Carl Streator is an investigative journalist, and he has been tasked with finding a pattern among babies who died of crib death. He does find a pattern. The same book of poems in each house, marked on the same page. It turns out this is a culling song, and anyone who hears it dies. Now that Streator has this power, controlling it is turning out to be a challenge.
Palahniuk wrote this book as a reaction to his father’s death, and it does concern itself heavily with the topic of death. How people do or don’t deal with it. Having the power to take life in your hands. Holding on when you probably shouldn’t anymore. It’s a short book to have said so much. That is Palahniuk’s power, in that he’s concise and yet remains poetic and capable of cramming so much message into a few words without wasting a single one.
I do find trouble getting down to why I didn’t find this a five star affair. I thought the narrator, Carl, was relatable even in his faults, and his personal story was a slow, satisfying reveal. The overall story is a success for the most part, though I will say the reveal about the grimoire felt cheap, as if he wanted to hurry up and get to the point and that was the best way to do it. Other than that quirk, I enjoyed the plot.
I think most irritating of all was Oyster. He was intentionally an annoyance, I realize that. I’m having trouble expressing this without spoiling the book, but a character this absolutely insufferable in a book concerned with people who can kill with their minds… It didn’t add up for me or pan out the way I would’ve wanted. I’ll say the book was very successful in making us feel exactly how Carl felt every time Oyster opened his mouth, and we wouldn’t have an entire story without that character with the way Palahniuk structured it. But he did his job too well. Oyster was too much of a douche, and the sheer frustration of that knocked this down a peg.
That’s a personal nitpick over a book that was good and worthy of a read. Other readers may cope with Oyster better than I did.