Rant - An Oral Biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk - Book Review - Kristopher Cook

Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk

Your head hits the windscreen. In that sharp and fatal moment, you’re thrown back in time, to a place you need to visit for unfinished business. However, not everyone who hits the window travels.

Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey is one of those books that classes as Science-Fiction but doesn’t necessarily feature their most prominent tropes, aliens, spaceships, etc.

Instead, Casey has one thing that he must accomplish, no matter what.

I won’t spoil what this reason is, but it’s an interesting point nonetheless.

Spoken History

Written as an oral dialogue, chapters jump between several of the townsfolk, Rant Casey, and his friends.

You grow up to become living proof of your parent’s limitations. Their less-than-masterpiece.

Chuck Palahniuk, Chapter 4

They all give their opinions on what is happening in their neighbourhood, what they think of Rant as a whole, and the strange goings-on over the past year.

An ‘oral history’ is an exciting concept, and if anyone can pull it off, it’s Chuck Palahniuk.

Buster “Rant” Casey is not only a boy of youthful exuberance but also one of the world’s most effective serial killers – an interesting combination, right?

Escaping from his small-town life, Rant enters the big city and begins leading a group, known as party crashers, on an ultimate thrill-ride of demolition derby.

Palahniuk’s trademark style shines through, with characters delivering pungent truths about society, dark humour and on-the-nose remarks.

If you’ve read any of his work, you know what I’m talking about.

I struggled to get into this book, especially given how much I enjoyed most of Palahniuk’s previous work.

This time around, the narrative is completely jarring; not letting you get a firm footing in the plot before the book figuratively closes on you and opens at a different page.

That’s how most of this book can feel.

Adding Value

Palahniuk offers up a few interesting ideas based on the perceived value of items, and how we as a society, deem some things to be more valuable than others.

Objects, from diamonds to bubble gum, only have value because we all agree they do. Laws like speed limits are only laws because most people agree to respect them. I tried to argue that their gold was worth infinitely more than the junk they wanted to trade for, but it was like watching Native Americans sell their tribal lands for beads and trinkets.

Chuck Palahniuk, Chapter 6

This is right in line with his usual poking style, often taking shots at today’s modern society.

Although Palahniuk’s books are known for their unexpected twists, the whole element of time travel in the final third feels entirely out of sorts with the rest of the book.

Sure, it’s not the most grounded of books; again, as most of his work isn’t, but in no way did I ever feel time jumping would suddenly crop up.

It does also throw in a lot of dilemmas that make you question the family heritages of both Rant and Echo.

The book leaves open the explanation that Rant could, in fact, be his own father, as he travelled back in time, hooked up with his mother to get her pregnant, and then left for the present day. It starts to get messy from here.

Closing Thoughts

When looking at Rant, I have to compare it to Palahniuk’s previous books, more notably Survivor.

Both are off-the-wall bonkers, but Rant widens the boundaries and does so to its own detriments. While a lot of the writing is engaging, and the characters offer plenty of witticisms, heaped in with black comedy, the book is ultimately let down in the final third.

If you’re a fan of Palahniuk’s work, then go ahead and check this one out, but if you’re new to the party, then I’d recommend starting with either Fight Club or Survivor.

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