Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk - Book Review - Kristopher Cook

Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk

Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk Book Cover
Carl Streator is a reporter investigating Sudden Infant Death Syndrome for a soft-news feature. After responding to several calls with paramedics, he notices that all the dead children were read the same poem from the same library book the night before they died.
Genre: Contemporary
Available from: | Amazon UK | Amazon US

Following along the horror/satire route, Lullaby is Palahniuk at is best; throwing awkward situations at the reader left, right and centre, along with a heavy dosage of political parody.

The title Lullaby comes from the central premise of the book; a lullaby that kills those it’s sung to.

Translated from an African culling song, it was first used when the lands became overpopulated, and the tribes were struck by famine, or when warriors were severely injured in war.

Since then, it’s been placed inside a children’s bedtime storybook, aptly named Poems and Rhymes from around the world.

This is reminiscent of the MacGuffin videotape in the Japanese horror Ring.

I’m sure if you’ve been reading my book reviews you know who Chuck Palahniuk is by now, so I won’t bore you with the details. If you don’t, then where have you been living for the past fifteen years? Go check him out!

Suffice to say, he has quite the cult following, ironic given the themes in some of his work.

Going into this, I really wasn’t overly optimistic.

Palahniuk’s work is a mixed-bag, his work is either transcending on higher levels with books like Fight Club and Survivor or in the dungeons of filth, see Snuff.

I’m pleased to say though, Lullaby was an incredibly enjoyable read, working with Palahniuk’s greatest writing attributes; dark humour and satire.

The book is littered with scenarios that had me chuckling along due to their total degree of absurdity. I mean, this is about a poem that kills people!

It’s also interesting to see how the main character, Carl Streator, starts to memorise it and subconsciously read it when annoyed. This gives Lullaby a completely dark tone, seeing frustrating pedestrians, radio disc-jockeys and therapists, falling dead in an instant.

The poem conjures up a moral dilemma.

If you knew it, would you continue to use it even if it meant killing innocent people on what seems like a daily basis, or try to destroy all known copies and kill yourself for a greater good?

Tricky as absolute power corrupts all.

Thrown into the mix is the forward-going cougar that is Helen and her working assistant Mona, who happens to be an extreme crystal-loving hippie.

As the book moves forward, Mona and her boyfriend Oyster, become surrogate children to Carl and Helen due to their communal quest towards destroying the books.

However, you can see an underlining presence in all four characters as they get closer toward their goal. Do they all really want the same solution?

Are these things really better than the things I already have? Or am I just trained to be dissatisfied with what I have now?

Chuck Palahniuk, Lullaby

Moments in the book can become a little wearing in terms of the rants Palahniuk takes against consumerism, and ironically, can feel too consuming to some readers.

However, his sharp wit takes the edge off any annoyances by balancing his views through both Carl and Helen equally.

Outside noise and constant advertising is another area that falls into Palahniuk’s radar, not for the first time. ‘We come from a generation of people who need their TV or stereo playing all the time. These people so scared of silence. These soundaholics, these quietophobics.’

You get the idea.

Closing Thoughts

Lullaby is a high recommend for anyone who’s previously enjoyed Palahniuk’s work.

His dark humour, cringe-inducing scenarios and witty satire are all present making for one hell of a thrill ride.

If you’re not familiar with his style this is an excellent place to start; an easy read but not flat out balls-to-the-wall bonkers like some of his other work.

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