Confession time – I have never read a Chuck Palahniuk novel, not even Fight Club. But my students rave about him, especially Brandon, and so when I saw his latest book on the new audiobook shelf at the library, I grabbed it. Now, I’m just starting disc two, and well, I don’t want to finish it.
The basis premise is that several children are sent to the U.S. as exchange students and are “adopted” by host families. These are special children, however, children trained as operatives for an unnamed totalitarian government that wants to take down the U.S. The story is told from the point of view of one of the children – who calls himself “Operative Me.”
The premise is actually intriguing to me, partially because I like a good thrilled and partially because it’s kind of an old-school, Cold War idea. And the idea of having a child be a trained spy and killer gives the story a twist that is fresh in voice and perspective.
Yet, I find the story very difficult. One of the reasons is that Operative Me speaks in pigeon English, so everything requires a little more thought and consideration when trying to understand just the action, not to mention the underlying motives behind his actions. Maybe it would be easier to understand on the page (remember, I’m listening to the book on audio), but I doubt it. In fact, I might resent that more since it might seem like I was reading student essays.
But the real issue I have with the book is its violence. Within the first few scenes, there’s a bullying episode and then a violent rape. Because I don’t yet know the main character, these incidents – some of which are perpetrated by him – make me really loath him. This may be Palahniuk’s point, but I really don’t like hating the protagonist.
I’m not sure what I’ll do about my feelings for the book. Maybe I’ll give it a try again. But if I give it up, I don’t think I’ll regret that choice.
Has anyone else read Pygmy? What did you think of it? Apparently, some reviewers love it, so maybe I need to give it a go again, this time thinking “satire.”