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Damned
Cover of Damned
Damned
Damned Trilogy, Book 1
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"As gleefully, vividly, hilariously obscene as you'd expect. . . . Irreverent and hugely entertaining." —NPR
From the bestselling author of Fight Club comes a dark and brilliant satire about adolescence, Hell, and the Devil.

Madison is the thirteen-year-old daughter of a narcissistic film star and a billionaire. Abandoned at her Swiss boarding school over Christmas, she dies over the holiday, presumably of a marijuana overdose. The last thing she remembers is getting into a town car and falling asleep. Then she's waking up in Hell. Literally. Madison soon finds that she shares a cell with a motley crew of young sinners: a cheerleader, a jock, a nerd, and a punk rocker, united by their doomed fate, like an afterschool detention for the damned. Together they form an odd coalition and march across the unspeakable landscape of Hell—full of used diapers, dandruff, WiFi blackout spots, evil historical figures, and one horrific call center—to confront the Devil himself.

"As gleefully, vividly, hilariously obscene as you'd expect. . . . Irreverent and hugely entertaining." —NPR
From the bestselling author of Fight Club comes a dark and brilliant satire about adolescence, Hell, and the Devil.

Madison is the thirteen-year-old daughter of a narcissistic film star and a billionaire. Abandoned at her Swiss boarding school over Christmas, she dies over the holiday, presumably of a marijuana overdose. The last thing she remembers is getting into a town car and falling asleep. Then she's waking up in Hell. Literally. Madison soon finds that she shares a cell with a motley crew of young sinners: a cheerleader, a jock, a nerd, and a punk rocker, united by their doomed fate, like an afterschool detention for the damned. Together they form an odd coalition and march across the unspeakable landscape of Hell—full of used diapers, dandruff, WiFi blackout spots, evil historical figures, and one horrific call center—to confront the Devil himself.

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  • From the book

    I.Are you there, Satan? It's me, Madison. I'm just now arrived here, in Hell, but it's not my fault except for maybe dying from an overdose of marijuana. Maybe I'm in Hell because I'm fat--a Real Porker. If you can go to Hell for having low self-esteem, that's why I'm here. I wish I could lie and tell you I'm bone-thin with blond hair and big ta-tas. But, trust me, I'm fat for a really good reason.

    To start with, please let me introduce myself.

    How to best convey the exact sensation of being dead . . .

    Yes, I know the word convey. I'm dead, not a mental defective.

    Trust me, the being-dead part is much easier than the dying part. If you can watch much television, then being dead will be a cinch. Actually, watching television and surfing the Internet are really excellent practice for being dead.

    The closest way I can describe death is to compare it to when my mom boots up her notebook computer and hacks into the surveillance system of our house in Mazatlan or Banff. "Look," she'd say, turning the screen sideways for me to see, "it's snowing." Glowing softly on the computer would be the interior of our Milan house, the sitting room, with snow falling outside the big windows, and by long distance, holding down her Control, Alt and W keys, my mom would draw open the sitting room drapes all the way. Pressing the Control and D keys, she'd dim the lights by remote control and we'd both sit, on a train or in a rented town car or aboard a leased jet, watching the pretty winter view through the windows of that empty house displayed on her computer screen. With the Control and F keys, she'd light a fire in the gas fireplace, and we'd listen to the hush of the Italian snow falling, the crackle of the flames via the audio monitors of the security system. After that, my mom would keyboard into the system for our house in Cape Town. Then log on to view our house in Brentwood. She could simultaneously be all places but no place, mooning over sunsets and foliage everywhere except where she actually was. At best, a sentry. At worst, a voyeur.

    My mom will kill half a day on her notebook computer just looking at empty rooms full of our furniture. Tweaking the thermostat by remote control. Turning down the lights and choosing the right level of soft music to play in each room. "Just to keep the cat burglars guessing," she'd tell me. She'd toggle from camera to camera, watching the Somali maid clean our house in Paris. Hunched over her computer screen, she'd sigh and say, "My crocus are blooming in London. . . ."

    From behind his open business section of the Times, my dad would say, "The plural is crocuses."

