Invisible Monsters was first published in 1999 as Chuck’s third novel. It was actually the book he wrote before Fight Club, but where Fight Club had succeeded to sway the publishers and establish Chuck’s name in print as a writer, Invisible Monsters did not. This 2012 edition with the word ‘Remix’ added to the title is supposed to be a director’s cut of the novel, as Chuck originally intended. The major difference here is that the chapters are listed randomly in the book and the reader is made to flip all around the novel as per instruction at the end of each chapter. There are also some bonus chapters in the book that aren’t inserted into the original story, just something the reader has to find on their own presumably after finishing the book.
I bought this under the impression that it was crafted into a choose your own adventure style, where you make decisions and those decisions affect which chapters you read and the outcome of the book. This is not true. The only quirk at play is lumping the chapters all over the novel so the person has to flip around. I believe Chuck has described this as how one would flip around in a magazine, and with the narrator being a fashion model, I guess that’s the connection.
I didn’t read the original Invisible Monsters. I started it some years ago when I first got into Palahniuk, and read a few chapters before abandoning it. It just didn’t hold my attention. So I always knew going in here, that this probably wasn’t going to be a great read.
The main problem is all the ‘Jumping’ around. Just as the reader helplessly flips around the book, the story flips around in a structure that is almost completely random. Entire chapters can be cut into six or seven different scenes, flipping back to each other, and next chapter they will be off somewhere else.
Now, this style can easily work if it’s written properly. But just imagine someone messing it up. Imagine that short skinny guy in the gym who has to load his weights to the highest fortitude, even though there’s no way he can lift it. Invisible Monsters doesn’t try to make sense most of the time. It just feels like it goes wherever it wants, and speaks in whatever language it wants. Even Chuck Palahniuk’s own writer to reader segments are written as cryptically as possible. The reader almost feels ashamed they can’t understand what’s going on in the story, or what this scene of random dialogue is referencing, or why Chuck’s going on about his character’s favorite films. If you’re ashamed enough, you might want to reread the same two paragraphs twice, three times, four or five, before proceeding ahead and having to read the next two all over again. In between all this rereading, you actually start to forget stuff. There isn’t really much of a logical story at play, and there’s no hand railing to cling on for support.
I myself, had a vague outline of the story going on, but nothing up close and real. If you asked me what happened, I’ll be able to tell you the start and end, but not much of the middle.
And even here, with all this, it could still work. Why?
Because Chuck Palahniuk wrote it.
He really can be a poet at times, and say some pretty insightful stuff. Chuck likes to make the reader ask questions about their own life, and succeeded brilliantly in this regard with Fight Club. And so, there’s plenty of antidotes and philosophies spouted about during your incoherent read. Some of them get close to the bulls eye. One or two might get there all the way.
But most of the time, Chuck’s talking up his own ass.
The reason behind this might have something to do with the narrator, the fashion shoot model who went from being a princess to a monster, after someone shot her face off. So it’s that whole, ‘I used to love beauty and now I have to live without it’ and here comes Tyler Durden-esque Brandy Alexander to teach her how she’s better off this way. So what if the reader doesn’t really care about beauty already? What if they are interested in higher pursuits, higher ideas, one where preferably getting shot in the face isn’t the answer?
I think Chuck made an extremely convincing argument about the horrors of middle class society in Fight Club, but here in Invisible Monsters, it’s an argument he can't win.
There’s a lot of gratuitous shock value on offer, the kind of shock value that thinks it’s being smart and ‘out there’, just as it is pretentiously messed up chapter-in-chapter index.
But really I think this book’s about as shocking as being handed a bag of piss.
2 Stars here because despite all its flaws, I’m pretty sure someone else who isn’t Chuck Palahniuk has written something worse.