I have read more than half of Palahniuk’s novels, and have enjoyed them to varying degrees. Some of them have been great, one has been one of my favourites of all time, and some have been just OK. This one is my least favourite. I had to keep reminding myself that is was Palahniuk, because otherwise I do not think that I would have kept going. The story-telling was rushed (220 pages) and the story, well… I just don’t know where to begin…
This is the story of Penny, who is used as a guinea pig by a multi-squillionaire evil genius who is developing the world’s most innovative and amazing sex toys. These “Beautiful You” branded sex toys go on the market and the entire female population of the developed world drop what they are doing to buy them by the bag load. OK, I see what he is doing. He puts the Manhattan flagship store of these products roughly where the real-life Apple store is, and he has the ladies in question lining up around the block, just as real-life men and women have lined up to buy the newest fancy mobile phone.
OK, this is satire, and almost comic-book-like with the really, really bad bad guy, the world domination plot, the one woman who can save us all, and even the pilgrimage to the far-flung cave in the middle of nowhere where the old sage with the special knowledge is.
The book is full of references to pop culture, Palahniuk makes a dog at the Twilight books, which I enjoyed, and mentions various fancy designers who pay Penny to wear their clothes (who pay Palahniuk to give them a mention?). Palahniuk does not write a very good woman. Penny considers it “thrilling and intimidating” to be the only woman in the room. Yeah, right, she’s a lawyer, like that has never happened before. Also, it takes her less time to wax her legs than it takes a man to climb a staircase.
OK, it’s satire, but who is having the piss taken out of them? Men or women? In reality, many women are wasting their money on fashions and the next popular trashy novel (nb: not all of them, and not exclusively them), but it is men who enjoy the over-stimulation of unlimited images of unrealistic sex through internet porn (nb: not all of them, and not exclusively them).
I think what annoys me most about this book is the suggestion that sex really does drive us all. Once women have these wonderful sex toys there is really no need for anything else (not even to keep themselves well made-up and groomed!), and without women men are a total mess; they cannot even cook their own meals, care for their children or elderly, and of course they are reduced to the sex-crazed rapist maniac animals that we all know they are deep down (!). And, eurgh, the rape scenes. It is satire, I have to keep reminding myself. It is Palahniuk, I have to keep reminding myself.
I really wanted to like this book, but it is utter rubbish. I just don’t get it. That said, I think it would make a good book-group book because it has the potential to be polarising. Also, I would like to discuss it will people because there are so many bits in there that make me wonder whether he had his tongue in his cheek the whole time as he typed or if he has just lost the plot completely.