    Probably my mom would cackle then, hitting her Control and L keys to lock a maid inside a bathroom from three continents away because the tile didn't look adequately polished. To her this passed for way-wicked, good fun. It's affecting the environment without being physically present. Consumption in absentia. Like having a hit song you recorded decades ago still occupy the mind of a Chinese sweatshop worker you'll never meet. It's power, but a kind of pointless, impotent power.

    On the computer screen a maid would place a vase filled with fresh-cut peonies on the windowsill of our house in Dubai, and my mom would spy by satellite, turning down the air-conditioning, colder and colder, with a tapping keystroke via her wireless connection, chilling that house, that one room, meat-locker cold, ski-slope cold, spending a king's ransom on Freon and electric power, trying to make some doomed ten bucks' worth of pretty pink flowers last one more day.

    That's what it's like to be dead. Yes, I know...

About the Author-
  • CHUCK PALAHNIUK's eleven best-selling novels--Tell-All, Pygmy, Snuff, Rant, Haunted, Lullaby, Fight Club, Diary, Survivor, Invisible Monsters, and Choke--have sold more than five million copies in the United States. He is also the author of Fugitives and Refugees, published as part of the Crown Journey Series, and the nonfiction collection Stranger Than Fiction. He lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 2, 2011
    Move over, Dante, there's a new tour guide to hell: Madison Spencer, the 13-year-old narrator of Palahniuk's cliché-ridden latest bulletin of phoned-in outrage. After self-asphyxiating, Madison wakes up in hell and quickly finds, as she's put to work prank-calling people at dinnertime, that her new home is not much different from Saturday detention in The Breakfast Club. Embarking on a field trip with some new friends, Madison fights demons, raises an army of the dead, and storms the gates of Satan's citadel. At the same time, she flashes back to her unhappy life as the daughter of a self-absorbed movie star mother and a financial tycoon father who collect Third World orphans. Unfortunately, Palahniuk's hell turns out to be a familiar place, filled with long lines, celebrities, dictators, mass murderers, lawyers, and pop culture references and jokes repeated until they are no longer funny. In the end, the author seems to be saying that the real hell is the banality of our earthly lives, an observation that itself seems a little too banal to power this work of fiction.

  • Kirkus

    July 15, 2011

    As the provocative novelist probably intended, reading this book is hell.

    Through 11 previous novels (Tell-All, 2010, etc.), the author who first achieved notoriety through the movie adaptation of his Fight Club debut (1996) has continued to mix edgy humor with sharp social commentary while flirting with taboo. Yet his latest isn't particularly funny, insightful or powerful. Its narrator is 13-year-old Madison—who tries her best to keep secret her full name: Madison Desert Flower Rosa Parks Coyote Trickster Spencer. She has the voice of a typical teenage girl, one who is precocious and a little overweight. But she is dead. And her parents are obviously patterned on Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt (actually more the former than the latter), whose relentless self-promotion includes a series of high-profile adoptions, and who do their best to keep their daughter stuck in time, well short of puberty. Or did, because now that Madison is dead, she is beyond their reach—in hell. The author's creative imagination in conjuring the realm of eternal damnation falls considerably short of Dante's. Telemarketing comes from hell. So does porn. It has rivers and lakes of bodily secretions. It spawned TV and the Internet. It is remarkably easy to become consigned there, making the reader wonder what might possibly be required to gain entry into heaven. Madison is there because of a fatal marijuana overdose, or at least that's what she says at the start. Almost all lawyers, journalists and celebrities are there. It is not a metaphor for life on earth: "What makes earth feel like Hell is our expectation that it should feel like Heaven. Earth is Earth. Dead is dead," writes Madison. Each of the 38 short chapters begins, with a nod toward Judy Blume: "Are you there, Satan? It's me, Madison." 

    The novel sustains a consistency of narrative voice, but there is little plot or momentum, until it climaxes at the end with a power play, identity transformation and O. Henry–ish twist, followed by the most frightening of all possible promises: "To be continued..."

