Thursday, October 25, 2012

Review: Diary

Diary by Chuck Palahniuk

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A delightful romp of narcissism and nihilistic philosophy that represents an early high point of Palahniuk's career, however it does have a couple of deep flaws that weaken the overall effect. Whenever the spotlight is on Misty, protagonist and narrator of the book, everything is in clear focus and the characterisation bites deep and hard. But secondary character are, to a man, fuzzy and ill-defined, with little to distinguish them and some deeply inexplicable motivations are never explored: the supporting cast often acts as it does simply because the plot demands it be so, rather than out of any consistent narrative arc, and it leaves the reader with an impression of a succession of poorly-defined, out-of-focus cardboard cutouts being placed about the stage for the protagonist to wander past. Admittedly, this can be considered a function of Misty's unreliable first-person narration, but it's a trick Palahniuk performs better in other novels. More damning, however, is an ending that takes all of the narrative suspense that proceeds it and simply disperses it upon the wind- the climax simply fizzles out, and what should have been a chaotic whirlwind of effect is simply a damp and unsatisfying squib. Once again, it can be considered a function of a message oft-repeated throughout the book: that lief has no happy endings, indeed, no endings at all, and that what we experience is simply a B with neither A nor C to add meaning: narratively clever, but emotionally unsatisfying as an ending.

At its best, Diary is a bleakly hilarious tour de force, with Palahniuk's trademark mix of anger, satire and vicious social commentary in full flow. But it just doesn't maintain itself long enough, and ultimately, lets its reader down.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012


My appearances on this blog have been brief and irregular lately: my day job eats my life, and leaves me little time to do more than throw the occasional shout out at my Facebook page at the moment. It'll be a bit like this for a couple of months yet: bear with me. My day job/ home life balance should sort itself out soon, and I might find some more time to come here and post long, interesting, witty lines of banter to fulfil my dancing monkey obligations.

In the meantime, I've popped up and made an appearance as part of an SF Signal Mind Meld on the subject of heroes v protagonists, alongside a raft of other authors including Angry Robot stablemates Jo Anderton, Maurice Broaddus and Chris Holm. Which was nice.

And with nanowrimo rapidly approaching, I've signed on again to act as ML for my third consecutive year, and will be devoting my time to completing the back half of Father Muerte & the Divine now that I've delivered Marching Dead to the Robot Overlords. I'll try and post some word count updates along the way, as well as a snippet or two to pique your interest. As a sop to blatant currying of public opinion, here's a first draft extract to get you started:

Understand that, just as there are men who stand apart from the general populace, whose greatness of deed and nobility of stature ensure their names echo throughout history, so there is Benito’s special cafe bombon. It is the Odysseus of coffees, the Muhammad Ali, the Kal-el of Krypton. Coffee black as tar, as thick as a demon’s blood, crouched upon a base of condensed milk sweet enough to cause diabetes amongst innocent bystanders. Drinking it is like hosting a championship wrestling bout in your mouth. Bitterness and sweetness pummel each other for the singular honour of being the one to give you a heart attack.

Most mornings I have three.

I have little time or inclination for luxuries. Hard, bitter, highly caffeinated coffee, milk supersaturated in glucose, both contain high levels of energy. And what I do requires superb amounts of energy. I live in Costa Satanas, a village on a coast you can only visit when the need arises, at the edge of a sea that has changed names so many times over the century that you can only see us if you use the right map to travel, and even then, only if the sky matches the day on which it was drawn. The village exists because I do. Were I to lose my concentration, even for a moment, it would go back to its natural state, and be lost. I would survive, but I would be alone.

There, now. Wasn't that worth hanging around for?

Monday, October 01, 2012


It's been almost a month since I blew the dust off this baby and made with the updatery, and there's a very good reason for that: I've been off enjoying life.

Response to The Corpse-Rat King has been positive, and if you haven't got your copy yet then there's really no excuse-- it's in all the good book stores and most of the rotten ones, and if you haven't picked it up then I can only assume it's because you hate me and you've never really liked me and you'll be sorry when I'm dead and all this guilt will be on your head, I can't, I can't, I can't stand losing.... wait a minute.

Marching Dead is finished, and has been delivered to Angry Robot for their consideration. All being well, it will appear on shelves next April.

And right now, I'm giving myself some down time before I turn my attention to the next project on the block: either a return to Father Muerte & The Divine or if the Angry Robot overlords activate the clause in my contract, the third Marius dos Hellespont novel which I'm nominally calling Fall To Heaven. We shall see, we shall see.

But for the moment, I'm clearing my mental palette, watching a buttload of documentaries, playing with the kids, and getting the house ready to put on the market before the end of the year so we can downsize. Give me a week or so, and I'll be back on the bloggery treadmill, but for the moment, no signal is a sign of contentment.