurry before I fall back asleep, pull the trigger.

    I tell him this isn't such a beautiful world that he has to stay in it and suffer. This isn't much of a world at all.

    My job is most of the time I work for a housecleaning service. Full-time drudge. Part-time god.

    Past experience tells me to hold the phone a ways from my ear when I hear the little click of the trigger. There's the blast, just a burst of static, and somewhere a receiver clunks to the floor. I'm the last person to talk to him, and I'm back asleep before the ringing in my ear starts to fade.

    There's the obituary to look for the next week, six column inches about nothing that really mattered. You need the obituary, otherwise you're not sure if it happened or if it was just a dream.

    I don't expect you to understand.

    It's a different kind of entertainment. It's a rush, having that kind of control. The guy with the shotgun was named Trevor Hollis in his obituary, and finding out he was a real person feels wonderful. It's murder, but it's not, depending on how much credit you take. I can't even say doing crisis intervention was my own idea.

    The truth is this is a terrible world, and I ended his suffering.

    The idea came by accident when a newspaper did a feature about a real crisis hotline. The phone number in the paper was mine by mistake. It was a typo. Nobody read the correction they ran the next day, and people just started calling me day and night with their problems.

    Please don't think I'm here to save lives. To be or not to be, I don't labor the decision. And don't think I'm above talking to women this way. Vulnerable women. Emotional cripples.

    McDonald's almost hired me one time, and I only applied for the job to meet younger girls. Black girls, Hispanic, white, and Chinese girls, it says right on the job application how McDonald's hires different races and ethnic backgrounds. It's girls, girls, girls, buffet-style. Also on the application McDonald's says if you have any of the following diseases:

    Hepatitis A

    Salmonella

    Shigella

    Staphylococcus

    Giardia

    or Campylobacter, then you may not work there. This is more of a guarantee than you get meeting girls on the street. You can't be too careful. At least at McDonald's she's gone on the record saying she's clean. Plus, there's a very good chance she's going to be young. Pimple young. Giggling young. Silly young and as stupid as me.

    Eighteen-, nineteen-, twenty-year-old girls, I only want to talk to them. Community college girls. High school seniors. Emancipated minors.

    It's the same with these suicide girls calling me up. Most of them are so young. Crying with their hair wet down in the rain at a public telephone, they call me to the rescue. Curled in a ball alone in bed for days, they call me. Messiah. They call me. Savior. They sniff and choke and tell me what I ask for in every little detail.

    It's so perfect some nights to hear them in the dark. The girl will just trust me. The phone in my one hand, I can imagine my other hand is her.

    It's not that I want to get married. I admire guys who can commit to a tattoo.

    After the newspaper got the phone number right, the calls started to peter out. The loads of people who called me at first, they were all dead or pissed off at me. No new people were calling. They wouldn't hire me at McDonald's, so I made a bunch of big sticky labels.

    The labels had to stand out. You need the stickers to be easy to read at night and by somebody crying on drugs or drunk. The stickers I use are just black on white with the black letters saying:

    Give Yourself, Your Life, Just One More Chance. Call Me for Help. Then my phone number.

    My second choice was:

    If You're a Young Sexually Irresponsible Girl with a Drinking Problem, Get the Help You Need. Call—and then my phone number.

    Take my word for it. Don't make this second kind of sticker. With this kind of sticker, someone from the police will pay you a visit. Just from your phone number, they can use a reverse directory and put your name on a list as a probable felon. Forever after that you'll hear the little click ... click ... click ... of a wiretap behind every telephone call you ever make.

    Take my word for it.

    If you use the first kind of sticker, you'll get people calling to confess sins, complain, ask advice, seek approval.

    The girls you meet are never very far from their worst-case scenario. A harem of women will be clutching their telephones on the brink and asking you to call back, please, call back. Please.

