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Pygmy [Hardcover]

Chuck Palahniuk
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
RRP: £12.99
Price: £10.94 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

4 Jun 2009
'Begins here first account of operative me, agent number 67 on arrival mid-western American airport greater _______ area. Flight ____. Date ______. Priority mission top success to complete. Code name. Operation Havoc. Fellow operatives already pass immigrant control, through secure doors and to embrace own other host family people. Operative Tibor, agent 23; operative Magda, agent 36; operative Ling, agent 19. All violate United States secure port of entry having success. Each now embedded among middle-income corrupt American family, all other homes, other schools, and neighbours of same city. By not after next today, strategy of web of operatives to be established.' Agent Number 67, nicknamed Pygmy for his diminutive size, arrives in the United States from his totalitarian homeland (a mash-up of North Korea, Cuba, Communist-era China, and Nazi-era Germany), as an "exchange student" into the welcoming arms of his Simpsons-spinoff Midwestern host family. Host cow father (he works in the biological weapons complex outside of town), chicken neck mother, pig dog brother, and the disconcertingly self-possessed cat sister introduce Pygmy into the rituals of postmodern American life, which he views with utter contempt. Along with his fellow operatives, all indoctrinated into the mindset of the totalitarian state, he is planning something big, something truly, truly awful, that will bring this big dumb country and its fat, dumb inhabitants to their knees. Pygmy is a comedy. It is also Chuck Palahniuk's finest, most ambitious novel since Fight Club.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape; UK First Edition; 1st printing. edition (4 Jun 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224087134
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224087131
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 13.8 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 486,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chuck Palahniuk's nine novels are the bestselling Snuff, Rant, Haunted, Lullaby and Fight Club, which was made into a film by director David Fincher, Diary, Survivor, Invisible Monsters, and Choke, which was made into a film by director Clark Gregg. He is also the author of the non-fiction profile of Portland Fugitives and Refugees and the non-fiction collection Stranger Than Fiction. He lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Product Description


'The boldest book in a long while from an author not exactly unaccustomed to boundary-pushing...ace.' -- Grazia

Book Description

The most ambitious novel yet from the author of Fight Club and Choke

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, with very sinister undertones 22 Jun 2009
Imagine a country containing an amalgamation of all the worst attributes of North Korea, Communist China and Nazi Germany. Children are tested for their future educational and career needs at the age of four, and those who show high potential are whisked away from their parents into state institutions. There they are brainwashed into complete subservience to the state, using a curriculum involving extreme martial arts, political indoctrination, chemical warfare and urban terrorism.

Now move forward to a mid-Western church in America where a female missionary feels such concern for these children that she arranges an exchange visit for a number of them to stay with American host-families. The children arrive in America to have six months of respite from their harsh existence, and as the host-father puts it, to "to sing our songs and share the fellowship of our homes and church". However, unbeknown to these generous-hearted families, these children have been given a plan: their educators have shown them how to wreak "Operation Havoc", a terrible act of destruction on the evil American town in which they have come to stay.

This book is one of the funniest books I have read in a long time. The whole book is written in the first person by one of the children, Operative 67, using a sort of pidgin American which takes some getting used to but provides considerable insight into the regime they have been brought up in.

