Ever wonder how telemarketers manage to get you just as you’re sitting down to eat? Chuck Palahniuk has an answer: They’re calling from Hell. Who else but Satan could possibly devise such a devious scheme?
In Palahniuk’s novel Damned, a sullen and thoroughly dead 13 year-old girl named Madison spends some time in one of Hell’s call centers conducting endless marketing surveys. The call center’s automated switchboard is programmed to only call people during dinner time no matter where they are in the world, and the survey questions go on forever.
As you can imagine, many of the people Madison speaks with get pretty angry, and that’s kind of the point: In Palahniuk’s world you can go to Hell for practically any minor infraction, including losing your temper and cursing at a telephone surveyor. The only people who want to speak with Madison are very old people and the terminally ill, and being the petulant teen she is, Madison makes a game out of trying to trick them into joining her in Hell. I’ve had a fair number of annoying calls from telemarketers, but at the very least I can say that they weren’t trying to sell me on the wonders of eternal damnation.
In the sequel to Damned, Doomed, Madison has slipped away from Hell to return to Earth as a disembodied spirit. While there, she learns that there might be more to Hell’s call center than she thought. Some of her headset-wearing hellion coworkers might be behind a conspiracy big enough to bring both God and Satan to their knees, and if she doesn’t stop it then it could spell the end of the world.
Along the way, she’ll have to reconcile her relationship with her narcissistic millionaire parents, defeat a false prophet created out of the refuse of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and come to terms with a really gruesome episode in her past involving a copy of Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle and a sensitive portion of the male anatomy. It’s a tall order for a dead 13 year-old girl, even one as smart – and smart-alecky – as Madison.
Doomed - like Damned – is gruesome, hilarious, blasphemous fun; A religious epic only Chuck Palahniuk could write it. If you’ve got the stomach for it (You longtime Palahniuk fans know what I mean) then you’ll probably enjoy both books… and maybe you’ll want to be a little nicer to those call center employees. Just to be sure.