6 votes

Adjustment Day by Chuck Palahniuk, my take. Discussion welcome.

Adjustment Day is a parody, at least I hope it is, of a United States dystopia. The concept is rather ambitious, but the author rises to the task. The prime conspiracy theory behind the book is that throughout history, civilization has periodically weeded out young men of 18-24 through war and whatever other means available to keep society from returning to the dark ages. Who does this in the U.S? Why, your government, of course.

In this version of the conspiracy, the young men turn the tables. Most of the book is about what happens after Adjustment Day. I've only read Fight Club and Choke by Palahniuk before this. All I can say is the cynicism and nihilism of those two books seems increased tenfold in Adjustment Day. Do you have a conservative conspiracy theory that you think about from time to time? They're all in here. I'd even bet that the author comes up with some you've never heard before.

In a satire that is as biting as The Sellout, Palahniuk presents several characters who live through the aftermath of the event, including the originator of it. But instead of nobody talking about it, (like in Fight Club) everybody is talking about this new bizarre movement/social-political revolution. As you go down this rabbit hole of irrational rationalization, it's easy to lose sight of what is going on. Scenes and characters are switched at the beginning of random paragraphs, causing me to back up every few pages.

A good example of Palahniuk's treatment of infrastructure is given by a new form of money that comes out of the movement:

Officially, the order called them Talbotts, but everyone knew them as skins. Rumor was the first batches were refined from, somehow crafted from the stretched and bleached skin taken from targeted persons. People seemed to take a hysterical joy from the idea.
Instead of being backed by gold or the full faith of government or some such, this money was backed by death. The suggestion was always that failure to accept the new currency and honor its face value might result in the rejecter being targeted. Never was this stated, not overtly, but the message was always on television and billboards: Please Report Anyone Failing to Honor the Talbott. The bills held their face value for as long as a season, but faded faster in strong light and fastest in sunlight. A faded bill held less value as the markers along the edges became illegible.

Because the money had a shelf life, people had to work all the time. At the top of the hierarchy were the young men who had put their lives on the line during the Adjustment Day revolution. They would get the money from some source and give it away to their workers and people they knew, spending it all as fast as they could.

If that sounds ridiculous, you haven't even scratched the surface of this world. Chief among the topics are racism and prejudice toward everyone you can imagine. All in all I found the book a little tedious. Palahniuk puts the crazy theories in the mouths of people who voice them so convincingly that it becomes surreal. If you're a fan of the author you might like it. But practically every paragraph seems engineered to be offensive in some way, to someone.

Let's just hope Chuck is making all this stuff up.

3 comments

  1. Erik Link
    I really enjoyed what I've read so far, but I am a pretty big fan of Palahniuk and have even enjoyed some of his weaker releases. It's nice to see him return to form with Adjustment Day. This is...

    I really enjoyed what I've read so far, but I am a pretty big fan of Palahniuk and have even enjoyed some of his weaker releases. It's nice to see him return to form with Adjustment Day. This is the type of fiction I enjoy reading. In my circle of friends, everyone does fantasy and science fiction. That's OK, there's some really good literature there, but they've of course exhausted the canon and are reading really third rate stuff, in my opinion. It's nice to see other people talking about the type of fiction book I enjoy reading.

    I won't say much else, my opinion doesn't mean much since I haven't finished it yet. But so far, it's his best since Rant in my opinion.

    2 votes
  2. [2]
    DonQuixote Link
    That's really interesting. I can understand how Fight Club was so popular, it seemed so accessible. Adjustment Day has some of the same atmosphere about it. I'm glad I read Paul Beatty's The...

    That's really interesting. I can understand how Fight Club was so popular, it seemed so accessible. Adjustment Day has some of the same atmosphere about it. I'm glad I read Paul Beatty's The Sellout first, because it made me understand how sophisticated parody and satire can be. But though I could laugh and cringe at Beatty's book at the same time, I didn't find Adjustment Day as much funny as downright scary. Listening to him write you can see how people get taken in by the most ridiculous things.

    1. cfabbro Link Parent
      Did you mean to reply to Erik? If so, you accidentally made a new top-level comment instead.

      Did you mean to reply to Erik? If so, you accidentally made a new top-level comment instead.