     

     

    (COPYRIGHT (2011) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • Library Journal

    May 15, 2011

    Daughter of a billionaire and a self-absorbed film star, 11-year-old Madison dies of a drug overdose during the Christmas holiday at her Swiss boarding school. She wakes up in hell and soon joins with other adolescent misfits in a sort of afterlife The Breakfast Club (actually referenced), then takes on Satan himself. Palahniuk's always a bit twisted, but while initially this sounded over-the-top funny, a quick look suggests it's more edgy social satire. Will it work? With a seven-city tour.

    Copyright 2011 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    June 1, 2011
    Palahniuk's latest is no Fight Club (1996) or Choke (2001), his two best, but with frequent laughs and a slew of unexpected turns, readers will find in it a certain charm. Our narrator, Madison, a chubby, 13-year-old outcast, awakes in a cell, realizing she is not only dead but also condemned to hell. Chalking her circumstances up to a marijuana overdose, Madison quickly settles in, befriending a sort of Dead Breakfast Club, complete with the brain, the jock, the rebel, and the prom queen. Palahniuk's hell, sometimes goofy (The English Patient plays on repeat), sometimes gross-out (mountains of nail clippings and dandruff are commonplace), is a far cry from Dante'smore devilish than hellish. As she chronicles her afterlife (assigned to work as a telemarketer), she recalls her life on earth and, in turn, discovers there was more to her death than smoking marijuana. The story scoots along like any great adventure story, as she takes on Hitler and Catherine de Medici, and it's a delight seeing Madison find her place in life, even if it's in death. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A seven-city author tour, extensive print and online advertising, and author appearances on national media will round out the robust promotional campaign designed for Palahniuk.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2011, American Library Association.)

  • Michael Schaub, NPR "Palahniuk's 12th novel is just as gleefully, vividly, hilariously obscene as you'd expect --and it's also a hell of a lot of fun. [He] has always been known for his pitch-dark satire, and it's evident here in his depiction of the underworld.... As a young adult novel, it's surprisingly sweet, hopeful and empowering; as a satire, it's funny, irreverent and hugely entertaining. 'Hell is other people,' mused Sartre. Leave it to Chuck Palahniuk to tell us that might not be such a bad thing after all."
  • Janet Maslin, the New York Times
    "Damned is as lively as a book about the dead can be....the Judy Blume book from hell, just as Mr. Palahniuk intended."
  • Chris Talbot, AP
    "Damned is gross, sick, nasty, silly, all the things you want from the merry madman of American letters, Chuck Palahniuk. How can you not be instantly transfixed by an opening like this?: 'Are you there, Satan? It's me, Madison. I'm just now arrived here, in Hell, but it's not my fault except for maybe dying from an overdose of marijuana.'
    And so begins the kind of goofy, but hypnotically endearing tale of a 13-year-old girl who, completely lost in life, finally starts to discover herself in Palahniuk's demented version of the afterlife....With Damned, [he] opens the fire hose to full bore again, stripping away the veneer on American society and showing us the yucky parts we don't want to see."
  • Christian DuChateau, CNN
    "...[T]horoughly original...satiric and horrifying, enough so you'll want to repent after you read."
  • Claude Peck, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
    "Some Fight Club trademarks--youthful disaffection, violence, gross-out humor, a dystopic setting, cultural satire as an extreme sport, a decent helping of third-act pathos--can be seen in...Damned. Even prepubescent Madison Spencer, the protagonist of Damned, has traits that could be seen as Tyler Durden-esque. She's disaffected from society (i.e., those still alive), she kicks serious butt and is a cultural critic who becomes an unlikely leader....It's hard to pitch the broadly satirical Damned as a useful replacement narrative of life after death, but it's a rollicking adventure of Swiftian proportions, a Valleyfair of the Underworld that, incidentally, shows an overweight teenage girl bringing Satan himself down a peg."
  • Rege Behe, Pittsburgh Tribune Review
    "Damned is typical of Palahniuk's work: a scathing satire that is unfiltered, caustic and smart....[His] descriptions of hell are priceless."
  • Bill O'Driscoll, Pittsburgh City Paper


    "Even just its first few chapters reveal several layers of satiric humor, social commentary, Grand Guignol violence and heartbreaking insight....The narrator's blend of snark, precocious wit and unconcealed vulnerability and need is a combination as refreshing as the book is hard to put down."
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