Survivor: A Novel

Survivor: A Novel

by Chuck Palahniuk


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"Brilliantly satiric and savagely funny, Survivor is a wild amphetamine ride through the vagaries of fame and the nature of belief." —San Francisco Chronicle

Tender Branson—last surviving member of the Creedish Death Cult—is dictating his life story into the recorder of Flight 2039, cruising on autopilot at 39,000 feet somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. He is all alone in the airplane, which will crash shortly into the vast Australian outback. But before it does, Branson will unfold the tale of his journey from an obedient Creedish child and humble domestic servant to an ultra-buffed, steroid- and collagen-packed media messiah.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393355932
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 05/01/2018
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 115,143
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Chuck Palahniuk is the best-selling author of more than seventeen fictional works, including Fight Club Invisible Monsters, Survivor, Choke, Lullaby, Diary, Haunted, Tell-All, Damned, Doomed, Beautiful You and, most recently, Adjustment Day. He lives in the Pacific Northwest.


Portland, Oregon

Date of Birth:

February 21, 1962

Place of Birth:

Pasco, Washington


B.A. in journalism, University of Oregon, 1986

Read an Excerpt


Testing, testing. One, two, three. Testing, testing. One, two, three.

Maybe this is working. I don't know. If you can even hear me, I don't know.

But if you can hear me, listen. And if you're listening, then what you've found is the story of everything that went wrong. This is what you'd call the flight recorder of Flight 2039. The black box, people call it, even though it's orange, and on the inside is a loop of wire that's the permanent record of all that's left. What you've found is the story of what happened.

And go ahead.

You can heat this wire to white-hot, and it will still tell you the exact same story.

Testing, testing. One, two, three.

And if you're listening, you should know right off the bat the passengers are at home, safe. The passengers, they did what you'd call their deplaning in the New Hebrides Islands. Then, after it was just him and me back in the air, the pilot parachuted out over somewhere. Some kind of water. What you'd call an ocean.

I'm going to keep saying it, but it's true. I'm not a murderer.

And I'm alone up here.

The Flying Dutchman.

And if you're listening to this, you should know that I'm alone in the cockpit of Flight 2039 with a whole crowd of those little childsized bottles of mostly dead vodka and gin lined up on the place you sit at against the front windows, the instrument panel. In the cabin, the little trays of everybody's Chicken Kiev or Beef Stroganoff entrees are half eaten with the air conditioner cleaning up any leftover food smell. Magazines are still open to where people were reading. With all the seats empty, you could pretend everyone's justgone to the bathroom. Out of the plastic stereo headsets you can hear a little hum of prerecorded music.

Up here above the weather, it's just me in a Boeing 747-400 time capsule with two hundred leftover chocolate cake desserts and an upstairs piano bar which I can just walk up to on the spiral staircase and mix myself another little drink.

God forbid I should bore you with all the details, but I'm on autopilot up here until we run out of gas. Flame out, the pilot calls it. One engine at a time, each engine will flame out, he said. He wanted me to know just what to expect. Then he went on to bore me with a lot of details about jet engines, the venturi effect, increasing lift by increasing camber with the flaps, and how after all four engines flame out the plane will turn into a 450,000-pound glider. Then since the autopilot will have it trimmed out to fly in a straight line, the glider will begin what the pilot calls a controlled descent.

That kind of a descent, I tell him, would be nice for a change. You just don't know what I've been through this past year.

Under his parachute, the pilot still had on his nothing special blah-colored uniform that looked designed by an engineer. Except for this, he was really helpful. More helpful than I'd be with someone holding a pistol to my head and asking about how much fuel was left and how far would it get us. He told me how I could get the plane back up to cruising altitude after he'd parachuted out over the ocean. And he told me all about the flight recorder.

The four engines are numbered one through four, left to right.

