Choke by Chuck Palahniuk

by Kristopher Cook
Choke by Chuck Palahniuk - Kristopher Cook Book Review

Imagine Chuck Palahniuk putting Invisible Monsters in a Heimlich manoeuvre.

What results is this strange mess of a book, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It one about a man who cons people by pretending to choke on his food in fancy restaurants. Once someone has saved your life they feel obliged to continue looking after you. In this case, through monthly payments to our antagonist, Victor Mancini; who uses the outlays to pay for his terminally ill Mother’s healthcare.

Mix in his sub-servant day life, his sexual addictions, and his con-artist ways and you have a Chuck Palahniuk classic on your hands. But does this pack the same punch as Fight Club, or does it just fall flat on its face (the puns are mandatory)?

Oh, and he may just be the son of Jesus Christ for good measure!

Victor’s Mother, who suffers from Alzheimers, has no recollection of who he is, however she does give him a diary that’s written in Italian, her native language. Inside he learns that he is the direct descendant of Jesus Christ himself, or at least in his Mother’s words.

This is the same ‘son of Christ’ who is conning people out of their money and patrolling sex addiction sessions in order to pick up women.


With Palahniuk’s usual charm he manages to turn Victor’s many self-defeating personality traits into his greatest empathies. To begin with, I despised Victor’s actions but it’s only as the story progresses that you begin to see the cause for these actions, which adds new layers to the character; sympathy being one of them.

As the story continues we meet a few of Victor’s friends, most of which are either deadbeats or are there to provide comic relief from the main plot, case in point, Denny. He works alongside Victor at a re-enactment museum which is set in colonial times, and just so happens to have a large portion of its employees being recovering addicts; sex, drugs, alcohol etc.

What I want is to be needed. What I need is to be indispensable to somebody. Who I need is somebody that will eat up all my free time, my ego, my attention. Somebody addicted to me. A mutual addiction.

Chuck Palahniuk

Victor and Denny first met at a sexual addiction support group; where Denny was recovering from compulsive masturbation, and then later went on to apply for jobs together. During their time at work, Denny is often but in the stocks for constantly breaking house-rules. This includes using items that weren’t around during the period of the museum. Victor often comes to Denny’s defence and tries to protect him from the other workers.

Later, Denny is fired from the museum and decides he will begin collecting stones in order to build his dream home. It’s in this part of the book that things begin to lose momentum.

Yes, everything leading here is wild but it’s still holds a sense of certain realities. Victor’s sick mother, his childhood background of going from one foster home to another, his overcoming of addiction. However, Denny’s collecting and polishing of stones seems that one-step too far and breaks the book’s sense of realism.

Closing Thoughts

Choke, like most of Palahniuk’s books, is well written in his much adhered episodic fashion. He is clearly a great writer of black comedy but his real knack comes from turning absurd characters and plot scenarios into real-world situations that, at times, are almost believable. In a sense, they are adult fantasy tales crossed with a dramatical play. Choke is no different.

Off-the-wall characters and obscene plot scenarios you know exactly what you’re getting. As long as you don’t go into this one with too serious a mindset then I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Sure, it’s not as good as Fight Club or Invisible Monsters, but it’s a hell of a lot better than Snuff.

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