Check It Out: The first rule of Chuck Palahniuk is...

Chuck Palahniuk's "Doomed" will be released in October and continue the story of Madison Spencer, a 13-year-old girl who died and found herself in Hell. Madison is one of many unique characters who comprise Palahniuk's novels, many of which are dark, harsh and surreal critiques of modern society. Be it Palahniuk's controversial "Fight Club" or "Snuff," it's the marginalized characters who give each novel a strong and unforgettable voice. This week's article presents a selection of novels by Palahniuk that are defined by the uniqueness of their protagonists.

In "Damned," Madison is an average girl who lived an average life in the shadow of her celebrity, eco-friendly parents until she died at 13. The novel explores Madison's adaptation of spending eternity in Hell, where she makes friends with other damned souls, explores the twisted landscape and takes a job as a telemarketer. While encountering demons and reorganizing Hell's managerial structure, Madison spends her quiet moments reflecting on her life (and death) on Earth.

In Palahniuk's "Survivor," Tender Branson is a member of the Creedish Church death cult. Under the watchful eye of a caseworker from the Federal Survivor Retention Program, Tender lives a quiet life as a housekeeper for a couple he never meets and, due to a newspaper misprint and irony, is a voice for a suicide prevention hotline. When news spends that Tender is the second-to-last survivor of the church, he becomes an idol in the grotesque world of popular celebrity culture.

The title character of "Pygmy" is a adolescent teen from an unnamed totalitarian country who has arrived in the United States, along with several child soldiers, in order to covertly launch a devastating terrorist attack. Pygmy is thrust into a world wildly different than the one he grew up in, the rigid, violent and militaristic lifestyle replaced by a not-so-funhouse mirror image of American culture. "Pygmy" is an especially difficult read, not just for its content, but because the entire book is written as a journal by an author whose vocabulary is a mash-up of broken English and Orwellian doublespeak.

"Tell-All" is written from the point of view of Mazie Coogan, a personal assistant to aging Hollywood starlet Katherine Kenton who has had more husbands than Academy Awards. After meeting the "root beer" eyes of Webster Carlton Westward III, Kenton falls head over heels and the pair begin a sexual relationship. Kenton begins to fear for her life when she discovers a "tell-all" manuscript among Westward's things that describes, in stunning detail, the starlet's murder.

Rather than set the focus on one character, "Haunted" delves into the psyches of 19 individuals who have signed up to join a three-month writers' retreat. Expecting plush, Martha's Vineyard-style accommodations, they find their hopes shattered when they are stuck inside an abandoned theater. Instead of using the time to write their opus, the writers torture themselves in order to sell a torrid story of survival against an evil headmaster to the tabloids. The motivations and values of each character come out in a series of penned short stories, some more bizarre, gruesome and surreal than the rest.

CHECK IT OUT is written by the staff of the Newport Beach Public Library. All titles may be reserved from home or office computers by accessing the catalog at For more information on the Central Library or any of the branches, please contact the Newport Beach Public Library at (949) 717-3800, option 2.

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