The last part of the controlled descent will be a nosedive into the ground. This he calls the terminal phase of the descent, where you're going thirty-two feet per second straight at the ground. This he calls terminal velocity, the speed where objects of equal mass all travel at the same speed. Then he slows everything down with a lot of details about Newtonian physics and the Tower of Pisa.

He says, "Don't quote me on any of this. It's been a long time since I've been tested."

He says the APU, the Auxiliary Power Unit, will keep generating electricity right up to the moment the plane hits the ground.

You'll have air-conditioning and stereo music, he says, for as long as you can feel anything.

The last time I felt anything, I tell him, was a ways back. About a year ago.

Top priority for me is getting him off this plane so I can finally set down my gun.

I've clenched this gun so long I've lost all feeling.

What you forget when you're planning a hijack by yourself is somewhere along the line, you might need to neglect your hostages just long enough so you can use the bathroom.

Before we touched down in Port Vila, I was running all over the cabin with my gun, trying to get the passengers and crew fed. Did they need a fresh drink? Who needed a pillow? Which did they prefer, I was asking everybody, the chicken or the beef? Was that decaf or regular?

Food service is the only skill where I really excel. The problem was all this meal service and rushing around had to be one-handed, of course, since I had to keep ahold of the gun.

When we were on the ground and the passengers and crew were deplaning, I stood at the forward cabin door and said, I'm sorry. I apologize for any inconvenience. Please have a safe and enjoyable trip and thank you for flying Blah-Blah Airlines.

When it was just the pilot and me left on board, we took off again.

The pilot, just before he jumps, he tells me how when each engine fails, an alarm will announce Flame Out in Engine Number One or Three or whichever, over and over. After all the engines are gone, the only way to keep flying will be to keep the nose up. You just pull back on the steering wheel. The yoke, he calls it. To move what he calls the elevators in the tail. You'll lose speed, but keep altitude. It will look like you have a choice, speed or height, but either way you're still going to nose-dive into the ground.

That's enough, I tell him, I'm not getting what you'd call a pilot's license. I just need to use the toilet like nobody's business. I just want him out that door.

Then we slow to 175 knots. Not to bore you with the details, but we drop to under 10,000 feet and pull open the forward cabin door. Then the pilot's gone, and even before I shut the cabin door, I stand at the edge of the doorway and take a leak after him.

Nothing in my life has ever felt that good.

If Sir Isaac Newton was right, this wouldn't be a problem for the pilot on his way down.

So now I'm flying west on autopilot at mach 0.83 or 455 miles per hour, true airspeed, and at this speed and latitude the sun is stuck in one place all the time. Time is stopped. I'm flying above the clouds at a cruising altitude of 39,000 feet, over the Pacific Ocean, flying toward disaster, toward Australia, toward the end of my life story, straight line southwest until all four engines flame out.

Testing, testing. One, two, three.

One more time, you're listening to the flight recorder of Flight 2039.

And at this altitude, listen, and at this speed, with the plane empty, the pilot says there are six or maybe seven hours of fuel left.

So I'll try to make this quick.

The flight recorder will record my every word in the cockpit. And my story won't get bashed into a zillion bloody shreds and then burned with a thousand tons of burning jet. And after the plane wrecks, people will hunt down the flight recorder. And my story will survive.

Testing, testing. One, two, three.

It was just before the pilot jumped, with the cabin door pulled inside and the military ships shadowing us, with the invisible radar tracking us, in the open doorway with the engines shrieking and the air howling past, the pilot stood there in his parachute and yelled, "So why do you want to die so bad?"
And I yelled back for him to be sure and listen to the tape.

"Then remember," he yelled. "You have only a few hours. And remember," he yelled, "you don't know exactly when the fuel will run out. There's always the chance you could die right in the middle of your life story."

And I yelled, So what else is new?

And, Tell me something I don't know.

And the pilot jumped. I took a leak, then I pushed the cabin door back into place. In the cockpit, I push the throttle forward and pull the yoke back until we fly high enough. All that's left to do is press the button and the autopilot takes charge. That brings us back to right here.

