Book Review – The Invention of Sound by Chuck Palahniuk

Genre: Fiction; Horror

Rating: 3.5 / 5

I have complicated feelings about Chuck Palahniuk’s The Invention of Sound, so I’m going to do this review in two parts – the good and the frustrating. My younger self would be appalled that this review isn’t a glowing adoration of Palahniuk’s talent and skill. Until this week, I have never read a book of his I was not obsessed with. 

All that to say, it was still a Palahniuk book and, as such, had the benefit of cutting dark humor and a devastatingly wicked plot to put this book high above others. Ultimately it just left me wanting a little more. I need my thrillers to, well, thrill me. I want to be surprised and confused at the ending, blown away that the author somehow surprised me. It’s also worth noting, once I read the ending, I likely missed a lot of details from my quick read from the beginning of the novel (I couldn’t put it down). With a second read through, my opinion may change in a positive direction. And perhaps that is the magic. I was so sure I knew where we were going that I missed important clues along the way. 

As an overly optimistic person (most times), let’s start with the good. 

The Good

Palahniuk’s characters seduced me within the first few pages. The regular shift between character voice and point of view gives unique insight, much like Palahniuk’s novel Rant, which almost forces the reader to invest in different perspectives. They are each engaging with insane back stories. I found myself in a state of shocked rambling after reading each night. Shout-out to my ever-patient husband who lost sleep being my bouncing board. 

Another positive, at least for me, is just the right amount of violence description to elicit emotion without provoking gore induced nausea (or nightmares). Sometimes when I read novels and the author is too good at describing the scene, or at least too descriptive, I force myself to finish the book but experience a period of resistance when it comes to reading. It’s almost like the gore and horror are haunting me and I can’t shake the feeling. (Yes, I know American Psycho is one of my favorite novels. Contradiction, yay!) The allure of just enough violence description is the effect of the mind compensating for that missing piece. It really lends to the story and character development of one of the main characters, Mitzi, in ways I wasn’t expecting.

Palahniuk also gets credit for uniqueness. This is not your standard plot line or story. I’ve never read anything like it, and I don’t think I will again. Also, benefit for the busibodies like me, this novel can probably be read in one sitting (if you don’t have a toddler running around).

The Frustrating

And now to the frustrating pieces of the novel. 

All things come to an end and I get that. I just… I needed more! I was so excited in the beginning. Constantly talking about the book, rattling off my theories, anxious to see how it all ended. Then… it did. I remember closing the book and just sitting there for a moment, confused but mostly annoyed. Like Palahniuk almost got me there .. almost .. then just stopped. 

There is so much build up and tension throughout the novel. You see these two main characters, Foster and Mitzi, and you think you know how they are connected. You will likely be right, in a sense, but then they finally cross paths and it falls short. I can’t get into details, but when you read this one and get to the end, please reach out. I need closure and I desperately need to talk to someone about this. 

Maybe I’ve been spoiled with Gillian Flynn and other masters of thriller. I’ve even been spoiled by Palahniuk! His novel Rant is the most insane story I think I’ve ever read. I could never have predicted the ending. It was a wild ride from start to finish. I guess this review is a result of Palahniuk being too good at the start. I have a standard and expectation, based on his previous novels, and this one just didn’t live up. 

The Invention of Sound is still a novel worth reading, but if you haven’t read Palahniuk’s other books, start there. Rant and Choke are my top recommendations in that regard. 

On a separate note, a friend/yoga instructor or mine has gotten into my head, so I will no longer be including Amazon links for buying books. I will pick a local bookstore, likely one near me in Northern Virginia (or let me know if you have a recommendation). I hope this encourages you to buy local and support your local businesses. In the age of Amazon, I know they need all the help they can get.

Buy The Invention of Sound by Chuck Palahniuk here at Old Town Books in Alexandria, Virginia (or at your local bookstore!).

My Favorite Pick-up Lines

Recently, while scrolling Bookstagram, I came across this question – “How do you typically decide which book you are going to buy next?” Whether the cover catches my eye or the bookstore has recommendations worked into the book display – I always open to the first page and read. 

I want to get a sense of the author’s writing style and the narrator’s voice. If I were more in favor of making informed decisions, I might read the whole first chapter, but in all honesty I read the first few lines and that’s where I make my decision. Think of it as the author’s chance to “pick me up” using their best one-liner. 

Sometimes this steers me wrong, but rarely. 

Below I’ve listed my favorite opening lines of novels. I recommend each of these six books as a “must read” because the excitement doesn’t stop at the first line. Enjoy!

“The first sentence of a novel is the most important, except maybe the last, which can stay with you after you’ve shut the book, the way the echoing of a closing door follows you down the hall.”

The Serialist by David Gordon

“Fuck you,”

Savages by Don Winslow

“Ayoola summons me with these words – Korede, I killed him.”

My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

“People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles.”

Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

“For eight years I dreamed of fire.”

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

“If you’re going to read this, don’t bother.”

Choke by Chuck Palahniuk

Do you have a favorite opening line of a novel I didn’t list above? Let me know in the comments!