Palahniuk Returns to the Afterlife in “Doomed”

“Doomed” by Chuck Palahniuk October 8, 2013 Doubleday, hardcover, 329 pages

“Doomed” by Chuck Palahniuk
October 8, 2013
Doubleday, hardcover, 329 pages

Madison Spencer, dead girl at large, returns in Chuck Palahniuk’s sequel to 2011’s “Damned.” While her previous adventure took place in Hell, the sequel finds her stuck on earth – or purgatory — as a ghost.

This is a Palahniuk novel, so expect difficult-to-predict events and forget anything society considers in good taste. If you can make it past the first chapter, which has a woman throwing a used condom with lipstick and chocolate on the outside of it out of a black Limo’s window after blowing it up and tying it to look like a little balloon man, you’re good to go!

The narrative, told as a series of blogs, jumps from the present, non-corporeal Madison, to the past, which involves a younger Madison staying with her grandparents on a farm. Additionally, blog posts by another character appear, telling an ancient prophecy that Madison appears to be fulfilling.

Like most of Palahniuk’s novels, he throws in some many disparate ideas that it’s amazing that it stays together. Here he has a ghost hunter, a pervert in a bathroom, “Voyage of the Beagle,” a succubus, a religious cult based on Madison’s practical joke from the first book, and a plan that would make a James Bond villain green with envy.

The book is funny in a perverse way. I enjoyed “Damned” for its humor a lot, and “Doomed” continues Palahniuk’s twisted tale of the afterlife. I laughed out loud many times, something I normally never do when I read, even when I type LOL on Facebook.

But “Doomed” suffers from too much time spent in Madison’s past, and its lack of characters for her to be with. Her entourage of dead friends appears briefly, and somewhat enigmatically, in this story, leaving Madison to spend some time with her dead grandmother and a ghost “bounty hunter” named Crescent City. I wanted more of these two characters.

There’s also a subplot about a Madison doppelganger that Palahniuk builds up, but it the payoff is anticlimactic.

“Doomed” suffers from the problem with many planned trilogies; the second story simply serves the purpose of building the reader up for the final chapter. The finale certainly whetted my appetite for the final installment, but I felt too much was being held from me during this story.

Do I recommend “Doomed”? Sure. If you are a fan of Palahniuk, it’s a quick, funny read. However, it is not up there with books like “Fight Club” or “Invisible Monsters.”

Palahniuk has announced that his next book, “Beautiful You“ will be released next year. That means we will have to wait until 2015 to find out Madison’s fate. Gripes aside, I cannot wait to find out how her odyssey ends.

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