Subversive as ever, Palahniuk may have written the first great 21st century high school spoof. Leave it to him to introduce what amounts to the iVibrator, preferably known as the “flying fire phallus.” These are the chronicles of alien-like Agent 67 (known as “Pygmy”), a member of an Chinese-cum-Balkan adolescent terrorist team that infiltrates the Midwest posing as foster children, a nifty conceit. Their actual cruel intention is “Operation Havoc,” an energetic combination of impregnating licentious teens (“reproductive vessels” to you) and tainting dollar bills with deadly neurotoxins to be exploded into circulation at the National Science Fair in Washington (under the cover of a display called, what else, “Path to Permanent Global Peace.”)
Palahniuk’s intentionally fractured Droogie-style prose works to integrate Kung Fu moves with propaganda bromides, to mixed effect (“Looming visage noble American colonel. Courageous, renown of history, Colonel Sanders, image forever accompanied odor of sacrificial meat.”) In addition to the misunderstood colonel there’s a pedophile priest, a spelling bee that won’t end (terrorist foster kids can spell anything) and a Model United Nations meeting that turns into Columbine thanks to a lovesick gay student. Hitler, Trotsky, Pinochet, Mussolini, Nixon and Castro all make their own kinds of guest appearances.
As always, Palahniuk, himself a closet ninth grader (bless him), thumps away at evangelicals, conspicuous consumption and promiscuity. Dodge ball is a mating ritual involving “inflated latex bladders.” Americans are “famished for consume tender child genital.” Pygmy wears a “Property of Jesus” t-shirt.
At the same time, Chuck is also a sucker for love. Though Pygmy would love to use his “turgid weapon” to, um, “commit the Pumping Rabbit Maneuver, squirt squirt, empty contents testicles awash viable American eggs” he instead falls for his diligent, dildo-making foster sister. “True profound affection,” the little terror guy decides, at odds with his authoritarian training, “defined by no entering vagina without consent.” It’s a decision that aside, from all the zany inventiveness, makes the story oddly conventional. Unless of course you’re locked in perpetual adolescence with “mammary binders” on your mind.