Book Reviews
Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk --Bantam Doubleday Dell Pub (Trd Pap) ISBN: 0385498721

I've never read anything by this author of Fight Club before, but I was a huge fan of the movie, so I thought I'd pick up one of his books. I was disappointed.

It starts out pretty okay. Tender, the title character, is a member of a cult which committed mass suicide when the government came to investigate child abuse charges. The surviving members of the cult are placed under government protection, but little by little, all of the others die off, apparently committing suicide themselves, although foul play is suspected.

He meets his romantic interest in quite a unique way. He takes out an ad in local newspapers telling people to call him if they're suicidal. When people do call, he advises them to kill themselves, which they usually do. He meets his romantic interest by visiting the grave of her brother, someone he advised to commit suicide. She also calls his hotline, but not because she's suicidal, she just likes talking to him. It is later revealed that she can see the future and the two of them go to places like a department store that's about to catch fire so they can dance in the flames right before the firemen arrive to put it out.

Tender is eventually declared the sole survivor of his cult and becomes a huge celebrity. He starts his own church with the help of his agent and his future predicting somewhat girl friend. He later finds out that the person murdering all the former cult members is his twin brother. His twin tries to kill him a couple times, but suddenly and for no apparent reason, turns into his best friend.

I liked parts of this book, but was annoyed with it on the main. I know this book is meant to be satire, but too many implausible things happen for me to take it seriously. I liked Fight Club because it had a message I could relate to. The message of Survivor is much weaker, something like religious people are all sheep. He also pokes fun at psychologists and celebrityhood. Nothing enlightening.

I was also annoyed at the book's gimmick of the page numbers counting down instead of up. It's apparently supposed to be in reverse chronological order with the telling of the story starting in the present and going further back in time, but it turns out that the book is arranged pretty much in chronological order. If you want an example of a book that pulls the reverse chronological thing off, try Don DeLillo's novel Underworld.

-- D.M.


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Retards, Rebels & Slackers by Jaina Bell ISBN: 1401011365

It has thrills, but it's not a thriller. It has romance, but it's not a romance. The characters read like science fiction, but it's not science fiction. It's used as required reading in undergraduate psychology classes across the country, but it's not a textbook. After decades of genre dominated, so called literature, Jaina Bell has succeeded in a highly original debut that defies every genre there is.

Gina packs her bags chasing a California Dream. Gina runs from her past, looking for herself. A conventional scenario, played out in the unconventional territory of "institutionalized suburbia"; "Retards, Rebels, & Slackers" brilliantly illuminates a world the reader was blissfully unaware of- a parallel universe known as a "group home". It's where the mentally disabled have been going since "Reaganomics" cleaned out the State hospitals in the 80's. "Big Nurse Ratched" has been rendered obsolete by a gang of underpaid, untrained sophomoric slackers diligently doing everything they can to avoid real jobs and rent. The reader is not merely a voyeur, but a participant in this madcap world.

Relentlessly fast paced, funny and true, "Retards" cuts to the chase and straight to the core of human nature; Jaina's keen eye and razor sharp wit lays everything bare. She let's her oddly familiar characters do their own talking, and Jaina Bell proves herself a master of dialog and character development. This simple/not so simple tale of familiar/not so familiar people and passions is psychological fiction at its best. You can find "Retards, Rebels & Slackers" by Jaina Bell on Amazon,, and Barnes and

-- Dara Nichols

Linda Goodman's Love Signs Harperperennial Library ISBN: 0060968966 1992 Re-issue.

This book is actually two books in one. It contains virtually the full text, astrological sign by astrological sign, of her Sun Signs book, plus an analysis of how a pair of signs (relationships or lovers) match up astrologically.

Goodman has written a book that is easy and fun to read. Her examples of sun sign characteristics are hilarious and generally accurate. She provides enough examples so that you really understand how a Pisces, Scorpio or Leo native looks, walks, talks and acts. You understand what motivates them. You learn their likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams.

Then she gives you an idea how the various different combinations of astrological pairs react to one another with some tips on how to deal with them! Sign by sign, paired up with each of the other signs.

While astrologically every other sign is supposed to be somewhat compatible, with other regular combinations highly compatible, Goodman shows how -- if you learn to understand one-another and work very hard at it -- any combination of sun signs can mate up, incompatibilities notwithstanding. You also learn which sun signs tend to be more compatible with your own nature.

Even if you're not a believer in astrology, Goodman's book is entertaining and laced with some many 'such as' that she might just make a believer out of you!

A mega best seller that's being reprinted constantly due to the mainstream popularity of this book.

-- E.R.D.

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