Madison Spencer is a plain, chubby 13-year-old. She also happens to be the daughter of a Hollywood power couple (think Brangelina), is recently deceased and has just been condemned to spend eternity in hell.
In Chuck Palahniuk's eleventh novel, Damned, we follow Madison as she navigates the underworld, encountering her fill of savage demons and murderous tyrants. Along the way, she is both thoroughly scathing of her surviving parents' faux eco-warrior lifestyle and of society's obsession with body image. Meanwhile, the author's portrayal of hell, in all its exquisite detail - such as The English Patient being screened on permanent loop - is bound to raise a smile.
But a major flaw, and one that can be levied at much of Palahniuk's work, which famously includes Fight Club, is his insistence on shocking his audience. Only those with steely stomachs will be able to read his vivid descriptions of hell's topography, with its seas of spent bodily fluids, without feeling slightly nauseous. Nevertheless, fans of the grotesque will find this an entertaining if lightweight meditation on the subjects of death, sin and mortality.