As most of you know, I am a huge of Chuck Palahniuk. Even though I was not super impressed with his last novel, Snuff, I still could not wait to read this one. The plot revolves around an exchange student who is actually a terrorist living with a Midwestern family.
When I started reading the book, I thought that I was going to hate it. The book is written as dispatches from Agent 67 (also known as Pygmy). It is very difficult to understand what he is saying at times, for example:
Tongue of operative me lick, licking, touching back tooth on bottom, molar where planted inside forms cyanide hollow, touching not biting.
I seriously considered just shelving it and chalking it up to a failed experiment. Fortunately I kept going, and found myself getting used to the style.
Like most ChuckP books, he gives his usual odd, repeated sayings (he calls them the chorus), in this book they are in the form of quotes from famous dictators or Pygmy reciting elements from the periodic table.
What I loved about the book though, was that I thought it was going in a certain direction, and then it shifted gears and like always, you realize the clues were there all along. There will be some spoilers from here on out.
Most of his dispatches let us see how idiotic most American’s are, and how justified other countries are in their opinions of us “fat, stupid American vipers.” He also includes dispatches about his own training, which at first seem to just show him as a super badass, but after awhile you get the sense that his country may have lied to him and probably killed his family by faking a nuclear attack and saying it was American.
Once we get to the point where we know what his plan is, to release a neurotoxin to kill people in Washington D.C. at a National Science Fair. Sadly, through his own dispatches, he let’s us know that he is starting to fall for a girl in his host family and that he may not be entirely supportive of his country’s cause. He uses one of the quotes earlier in the book, that pretty much ends the book and helps sum it up: “It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion.” Understanding his own country and his own feelings, he has been rebelling against his own training. Very cool idea.