Book: Chuck Palahniuk’s ‘Survivor’ – “Six hundred and forty fish later, the only thing I know is everything you love will die”

‘Survivor’ was one of the few Chuck Palahniuk books that had survived the cull so I can move house.

It is the story of Tender Branson who slowly but surely becomes the sole survivor of a cult’s mass suicide.

The plot is too weird to explain without potentially spoiling the impact, but it does feature Palahniuk’s usual interesting combination of sex (specifically issues with sex) and death.

survivor chuck palahniuk

It also features what was, for a time, a favourite quote

“This is fish number six hundred and forty-one in a lifetime of goldfish. My parents bought me the first one to teach me about loving and caring for another living breathing creature of God. Six hundred and forty fish later, the only thing I know is everything you love will die. The first time you meet that someone special, you can count on them one day being dead and in the ground.”

However on the most recent reread it didn’t speak to me in the same way, it was still good but my frame of reference had changed and it was just words on paper.

It’s not you, it’s me – but you will still be the one going to the charity shop.

SPOILER – the books leaves it unclear if Tender survives, Chuck’s website makes it clear that he does

“The end of Survivor isn’t nearly so complicated. It’s noted on page 7(8?) that a pile of valuable offerings has been left in the front of the passenger cabin. This pile includes a cassette recorder. Even before our hero starts to dictate his story — during the few minutes he’s supposed to be taking a piss — he’s actually in the bathroom dictating the last chapter into the cassette recorder. It’s just ranting, nothing important plot-wise, and it can be interrupted at any point by the destruction of the plane.

The minute the fourth engine flames out, he starts the cassette talking, then bails out, into Fertility’s waiting arms (she’s omniscient, you know). The rest of the book is just one machine whining and bitching to another machine. The crash will destroy the smaller recorder, but the surviving black box will make it appear that Tender is dead”

I think that I preferred not knowing.

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