“Did perpetual happiness in the Garden of Eden maybe get so boring that eating the apple was justified?”
Funny, biting, harsh, satirical, absurd, poignant, real, nonsensical, dark, humorous, genius! This is what I love from Chuck. This is the Chuck that I look for when I want a slice of razor-edged, existential pie for breakfast. He soothes that ragged, sometimes consuming dread that most people feel from time to time. He just slaps on a balm of laughter and violence, and tells you to buck up and, honestly, it totally works. I love his books and Survivor is one of my new favorites for sure.
This book was amazing. I have had this one on my TBR for ages and just never got around to it. I am so so happy I finally read it!
The story centers around Tender Branson, one of the last surviving members of a cult community, the Creedish Death Cult, that was liberated years before. It opens with him, alone, on an airplane that he has just hijacked, leaving a suicide note in the plane’s black box, as he prepares for it to crash. Talk about an opening! He reflects back on his time in the community, how he was raised without a real name or identity, how he was told of the horrors of the real world and prepared to work a low-end job in it, to send money back to the cult. Hie job ends up being a housekeeper for rich people, and one of Tender’s running commentaries about the best ways to get blood or semen stains out of expensive fabric, or how to fake your way through a fancy dinner, is quite hilarious. I love Chuck’s ongoing gags and gimmicks throughout his novels. Each novel tends to have a recurring line or sentiment repeated throughout and it is a great writing technique.
Tender also has a dark and bleak side hobby, where he fakes self-help calls and tells the callers that they are better off just killing themselves. This sets the tone of the novel as being wildly nihilistic and absurd (c’mon a landfill full of discarded dildos and outdated porn??), in true Chuck fashion. He has such a knack for capturing the essence of those fleeting feelings one might have on a bad day, where nothing seems to be going right and all you can do is laugh at the grand scheme of the world or life in general. There are so many amazing quotes in this book on life, humanity, and what it means to not be dead yet. It’s relatable and so human.
The novel really kick off when Tender learns that someone is out killing all of the last surviving members of the cult, because, it was their duty to off themselves when the cult leaders committed suicide, no matter where they were in the world. Naturally, Tender hasn’t done that yet. He says life kills us all, alcohol and cigarettes speed it along, and he is just performing a longer suicide than the elders. Again, it’s very humorous, if also very melancholy.
As events unfold, Tender ends up becoming a national sensation as the last living member of his cult, the Survivor. He has strange and insightful dealings with a woman he lusts after named Fertility and a few other notable characters. Once he gets lost in his role as media messiah, the social commentary about fame, religion, corporate greed, the transience of beauty, authenticity, and human nature to always want something new, green, and different, is spot on. I love Chuck’s biting sarcasm and revealing look at the world. For some reason, his books never feel hopeless, despite the existential nature of their content.
The ending is great, packing a punch, and the structure of the novel really adds to the experience. I loved how the book had descending page numbers. I had never seen that before and it was really neat, like a countdown to the catastrophe. It’s well done, it’s poignant and gripping. It’s really freaking good.
I was a huge fan of this book and it makes me feel revitalized within the realm of Chuck books!
Happy reading, folks!