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Snuff / Chuck Palahniuk

Doubleday / May 2008
Reviewed by: Jeff

Chuck Palahniuk made a name for himself writing pitch-black social satires (Fight Club, Survivor) and has, in recent years, expanded into the realm of horror (Haunted, Lullaby). His most recent novel, Snuff, is about the filming of a world-record-breaking gang-bang porn film, in which actress Cassie Wright will have sex, on-screen, with six-hundred men. With a title and plot like that, what horror fan would not be intrigued?

The story is told from four alternating first-person perspectives. Mr. 72 is a twenty-year old virgin who believes Cassie is his mother. Mr. 137 is looking to restart his TV career. Mr. 600 is an old friend of Cassie's and there to help. Completing the cast of characters is Sheila, the young events coordinator. In past works, Palahniuk has been criticized for giving all of his characters the same personality and writing them with the same voice. Nowhere in his bibliography is that weakness more apparent than in Snuff. All these characters, despite their dramatically different motivations and backgrounds, sound alike.

Almost every character Palahniuk has ever created has had the personality quirk of obsessively listing facts and trivia. This Palahniukism (if it's not already a word, it should be) is never more annoying than here. In his early novels, this trait forwarded the plot and provided character insight. In Snuff, its only purpose is to take up pages, with about of third of the book being filler. How many plot summaries of made-up porn films do we really need to read? Palahniuk seems to believe several dozen.

These weaknesses in character would be tolerable if he managed to deliver on any of the potential promise of the plot. Unfortunately, the book never really goes anywhere past the first few chapters of set-up. The characters spend most of the book standing around waiting for their turn at a little action, and the story does the same. When the final chapter finally arrives, and something finally happens, it’s over far too quickly, the literary equivalent of a premature ejaculation.

Chuck Palahniuk burst onto the literary scene with several novels that were shocking in their believable brutality. With each book he writes, the plots become darker yet they shock the reader less. Snuff is presents an exceptionally interesting and potentially disturbing idea, but Palahniuk fails to deliver. This could have been a great story, but as it stands, Snuff is frustratingly soft-core with no real money-shots.

Purchase Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk.

Posted on Monday, July 28, 2008 at 08:28AM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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