OK, first of all, this book is much better than his previous one, so those who were disappointed by Snuff and thought Palahniuk was in decline can probably write that off as an anomaly.
But Pygmy is written in a very different, Engrish-y style. And it’s relentless. It almost never stops. The only escape from the narrator’s voice is through other characters when they speak. And unlike other books with a lot of slang (A Clockwork Orange, Irvine Welsh), it’s not something you can just put aside and hope it all starts to make more sense as you go. You really have to understand what the narrator means to say by syncing yourself up with his way of thinking or else the plot will escape you completely.
Here’s an example. This:
“Could be fists of operative me execute Punching Panda, bam-blam, so render entire crowd no conscious. Subsequent then execute Pumping Rabbit Maneuver distribute own seed among various appropriate vessel. Exit shrine. Seek midday nourishment. Visit memorial acclaimed war hero Colonel Sanders.”
Anyway, the narrator is Pygmy, an undercover operative on a student cultural exchange program for an unnamed totalitarian country. His “glorious homeland” kidnapped and brainwashed him and other young specialists to have total devotion to the state. There are many Communist overtones in Pygmy’s political indoctrination, along with social Darwinism and reverence for a nondescript deity.
Even with the weird writing style, you still get a lot of that “chorus” thing Palahniuk always does – those single or few sentence repeating themes that show character development and the escalation of tension. In Survivor there are the announcements of the fuel tanks running empty and the biblical citations. In Lullaby there’s the narrator counting to himself. You know what I mean.
The best advice I can give for this book is that if you haven’t read Palahniuk before, this is a bad place to start. And if you have read him before, and you aren’t intrigued by the first 20 or so pages, don’t bother with the rest. Just wait for Tell All out next year instead.
Check out Bunting’s blog Nanobotswillenslaveusall!