    Call me a sexual predator, but when I think of predators I think of lions, tigers, big cats, sharks. This isn't so much a predator versus prey relationship. This isn't a scavenger, a vulture, or a laughing hyena versus a carcass. This isn't a parasite versus a host.

    We're all miserable together.

    It's the opposite of a victimless crime.

    What's most important is you need to put the stickers in public telephones. Try inside dirty phone booths near bridges over deep water. Put them next to taverns where people with no place to go get thrown out at closing time.

    In no time at all, you'll be in business.

    You'll need one of those speakerphones where it sounds like you're calling from deep inside somewhere. Then people will call in crisis and hear you flush the toilet. They'll hear the roar of the blender and know how you couldn't care less.

    These days, what I need is one of those cordless telephone headsets. A kind of Walkman of human misery. Live or die. Sex or death. This way, you can make hands-free life-and-death decisions every hour when people call to talk about their one terrible crime. You give out penance. You sentence people. You give guys on the edge the phone numbers of girls in the same position.

    The same as most prayers, the bulk of what you hear is complaints and demands. Help me. Hear me. Lead me. Forgive me.

    The phone is ringing again already. The thin little coating of crumbs on the veal cutlet is almost impossible for me to get right, and on the phone is a new girl, crying. I ask right away if she'll trust me. I ask if she'll tell me everything.

    My goldfish and me, both of us are just here swimming in one place.

    The cutlet looks dug out of a cat box.

    To calm this girl down, to get her to listen, I tell her the story about my fish. This is fish number six hundred and forty-one in a lifetime of goldfish. My parents bought me the first one to teach me about loving and caring for another living breathing creature of God. Six hundred and forty fish later, the only thing I know is everything you love will die. The first time you meet that someone special, you can count on them one day being dead and in the ground.


Chapter Three


45


The night before I left home, my big brother told me everything he knew about the outside world.

    In the outside world, he said, women had the power to change the color of their hair. And their eyes. And their lips.

    We were on the back porch in just the light from the kitchen window. My brother, Adam, was cutting my hair the way he cut wheat, gathering handfuls of it and cutting it with a straight razor at about the halfway point. He'd pinch my chin between his thumb and forefinger and force me to look at him straight on, his brown eyes darting back and forth between each of my sideburns.

    To get my sideburns even, he'd cut one, then the other, then the first, over and over until both sideburns were gone.

    My seven little brothers were sitting along the edges of the porch, watching the darkness for all the evils Adam described.

    In the outside world, he said, people kept birds inside their houses. He'd seen it.

    Adam had been outside the church district colony just one time, when he and his wife had to register their marriage to make it legal with the government.

    In the outside world, he said, people were visited in their houses by spirits they called television.

    Spirits spoke to people through what they called the radio.

    People used what they called a telephone because they hated being close together and they were too scared of being alone.

    He went on cutting my hair, not for style as much as he was pruning it the way he'd prune a tree. Around us on the porch boards, the hair piled up, not so much cut as harvested.

    In the church district colony, we hung bags of cut hair in the orchard to scare away deer. Adam told me the rule about not wasting anything is one of the blessings you give up when you leave the church colony. The hardest blessing you give up is silence.

    In the outside world, he told me, there was no real silence. Not the fake silence you get when you plug your ears so you hear nothing but your heart, but real out-of-doors silence.

    The week they were married, he and Biddy Gleason rode in a bus from the church district colony, escorted by a church elder. The whole trip, the bus was loud inside. The automobiles on the road with them were roaring. People in the outside world said something stupid with their every breath, and when they didn't talk their radios filled the gap with the copied voices of people singing the same songs over and over.

    Adam said the other blessing you have to give up in the outside world is darkness. You can close your eyes, and sit in a cupboard, but that's not the same thing. The darkness at night in the church district colony is complete. The stars are thick above us in this kind of darkness. You can see how the moon is rough with mountain ranges and etched with rivers and smoothed with oceans.

    On a night without the moon or stars you can't see a thing, but you can imagine anything.

