Chuck Palahniuk’s novels have been providing diminishing returns for a long while. Readers would be asking too much for the author to reach the glorious heights of his debut THE FIGHT CLUB…that’s a once-in-a-lifetime book and earns Palahniuk a table with the greats of American novelists. But the poor quality of some of his later offerings is a bit off-putting, to say the least.
RANT was quite good. INVISIBLE MONSTERS was solid. SURVIVOR was fantastic. The rest of his early novels are good but not noteworthy.
Around the time of HAUNTED…the quality became fractured. HAUNTED has several fantastic short stories, but as a whole, it fell apart logically and did not work for this reader. DAMNED I actively hated. DOOMED only made matters worse.
The frustrating part about Palahniuk is that even in the terrible books, there are moments of genius, of whimsy, and turns of phrase that tell a longtime Palahniuk reader that the man is still a master. If only he could make his books more focused and have them be less a pot roast of overcooked gross-out ingredients.
With BEAUTIFUL YOU, we are presented with his biggest pot roast of overcooked gross-out ingredients to date.
The plot goes like this: The wealthiest man on the planet, the nerdy entrepreneur C. Linus Maxwell (appointed “CliMax” by the press), meets plain-Jane Midwestern girl Penny Harrigan. Maxwell is a master in the arts of sexual arousal and has built a line of toys that he tests on Penny. Many orgasms later, Maxwell is ready to unleash a devious plan on the world and Penny tries to stop him.
Problems abound with this novel. The characters are poorly-drawn caricatures of stereotypes. Maxwell is like a refined Bill Gates. Penny Harrigan could be any girlfriend of any sitcom set in New York City. Plot holes abound.
The whole affair is just so weird and unusual that it is entertaining.
For instance, there is a 200-year-old sex witch/shaman living in a cave deep in the Himalayas that has grey pubic hair that grows all the way to the ground. The witch keeps her dead mother’s mummified finger in her vagina. She shares this finger with Penny. Uh, eww.
Palahniuk throws around real and made up clinical terms to describe various sexual activities that prompted amused laughter: Deftly, she compressed his seminiferous tubules in order to suppress spermatogenesis.
The novel also makes some on-point observations about sexism, feminism, sexuality, commercialism, and so on.
Finally, this is a straight-up science fiction novel. I can appreciate that.
I would not recommend this book to those easily offended, fans of mindless 50 Shades of Grey erotica, or those who like traditional New York single lady meets rich man love stories. Because this book is giving you the middle finger.
Palahniuk fans will dig BEAUTIFUL YOU. Those amused by weird shit (like myself) will be occasionally entertained.
It’s a short read. Why not dig in and find out what ol’ Chuck has to say about seminiferous tubules.
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