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4.1 out of 5 stars
Invisible Monsters
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2009
As the title says, this novel is pretty consistent with a lot of Palahniuk's work (of which I've read most). A really absurd story with unique characters, and surprising twists. I wouldn't say it's one of his best though.

My main qualm with the book is that it is written in first person from a female perspective, and in my opinion, it was not convincing at all that this person was a woman. I felt like the character thought much like ones in his other books (which are men) - and that the things she would think about and conclusions she reached didn't mesh with how a woman thinks (I'm a woman!).
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This was a troubling, yet great novel - the cut-up style infuriating, the characters weak, the shock-obsession with consumerism and death tiresome. Palahniuk's self-immolating-as-style and crypto-misogynist fetish for fashion details is very much like an unsuccessful drag queen - he just doesn't seem to have the voice of the main character right. In fact, the problem is that the character doesn't fully develop until the last 20 or so pages, much the dialogue given to a biting observations or catty banter (most of which using language borrowed from fashion mags). The ending seemed like an awfully tidy way to overcome the 27 other chapters of senseless posing (like a fashion model) that the book comprises.
That said - something awful and equally wonderful about this book appealed to me. It could have been the fact that the biting, catty banter was actually pretty witty; the usual Palahniuk sense of nihlism set against some hypocritical aspects of our culture. Perhaps it's also the liberating outlaw road-movie sense of reclaiming humanity through unnatural means (gender reassignment, self mutilation). Perhaps even the infuriating flashback style fuels the plot and imagination. Whatever it was - I had a great time reading this novel, while at the same time, really wanting to hate it for those very reasons.
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on August 20, 2002
This was my first Palahniuk book, suggested by a friend. After seeing Fight Club, I immediately noted the simular style of 'Time Leaping' which is also utitilized in this book, and is something that is used in other novels such as Slaughter House Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Though in this story, as in the story of Fight Club, Palahniuk takes this style to a new level (as well as the climax initiating storyline).This style is primatively redundant and can become annoying to read. We understand that this is the character's mentality and this actually does work in illustrating the levels of her sanity throughout different points of the story, giving the narrative some varied rhythm and that postmodern "conscious altering feeling." I also agree about the need for commas, even from an artstic stand point as I am a creatIve wrIter.
The main character is interesting and dynamic as she is simultaneously lame, trite, conceited, vain, shallow, though shows some "moments of |intelligent| clarity" in her observations and her own self-awareness. In this we are easily open to consider our own short-comings better.
It's almost as though Palahiuk is using a pleasing intrustive narrator, if you can do so on a first person narration, as she is constantly reexamining herself, redefining herself and, unbeknownst to her, accepting her real self by coming to terms with her past in a circular, chaotic way.
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on May 20, 2002
While the storyline in this book is interesting, the plot twists intriguing (yet somewhat predictable if you've read the author before or seen Fight Club), and the characters hysterically dysfunctional... this book could have used another run by the editor. Like his editor's comment quoted in the front "This isn't good enough." Though that comment was supposed to refer to previous versions of the novel, it applies equally well to this "final product."
Palahniuk has got something here with the drug-addled, body mutilating, self-distorting characters, but the reader is constantly distracted by editorial mistakes and gross grammatical errors. FINISH A SENTANCE ALREADY. PUT THOSE COMMAS WHERE THEY BELONG. Yes, yes, some authors DO effectively use bad grammar to make a point, especially when creating dialogue between characters, but this is just distracting and lazy. Not to mention the editorial errors where a similar word is put in place of the one that I hope he meant to use. When I buy a book, I want someone to have proofread it for me... just a personal issue I guess.
As distracting as all that was, I did read this book while attending a mandatory "communications" seminar (let me tell you about that sometime) and found that it filled the void nicely. A little predictable and definitely not his best work, but I did keep thinking about it after I closed the cover and that's always a good sign.
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on August 14, 2001
I've read 3 of Palahniuk's books ... I must say this is a little below Fight Club and Survivor quality-wise. The plot is your average Palahniuk weirdness: A fashion model's jaw is shot off by either her ex-best friend or ex-boyfriend (or maybe someone else?), causing her to go from loved beauty queen to a...you guessed it...an "invisible monster" as she puts it. She soon meets Brandy Alexander, a beautiful, perfect little Princess. The two then kidnap the narrator's ex-boyfriend and go on a road trip, stealing drugs from rich people's houses and selling them on the street. I liked the book, but had one big problem with it. There were several hints in the book as to the characters' prior relations and relationships. I thought these were clever. But after these hints were dropped, the author comes outright and tells you what you've been suspecting all along. This has a negative affect. It's like when someone explains the punchline of a joke. The joke loses it's cleverness and humor, but the joke-teller feels funny because HE understood it. The characters are VERY odd (usually a plus in Palahniuks), so odd they're impossible to identify with. You feel a strange sense of detachment when reading this, which isn't common in Chuck's books. For all of my ranting, Invisible Monsters really is a good read. It's full of Palahniuk's famous use of repetition, facts you'd probably be better off not knowing, and the idea of things getting much worse before they get better. Recommended after you read his first two books.
