Haunted, a novel written by Chuck Palahniuk, takes an old idea of putting multiple short stories in a single book, and adds a unique approach by tying all the short stories together. The short stories in the book are said to have been written by the fictional characters of the book, with an additional twist.
The book follows a group of rejects that attend a writing camp owned by the mysterious Mr. Whittier. As time progresses, the horrifying conditions of the camp get worse and worse as the power and electricity go out, and the furnace stops working.
The premise of the book is to show how the horrible conditions affect the physical and mental conditions of the camps’ participants. For example, the writers at one point resort to devouring a living person to get the food they need.
Also, the twisted scenario the members are thrown into is reflected in the terrifying short stories scattered throughout the book.
The book starts off with an incredibly graphic short story titled Guts, which Palahniuk claimed made 35 guests of a book reading pass out as he read it aloud. I completely agree, seeing as I literally gagged mid-way through the story.
As well-written as the first short story is, it is unfortunately one of the most interesting points of the novel. Following Guts, the book gets considerably less exciting, though the book does not fail to entertain.
The critics of the book claimed it “Rivaled Stephen King as the best horror novels to date,” which is evident in many of the short stories, but some are just plain bizarre. If the reader can push past the severe oddities, they will be rewarded by the end.
Fortunately, after many pages, I was introduced to the final short story. Titled Obsolete, the story describes an alternate universe where when people die; they are sent to another planet resembling Heaven. Attempting to reach this perfect state, the entire Earth attempts mass suicides and challenges the conceptual beliefs of Earth.
Another bright point for the novel is the side-plot about what the characters do in between their writing. This aspect of the book is captivating, and will not disappoint. The story is written in an informal tone that makes the reader feel as though they are experiencing the horrible events as well.
Altogether, it is worth the few days it will take to read the book. The two most interesting short stories and the filler story about the guests of the murderous writing camp will have readers waking up sweating from nightmares. The novel stays true to its name sake, it is indeed haunted.