    At least that's how I remember.

    My mother was inside the kitchen ironing and folding the clothes I'd be allowed to take with me. My father was I don't know where. I'd never see either of them again.

    It's funny, but people always ask if she was crying. They ask if my father cried and threw his arms around me before I left. And people are always amazed when I say no. Nobody cried or hugged.

    Nobody cried or hugged when we sold a pig either. Nobody cried and hugged before they killed a chicken or picked an apple.

    Nobody lay awake at night wondering if the wheat they'd raised was truly happy and fulfilled being made into bread.

    My brother was just cutting my hair. My mother was just done ironing and she'd sat down to sew. She was pregnant. I remember she was always pregnant, and my sisters were all around her with their skirts spread on the kitchen benches or on the floor, all of them sewing.

    People always ask if I was scared or excited or what.

    According to church doctrine only the firstborn son, Adam, would ever marry and grow old in the church district. When we turned seventeen the rest of us, me and my seven brothers and five sisters, would all go out for work. My father lives here because he was the firstborn son in his family. My mother lives here because the church elders chose her for my father.

    People are always so disappointed if I tell them the truth, that none of us lived in oppressed turmoil. None of us resented the church. We just lived. None of us were tortured by feelings very much.

    That was the complete depth of our faith. Call it shallow or deep. There was nothing that could scare us. That's how people raised in the church district colony believed. Whatever happened in the world was a decree from God. A task to be completed. Any crying or joy just got in the way of your being useful. Any emotion was decadent. Anticipation or regret was a silly extra. A luxury.

    That was the definition of our faith. Nothing was to be known. Anything was to be expected.

    In the outside world, Adam said it was a bargain with the devil that powered automobiles and carried airplanes across the sky. Evil flowed through electric wires to make people lazy. People put their dishes back in the cupboard dirty, and the cupboard washed them. Water in pipes carried away their garbage and shit so that it was someone else's problem. Adam pinched my chin with his thumb and forefinger and leaned down to look me straight in the face, and said how in the outside world, people looked in mirrors.

    Right in front of him on the bus, he said, people had mirrors and everyone was busy seeing how they looked. It was shameful.

    I remember that was the last haircut I got for a long long time, but I don't really remember why. My head was a bristling field of straw with just the short hairs that were left.

    In the outside world, Adam said, all the counting was done inside machines.

    All the food was fed to people by waitresses.

    The one time he left the colony, my brother and his wife and the church elder who escorted them stayed overnight in a hotel in downtown Robinsville, Nebraska. They didn't any of them sleep. The next day the bus brought them home for the rest of their lives.

    A hotel, he told me, was a big house where a lot of people lived and ate and slept, but no one knew each other. He said that described most families in the outside world.

    Churches in the outside world, my brother told me, were just the local stores that sold people lies made up in the distant factories of giant religions.

    He said a lot more I don't remember.

    That haircut was sixteen years ago.

    My father had sired Adam and me and all fourteen of his children by the time he was the age I am now.

    I was seventeen years old the night I left home.

    The way my father looked the last time I saw him is the way I look now.

    Looking at Adam was as good as looking in a mirror. He was my big brother by just three minutes and thirty seconds, but in the Creedish church district there was no such thing as twins.

    That last night I ever saw Adam Branson, I remember thinking my big brother was a very kind and a very wise man.

    That's how stupid I was.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 308 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2012

    My fav!!!!

    This is early Chuck at his best, and is by far the best.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2011

    Eh...