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on July 29, 2001
Despite the fragmented style of this book, it is very easy to read. At times it's also very humorous in that all of the charactors are grotesque exagerations of people. The problem with this book lies in the writer's constant use of plot twists. There are so many woven into this story that, eventually it becomes like a bad Dickens novel (not that Dickens wrote any bad novels). Everything in the story is so intertwined, so coincidental that as it progresses, it becomes less and less believable. It almost seems as though Palaniuk is trying to outdo his previous works --trying to remain shocking to his audience. By doing this though, he handicaps his story. While his style is interesting, and the story is pleasant to read (it could easily be read in a day, or two), I think that in trying to compete with his earlier novels, Palaniuk made a lesser one. If you are interested in This particular writer due to a certain movie starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, I would suggest reading his earlier novels (Fight Club, and Survivor)instead of this book. This one is, in my humble opinion, the weakest of the three novels.
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I truly enjoyed this book, and feel that Chuck is a very good author. He is good at description, and his schizophrenic style in this book, jumping from section to section, is definitly a plus, but I have a few complaints. Firstly, though this is a new story and SHOULD be read, it is too much like Fight Club. I reccomend reading both, but don't expect much difference. Very similar concepts of destroying yourself before getting anything. My other complaint is that the start-at-the-ending schtik is getting very cliched - he has three books, and all three start at the end. In the first it was exciting, the second interesting, and in the third you start to wonder when he's going to change. Though it is an interesting way to write, he should not confine himself to this style. I do admit, however, that I would say that Invisible Monsters is the best of his three books - the three-star rating is only because of similarities to earlier books and the beginning-at-the-end bit (though this was the second book of his I have read - it was not old by this time but I have read his third between then and now). The ending is a lot better than Fight Club's, and at a few point I had to put the book down and take a few deep breaths as there are some very unexpected twists that will shock you.
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Invisible Monsters is a fun ride. It's the story of a one-time supermodel who gets the bottom half of her face shot off. It's the story of opposition; she travels from extreme beauty to extreme ugliness, from extraordinarily social behaviour to complete antisocial behaviour; from being a "normal" person to being a monster.
In some ways, the writing reminds me a little bit of Brett Easton Ellis's American Psycho. In both books, much attention is paid to brand names and clothing details. Our introduction to the protagonist reads like a skewed write-up in Cosmopolitan magazine:
"My gown is a knock-off print of the Shroud of Turin, most of it brown and white, draped and cut so the shiny red buttons will button through the stigmata. Then I'm wearing yards and yards of black organza veil wrapped around my face and studded with little hand-cut Austrian crystal stars. You can't tell how I look, face-wise, but that's the whole idea. The look is elegant and sacrilegious and makes me feel sacred and immoral."
Make note of this description. If you read the book, you'll see it again. Palahniuk tends to reuse some of his favourite bits. The result is literary vertigo--a deja-vu of words.
Wholly unrealistic coincidences also keep repeating themselves. I won't go into any detail that might destroy plot twists, but you may want to keep in mind that sometimes things are more like they seem than you would think conceivable.
The recursive writing put me into a bizarre post-modernistic fugue state, whatever that means. Really, though, reading this book is rather like one of those sick-making rides at the carnival. After a while, the excitement turns into nausea which turns back into excitement which turns into a "when does this ride stop?" kind of feeling. But that's the way the best rides always are, right?
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on August 15, 2000
I know as a person born in Generation X, I should feel the outrage and disdain for popular culture that Palahniuk feels. After reading his popular 'Fight Club' and subsequently watching the movie, I was awed by his interpretation of men and their need to hit the proverbial rock bottom before they can truly live their life. A friend recommended 'Invisible Monsters' to me and told me it was one of the best books she had read and it completely changed her life. Well to cut to the chase, I didn't feel the same way about it - in fact I was looking forward to finishing it.
The book this time flip flops to a woman who needs to hit rock bottom by disfiguring herself with self inflicted facial wounds. The book has similar plots and twists that Fight Club provided, but as I read the book I felt like every twist Palahniuk introduced was an expectation and I didn't feel the shock he intended. In this way the book was predictable. What made Fight Club such a wonderful book seemed supplanted in the Invisible Monsters follow up. I'd say it's an average book at best, and don't read it for it's prose - pick it up as an easy and cheaply entertaining ride. It gets 2 ½ stars from me, but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt and give it three for the Amazon rating system.
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on July 9, 2001
This is my first literary jaunt through the mind of Palahniuk. I saw the movie Fight Club and was compelled to pick up one of his books. I chose Invisible Monsters because of the subject. How can you go wrong with a super model who gets her face blown off? I have to say that there were parts that made me laugh out loud. But those parts were so sparingly imbedded in this over the top, completely out there, novel that I eventually burned out on the bizarre factor and became bored. Being able to see the plot ‘twists’ from miles away didn’t help. There was absolutely not one character to like, respect or root for in the entire book. Everyone .... equally. I guess that was the point. I’m not easily shocked, and Palahniuk, try as he might, didn’t succeed. I give the book three stars for the Christmas chapter and for Shannon’s one brilliant and hilarious act of revenge. Worth reading? Sure, but you might want to pick up something by Harry Crews instead.
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