It was really difficult for me to choose a horror novel. I can't say I've even read all that many. I wanted to choose an exciting scary book but it didn't really fit in terms of the gore quotient. So I chose a book that is guaranteed to make one feel queasy. It's not a straight up scary book but it is bizarre and horrific events happen.

The plot is as follows, 17 people who are all undeniably twisted are invited to a 3 month writers retreat. They were only allowed to bring one suitcase with their most vital possessions. The purpose of the retreat was for writers to be locked up in an abandoned theater to write their perfect novel. Though they instead decide to sensationalize their situation and want to get famous for surviving the three months. They destroy the food, electricity, and eventually start killing each other off to be the most famous and only survivor in the end. (Kinda like reality TV)

I would say that 70% of the stories are not that scary and are more bizarre than anything. But when Chuck Palahniuk wants to gross the reader out, he succeeds. The main offender is one of the earlier stories called "Guts." I never let reading affect me too much but while reading this I felt sick to my stomach and real uneasy. It's a story about weird guys getting off to weird things. The center of the story involves a swimming pool and a mishap involving intestines. Disgusting!

Other stories have to do with rich people dressing and living like vagrants because it's trendy, but then a serial killer of the homeless is thrown into the mix. Another story involves an artist who kills other artists to help them achieve credibility with their death but is hiding in the retreat to escape the same fate. Other fun stories have a woman's lips being burned off while trying to save a man from burning alive in some hot springs. When Palahniuk wants to throw the reader off and make you question if you should even be reading his stuff he succeeds. Though in a way, it just seems like he is throwing in random gore just to shock you.

A standout story he should have made into a theme is "The nightmare box." This story is really pretty creepy, and it's effective because it doesn't over-explain or even tell you what should be scary. It leaves it to your imagination and it is messed up beauty.

The way the book is written is easy to read. Each chapter begins with a poem about each character. Then they tell their story of why they are at the retreat. Then the main story picks up about the writers trying to knock each other off. So I guess it works more as a series of short stories rather than a book.

It's not Palahniuk's best, but I still believe it deserves 3 scars.


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