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Survivor
     

Survivor

by Paul Michael Garcia (Read by), Chuck Palahniuk
 

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From the author of the cult sensation Fight Club (now a major motion picture starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter) comes Survivor.

"A turbo-charged, deliciously manic satire of contemporary American life." —Newsday

"The only difference between suicide and martyrdom is press coverage," according to the

Overview

From the author of the cult sensation Fight Club (now a major motion picture starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter) comes Survivor.

"A turbo-charged, deliciously manic satire of contemporary American life." —Newsday

"The only difference between suicide and martyrdom is press coverage," according to the "been there, done that" wisdom of Tender Branson, last surviving member of the Creedish Death Cult. At the opening of Chuck Palahniuk's hilariously unnerving second novel, Tender is cruising on autopilot, 39,000 feet up, dictating the whole of his life story into Flight 2039's "black box" in the final moments before crashing into the vast Australian outback.

Not since Kurt Vonnegut's Mother Night has there been as dark and telling a satire on the wages of fame and the bedrock lunacy of the modern world. Wickedly incisive and mesmerizing, Survivor is Chuck Palahniuk at his deadpan peak.

Editorial Reviews

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
Entertainment Weekly
...[A] cynical high-wire satire of media and religious frenzy...
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) .

Bret Easton Ellis
“Maybe our generation has found its Don DeLillo.”
Esquire
“Maniacally comic.”
Newsday
“A turbo-charged, deliciously manic satire of contemporary American life.”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“A dead-on sendup of the media, celebrity and pop culture.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786174607
Publisher:
Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Publication date:
10/28/2006
Edition description:
Unabridged
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

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's Chicken Kiev or Beef Stroganoff entrees 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.

What People are Saying About This

Thom Jones
Even I can't write this well.
Bret Easton Ellis
Maybe our generation has found its Don DeLillo.

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.

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