Chuck Palahniuk is not the best writer out there, but he sure as hell is my favorite, in case you didn’t know yet. His seventh novel and fifth I’ve come to read, Haunted, is easily one of his bloodiest works to date. This showcase of pain consists of twenty-three short stories of daily life goes wrong in the worst possible ways, all of them wrapped in a background story: that eighteen would-be writers have agreed to participate in a program called Writer’s Retreat, organized by a suspicious old man named Mr. Whittier, where the writers are to be locked up for three months in a windowless building to help concentrate on creating their own literary masterpiece. Instead, the folks decided to turn the retreat into a faux scenario of half-dead survivors being tortured by the evil Whittier, preparing to sell the story out to the media once they got outside. The short stories are the life experiences of the writers, the reason they joined the retreat in the first place.
No, really, you won’t find spooky ghost stories anywhere in this book. What you got is the horror of how your seemingly harmless everyday life can turn into a series of fatal events, with the wrong person at the wrong time — chef, reflexologist, insurance fraud investigator, you name it, they’ve done it. The book keeps up with the sinister theme Palahniuk had brought into all his works — that us humans naturally have the tendency to be selfish and violent if the chance is given. But the hardly bearable part is the gory, nauseous scenes, and Palahniuk is quite a master in exploiting the pain the characters went through by describing, in great detail, subarachnoid hemorrhage or third-degree burn or rigor mortis or the likes. In one particular story, “Guts”, the gore was so bad many people fainted in Chuck’s reading sessions. Reading the book will make you confirm Chuck’s dark, cynical view of a seemingly good society.