    I am a huge Chuck P. fan. But this book was a bit difficult for me. I just couldn't get into it. It's about the "last survivor" of a cult, and the book is this last survivor telling his life story to an airplane blackbox. Going from, cult memeber to houseman, to overnight sensation and his fall from grace. Sounds like a good idea, but I just couldn't really get into it. In fact, I had to push myself to read it all the up to the last 2 chapters and then I just had to put it down. I couldn't make myself finish it. The writing was excellent, as Chuck P's always is. And the plot was good in theory, but in the end...I was kinda bored. Gasp, I know. But still, give it a try. You might like it.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2013

    So glad I kept reading

    In the beginning I found this book really interesting and captivating. However, after a few chapters I was really bored and had no clue where it was all going. i thoght about just putting it down, but i didnt. And im so GLAD i didnt. About close to half way the story starts to speed up and everything starts to tie together. I love the character development; it was interesting to see that only at the last few hours of his death that he became independant. Overall i love this book! Thought i wouldnt but i did. And to those who are thinking about putting it down keep reading. It gets better like by a lot

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2012

    Good

    This book was a good read. It was not gory or totally appalling. There were disturbing parts, but it was dark for different reasons. The story for "Survivor" moved at a slower pace. If you want a light speed thriller that glues you to your seat, then this novel is not for you. It is a slower recounting of an unusual man's life. And, a commentary on all of our lives.

    The beginning of the book is the end of Tender Branson's life. He has hijacked a plane, released all of the passengers and staff, and the engines are failing one at a time. He tells his life story (from the past through the present) to the airplane's "black box". His life starts out as one of many children in a cult, then as cult survivor, later a guru, and lastly it all falls apart.

    Throughout there are cleaning tips and tricks. It seems an odd subject to spend so much page space on. Rather than take these tips at face value, I think that it demonstrates the depths to which he has been programmed to serve others mindlessly. Free thinking and free will are not options for Tender. Once he is free of one master, he transfers to another, and another, etc.

    "Survivor" asks the question: how does a person who has been a slave mentally and physically deal with the opportunity for possible freedom? Do you take a chance at, maybe, being free? Or, do you continue on the path that you have always known?

    With some introspection included, I found this book to be very interesting commentary on life. Everyone has external and internal limits. How do we know that we are free? Give this book a try. It ended up being a lot better than I thought it would be. I have never read this author before. I will be checking out more titles by this author.

    -AvidReader

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2012

    My favorite Chick Palahniuk book

    I've read it several times. Knowing how it is going to end makes no difference, especially since the first page is the last page. If you liked the movie Memento, you'll love this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 8, 2011

    Great read

    This novel is close to the top with my list of favorites for Chuck Palahniuk. If you are a fan of his work, you will definitely see a great deal of the biting, clever, self-depricating brilliance in this piece of work.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2011

    Amazing - Must Read!

    I stumbled upon this author by accident and found out he had written the book upon which the movie, Fight Club, was based. I was immediately intrigued and couldn't decide which of his many novels to read first. Survivor was the first book I chose, and it was a non-stop thrill throughout! Chuck Palahniuk is a depraved genius. You need a warped sense of humor to appreciate his writing; no delicate readers here, please!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 3, 2010

    Enjoyable

    I enjoyed this book, though I found the main character a little flatter than I usually like, even from Palahniuk. The ending was pleasantly infuriating, haha.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 28, 2010

    Perhaps My Favorite Piece Of Chuck So Far

    This is the fourth book by Chuck that I have read (followng Fight Club, Choke, and Rant), and I think this is my favorite one so far. I read this book faster than any other book I've had besause I found the metamorphosis of everything from beginning to end incredibly grasping. I wish that a few things were a little more fleshed out, but overall I really like the whole world that was created. I also liked how the whole story was being told as an audio recording by the maiin character. It kept my brain cuurious as to how he's going to end up where he is. It added a certain sense of ugency, like if I don't read quickly it's going to be too late.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2009

    Survivor

    Chuck Palahniuk shows us his in depth story telling in Surivor by having the main character tell his life story to the black box of a plane that is about to crash. The main character hijacks a plane and lets everyone off and then begins flying again. He lets the pilot tag along for a little bit before he wants him to leave too. He jumps out with a parachute after explaining exactly what's going to happen with the plane during the flight, and then the crash. The rest of the novel is the hijacker telling his life story to the black box so that everyone can have something to remember the catastrophy by. The novel observes our media world in a very dark satirist way. He compares the world to having no soul anymore and shows how everyone is too caught up in their materials to enjoy their lives. The novel is an incredible read and I think it'd be a great read for anybody who enjoys a dark and entertaining read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2013

    Fun, fast, & fantastic read!

