invisible monsters by chuck palanuik

If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll probably know that I’m quite a fan of Chuck Palanuik. Although he writes largely disturbing fiction (turning human fat into soap etc.), in my mind’s eye, he’s actually a super nice guy whom I would like to invite over to dinner. Where I’m sure he would manage to make me feel decidedly unhip, uninformed and probably not very well-read, simply because of his awesomeness. Damn you, fictional Chuck Palanuik.

Invisible Monsters Remix is Palanuik’s third novel, Invisible Monsters, republished in a slightly different format: instead of Palanuik creating a book that goes from start to finish, where the reader can determine how far away the end of the story is based on the dwindling pages, he decided on something new – to have the chapters all out of order, and hey! even some that you had to use a mirror to read.

In terms of actual plot, Invisible Monsters centres around an unnamed protagonist who was formally a model…until she had her jaw blown off. Now horribly disfigured, she joins forces with Queen Brandy Alexander, a beautiful, larger-than-life transsexual woman who takes the protagonist under her wing.

I’ve wanted to read this book for quite a long time, as the premise both intrigued and horrified me – what happens when someone beautiful loses their looks and their place in society? Considering my general awe surrounding Palanuik, I just assumed that Invisible Monsters would be a real treat; albeit a somewhat disturbing one. Yet unfortunately, for the first Palanuik book ever, this was not the case.

I had two problems with this book and the first was Palanuik’s ‘quirky’ way to laying it out. Sure, it was something different and I applaud him for trying, but as a sentimental book lover, I missed the structure of a normal book. It became simply frustrating to flick back and forth to the next chapter, and while he was trying to avoid being predicable, the chapters were still set out in a way that I could determine quite easily how much of the book remained. And while some of the chapters were actually little stories about Palanuik’s writing, and thus nothing to do with Invisible Monsters, I didn’t have the enthusiasm or the energy to try and hunt them down after I’d finished.

Secondly, I felt that Invisible Monsters was written for shock value, but little else. The protagonist though literally faceless (practically, anyway), is also faceless in her personality – I’m not given any reason to really care about her or know anything about her apart from that freak accident. And while there are certainly twists in the storyline, they almost seem a tad pointless, and they are surrounded by a plot that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and isn’t particularly propelled by any real motivation. In short, Palanuik appears to be riding on the fact his novel will shock people, but as a Palanuik fan who has read his other books, his style of writing or content doesn’t particularly faze me too much anymore. Plus, a novel should have more going for it than simply shock value.

I still love Chuck Palanuik and luckily Invisible Monsters Remix hasn’t put me off reading his novels – particularly the ones he wrote later on in his career, which I think really show his maturity as a writer. If you’re curious as to his methods of shock and a fair deal of depravity, I don’t recommend Invisible Monsters Remix – go for the famous Fight Club or even his newest novel, Beautiful Youinstead.

Have you read Invisible Monsters Remix? Are you a fan of Chuck Palanuik or have you read any of his other books? Let me know!

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