From Publishers Weekly
Palahniuk's 10th novel (after Snuff) is a potent if cartoonish cultural satire that succeeds despite its stridently confounding prose. A gang of adolescent terrorists trained by an unspecified totalitarian state (the boys and girls are guided by quotations attributed to Marx, Hitler, Augusto Pinochet, Idi Amin, etc.) infiltrate America as foreign exchange students. Their mission: to bring the nation to its knees through Operation Havoc, an act of mass destruction disguised as a science project. Narrated by skinny 13-year-old Pgymy, the propulsive plot deconstructs American fixtures, among them church (religion propaganda distribution outlet), spelling bees (forced battle to list English alphabet letters) and TV news reporters (Horde scavenger feast at overflowing anus of world history), before moving on to a Columbine-like shooting spree by a closeted kid who has fallen in love with the teenage terrorist who raped him in a shopping mall bathroom. Decoding Palahniuk's characteristically scathing observations is a challenge, as Pygmy's narrative voice is unbound by rules of grammar or structure (a typical sentence: Host father mount altar so stance beside bin empty of water), but perseverance is its own perverse reward in this singular, comic accomplishment. (May)
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"What will he think of next?" asked the flabbergasted critic from the New York Times Book Review. Indeed, while several reviewers praised the novel as a darkly humorous commentary on American society, most agreed it contained serious flaws. Palahniuk's tenth novel seems designed to flummox readers with its extreme profanity, graphic sexual violence involving minors, and portrayal of adults as either brainless buffoons or shameless perverts. Critics were also split on the author's repeated use of an undefined syntax, reminiscent of pidgin English, throughout. What readers, after all, will have the patience to read sentences like, "Revered soon dying mother, distribute you ammunitions correct for Croatia-made forty-five-caliber, long-piston-stroke APS assault rifle"? Overall, critics acknowledged that diehard Palahniuk fans might savor Pygmy but that most folks would find it too stomach-turning.
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