The book is a satire, but on both cultures. The host-family are a sort of Simpsons-like parody of the ideal American family, mixing a mindless involvement in their church community while indulging in all the excesses of American culture.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars He Has His Edge Back 2 July 2009
Reviewing a new Palahniuk is normally a pointless task; either you've read him once and been split into one of two camps (read everything else he does, or never touch his stuff again) or you have not read him, and really should start with "Fight Club" to see what all the fuss is about. A pointless task, yes, because this author hit on a formula and simply repeats it with minor variations... "Pygmy" is no exception; sacred cows are slaughtered wholescale by factoid spewing grotesques in a welter of body fluids, prescription drugs, and bland absurdity, wildly swinging between the satirical schools of Rabelais and Swift. To be honest, it had become dull and his last few books (including the self indulgence of two pointless non-fiction titles) felt like they had been produced by a machine that simply replicated his style.
But this book is different. The satire has its cutting edge back, no doubt due to the one thing that will polarize even die hard "Cult" members about this title; the prose.
Burgess wrote "A Clockwork Orange" in his infamous made up argot of nadsat, and Welsh wrote "Trainspotting" in accurately rendered working class Scottish, establishing a lineage in transgressive literature for telling a tale from the most extreme point of view intimately, and "Pygmy" takes up the baton by relating the usual Palaniuk tale of clockwork chaos in the broken English of an uber-foreigner.
Some people will find this an absolute joy (as I did) and others, missing the point, will complain that it was hard to read. But, just as Burgess's novel of brainwashing was constructed to peform its own kind of brainwashing on readers by forcing them to learn its bastardized Russian-English, so Palahniuk uses an outsider to dissect America by use of clever word twisting.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not up to Snuff 30 May 2009
By Steven R. McEvoy TOP 1000 REVIEWER
A few years back I would have told you Palahniuk was one of my favorite authors. His work is cutting edge, unique, and always shocking. Each of his works is unique, from other authors and from his own works. Palahniuk has an incredibly imaginative and creative mind. The closest authors to him are: in Canada Douglas Coupland and in the UK Irvine Welsh. But the problem with always shocking and being so unique is each new work must outdo the previous. As such I think I have lost my taste for Palahniuk's writings.

The book is unique, different and well-written. It is the story of Pygmy, one of a group of youths from a totalitarian state that has been sent to the United States, to live with Christian families and experience a better life. At least that is what the Host Families and church believe. Yet in reality these youths have been raised from a young age as agents of the state, part of a planned terrorist attack on the States.

Palahniuk does a great job of dissecting Midwestern life through foreign eyes. It is a satire both of America's fears and of America itself. However the story is just too much - male rape, high school massacre, planned seductions, pregnancies and impregnations. And the whole book is written as a series of dispatches from Pygmy to his home government, written in a halting, misunderstood English. Palahniuk captures a feel about the language, yet still conveys his message.

Palahniuk's books are usually a pleasure to read and so addictive that I cannot put them down. Some I have read more than once, even back to back - finished it and started reading it again. That was not the case this time. Twice I put it down for a few days, and was uncertain I would pick it up again to finish it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Read a few pages before buying!!
If you manage to read it initially, and get used to the writing style it may deserve some attention. I couldn't.
Published 1 month ago by sp klv
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing on every level
I'm a huge fan of Palahniuk's first five novels. I started to waver a little with the next three, so I stopped checking out his new work. Read more
Published 1 month ago by C. Paknadel
5.0 out of 5 stars Very funny and well worth the effort
This was the first Chuck Palahniuk book I read and to my mind it's still the best so far. Yes it's one joke all the way through but it's renewed on every page with verve and... Read more
Published 7 months ago by mark rogers
1.0 out of 5 stars Not worth the time
This book is just absolutely terrible. If you're going to start with a Chuck Palahniuk book do not start with this, or finish with it for that matter.
Published 8 months ago by Luke Cooper
3.0 out of 5 stars Mad and Imaginative
Not my favourite chuck book. Took me a while to get used to the style it was written in. There were some real funny moments in the boom that made me laugh out loud. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Saqa Jupitus
2.0 out of 5 stars Below Average
Not up to par with Chuck's usual stuff. The use of broken english is rather annoying and at times just a bit silly. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mr. Samuel G. Griffin
1.0 out of 5 stars Very lazy plot
I've read quite a lot of Palahniuk's work, but this was really very bad.

Once you get used to the language, which seems to be the mask for a bad story, this is just a... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Chris
4.0 out of 5 stars Give it a chance
I very much enjoyed the exploits of 'operative me, agent number 67'...yes at times it's a hard read trying to work out whats being said, but after a while you do get used to it,... Read more
Published on 21 Sep 2012 by Bascule
2.0 out of 5 stars A drag
Chuck Palahniuk has written some superbly fantastic books. Pygmy is not one of them.

It reads like a drag and not at all fluently. Read more
Published on 9 Aug 2012 by Vibeke Semstad
3.0 out of 5 stars Great words, poor ending
I am surprised so many reviewers found the sentence structure so hard to digest. For me, once you worked it out (takes a page or two) it just rolled along, and I actually quite... Read more
Published on 28 Jan 2012 by mudmucks
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