Choke is Chuck Palahniuk’s fourth novel. Also reading up, this was his first bestseller upon release. That’s probably because this is his first book since the Fight Club film phenomenon.
Just to recap, I think Chuck Palahniuk is a great writer and I am enjoying my decent into his backlist. The gimmick in Invisible Monsters didn’t work for me, but Fight Club and Survivor are both good books that I recommend.
Now onto Choke.
Choke starts out amazing. The first third of the book has some of the best stuff I’ve ever read from Chuck. The unique concept of making yourself choke to death so someone else will save you, was a great idea. It reminds me of how Tender Branson had started his own suicide hotline to convince people to kill themselves in Survivor. And like the Tender Branson idea, it quickly falls by the way side.
The early chapters are essential for setting up the story. This book is about Victor Mancini, a confessed sex addict who spends his time working at a theme park with his recovering addict buddy, when he’s not screwing or going to the hospital to visit his dying mom. The book alternates between Victor’s adult life and his childhood, where we are taken under the wing of his mother’s bizarre fantasies and teachings for her son. For most part, these might be the most interesting parts of the novel.
So during this first third, I often found myself putting the book down after reading a chapter and thinking – Wow! That was amazing! At one point I thought Choke was well on track to pass Fight Club as being his best book.
Sadly though, it starts to dwindle. Halfway through I’m still waiting for the book to open up to its core conflict, its core selling point. The start was great for introductions and scene setting and back story, but I wanted the next act soon to follow. In Fight Club there was Project Mayhem. In Survivor it’s Tender’s rise to fame. As far as I can tell, there is no such arc in Choke. Instead of getting to the point, the entire novel continues in the exact same manner as it began, continuing to go sideways into more and more trivial details. Only in the books last few chapters does it make an effort to change the pace and wrap things up – which is done quite well, I might add.
But having said that, I feel this book was a wasted opportunity that needed more ideas and investment rather than taking things at a snail’s pace and underestimating the reader’s ability to get bored.
Overall it’s still a good book, but not as good as Fight Club or Survivor.