    Chuck has a unique way of storytelling that is filled with odd tidbits that add flavor overall. I love all CP'S books!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2012

    Caution! Stupidity Ahead!

    A few years ago I was at Printer’s Row in Chicago helping to staff the Other Voices booth. This is a busy book festival and at one point I was struck by the long line outside of one of the presentation tents. I found out it was Chuck Palahniuk. I think he was doing a signing and reading of his book, Fight Club. Since then I’d heard he wrote gritty, often violent stories, very contemporary in tone. Anyway, needing something to read, I bought Survivor for the Nook. First, the basics: Tender Branson is a survivor of the Creedish Cult, a religious group. When some sort of social hammer began to come down, the cult took it as a sign that Deliverance was at hand and so they all committed suicide. Tender (all the men were called Tender, the women Biddy) somehow survived because he was at his work assignment. In theory, when a Creedish out in the world heard that Deliverance had come, they were supposed to commit suicide. Tender didn’t and gradually gained great fame as the last of the cult. His fame is worldwide but a great threat looms in that he has a brother out there, Adam, who was responsible for killing those Creedish who did not commit suicide. This book is mostly (I guess) about fame and the handlers who manage the famous. In the end, Tender hijacks a 747, releases the passengers, has the pilot put the plane in the air then lets him parachute out. Tender will commit suicide by letting the 747 run out of fuel and crash. Alas, this is just such a stupid book. First, it begins with Chapter 47 where Tender begins dictating his story into the flight recorder of the 747 which recorder will, of course, survive the crash. Second, Tender is working as a housekeeper for some wealthy people so we get page after page of household tips. Third, his phone number was mistakenly posted as a suicide hotline with Tender generally encouraging his callers to go ahead and do it. Fourth, he is a virgin who has a relationship with Fertility Hollis, a psychic who can read the future. It’s all too clever by half, too cute by a thousand, the clipped, smart-ass style truly annoying. It is my last Palahniuk, but at least I went and can now say to the innocent, stay away, stupidity ahead.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2012

    Great

    Worth a read or twenty

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2012

    Amazing

    This book was great from start to finish. Definitely one of chucks best.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 9, 2011

    Guurr8

    This book is great. He really knows how to captivate a reader and leave you wanting more. I was so into this book that i read it in one sitting.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 20, 2011

    great book!

    This was a great story. Really enjoyed it! Love the author!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 21, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Best Palahniuk book

    I really love this novel. At first the main character seems pathetic, but you grow to like him and even feel sympathy for him as he's exploited. I can't think of another Palahniuk book where I sympathized more with the character. The ending pages stumble a little, but it's still a great book and one I highly recommend.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    My Favorite Of Palahnuik's Work

    This novel is very entertaining - and in typical Palahnuik style - filled with twists and turns. I'm a big fan of Chuck's work, but I am most fond of this book. I enjoyed the characters and found myself very engaged as the story progressed. Palahnuik always has a way of mixing in thought-provoking commentary with slightly dark/disturbing content with ease. Pick this book up, you won't regret it.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 12, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    One of Chuck's Best :)

    I have read several books by Chuck, this is one of my favorite. It is cleverly written, and it highlights the drudgery of day to day life cleaning up after the rich and moronic which showing that being social inept is not so bad. He shows how a person goes from no one to famous and makes it tangible.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 28, 2009

    Great Book

    By far my favorite book by Chuck. The first half is great, but I thought it slowed down for a little bit. The last third is gets really good again. It does a great job of making fun of how society portrays famous people and the lengths famous people go to to stay famous.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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