June 19-27, 2021
Palahniuk creates a not-to-unbelievable, scorched earth reality complete with characters that draw out every human emotion from the reader (from humor to heartbreak to repulsion), and in the end we’re left wondering “Could society really get to that point?”
Had I read this pre-covid, pre-George Floyd, and pre-Capitol Insurrection, I might have found it too unbelievable, but alas… here we are.
The idea that a dying hostage can instruct his captor to write a manifesto and create an online hit list that results in the nation’s progressive leaders and woke-scolding academics simultaneously murdered and then the rest of the population promptly splits into 3 territories – whites, Blacks, and gays – IS unbelievable after all. But after the year we’ve had – maybe not THAT much of a stretch…?
That said, I haven’t read Palahniuk in over a decade. Like other reviewers of this book have mentioned, maybe he was always this ridiculous but in our youth we were better equipped to suspend disbelief. It’s hard to know whether the satirical absurdity of this book bends a little too much toward …silly? Territory names like Gaysia, Caucasia and Blacktopia do feel a little unimaginative but with Chuck you’re always wondering – is that just his way of saying the scorched-earth insurrectionist types do tend to be woefully unimaginative and they would come up with uninspiring names like that? I like to think so.
Regardless, Adjustment Day offers plenty of the thought-provoking vignettes of human character gone awry that are Palahniuk’s signature. I’m hovering at 4 stars but ultimately chose 4.5 because although the ending felt a little rushed, it was also very sweet. Invisible Monsters had a similar gory-but-touching ending and that book will always be a favorite of mine. I’d stopped reading Chuck because his work started to feel aimless, but Adjustment Day definitely has a clear beginning, middle, and end, even if some interesting literary devices are used to juggle their order, which effectively creates suspense and intrigue.
Ultimately, it takes guts to take satire this far over the line.