So if you're listening to this, the indestructible black box of Flight 2039, you can go look and see where this plane ended its terminal descent and what's left. You'll know I'm not a pilot after you see the mess and the crater. If you're listening to this, you know that I'm dead.

And I have a few hours to tell my story here.

So I figure there's maybe a chance I'll get this story right.

Testing, testing. One, two, three.

The sky is blue and righteous in every direction. The sun is total and burning and just right there in front. We're on top of the clouds, and this is a beautiful day forever.

So let's us take it from the top. Let me start at the start.

Flight 2039, here's what really happened. Take one.


Just for the record, how I feel right now is very terrific.


I've already wasted ten minutes.



What People are Saying About This

Thom Jones

Even I can't write this well.

Bret Easton Ellis

Maybe our generation has found its Don DeLillo.

Customer Reviews

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Survivor 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 350 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is early Chuck at his best, and is by far the best.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the beginning I found this book really interesting and captivating. However, after a few chapters I was really bored and had no clue where it was all going. i thoght about just putting it down, but i didnt. And im so GLAD i didnt. About close to half way the story starts to speed up and everything starts to tie together. I love the character development; it was interesting to see that only at the last few hours of his death that he became independant. Overall i love this book! Thought i wouldnt but i did. And to those who are thinking about putting it down keep reading. It gets better like by a lot
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a good read. It was not gory or totally appalling. There were disturbing parts, but it was dark for different reasons. The story for "Survivor" moved at a slower pace. If you want a light speed thriller that glues you to your seat, then this novel is not for you. It is a slower recounting of an unusual man's life. And, a commentary on all of our lives. The beginning of the book is the end of Tender Branson's life. He has hijacked a plane, released all of the passengers and staff, and the engines are failing one at a time. He tells his life story (from the past through the present) to the airplane's "black box". His life starts out as one of many children in a cult, then as cult survivor, later a guru, and lastly it all falls apart. Throughout there are cleaning tips and tricks. It seems an odd subject to spend so much page space on. Rather than take these tips at face value, I think that it demonstrates the depths to which he has been programmed to serve others mindlessly. Free thinking and free will are not options for Tender. Once he is free of one master, he transfers to another, and another, etc. "Survivor" asks the question: how does a person who has been a slave mentally and physically deal with the opportunity for possible freedom? Do you take a chance at, maybe, being free? Or, do you continue on the path that you have always known? With some introspection included, I found this book to be very interesting commentary on life. Everyone has external and internal limits. How do we know that we are free? Give this book a try. It ended up being a lot better than I thought it would be. I have never read this author before. I will be checking out more titles by this author. -AvidReader
AmberTonin More than 1 year ago
I've read it several times. Knowing how it is going to end makes no difference, especially since the first page is the last page. If you liked the movie Memento, you'll love this book.
KATHERINE LLINAS More than 1 year ago
This novel is close to the top with my list of favorites for Chuck Palahniuk. If you are a fan of his work, you will definitely see a great deal of the biting, clever, self-depricating brilliance in this piece of work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I stumbled upon this author by accident and found out he had written the book upon which the movie, Fight Club, was based. I was immediately intrigued and couldn't decide which of his many novels to read first. Survivor was the first book I chose, and it was a non-stop thrill throughout! Chuck Palahniuk is a depraved genius. You need a warped sense of humor to appreciate his writing; no delicate readers here, please!
salire More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book, though I found the main character a little flatter than I usually like, even from Palahniuk. The ending was pleasantly infuriating, haha.
MQ2 More than 1 year ago
This is the fourth book by Chuck that I have read (followng Fight Club, Choke, and Rant), and I think this is my favorite one so far. I read this book faster than any other book I've had besause I found the metamorphosis of everything from beginning to end incredibly grasping. I wish that a few things were a little more fleshed out, but overall I really like the whole world that was created. I also liked how the whole story was being told as an audio recording by the maiin character. It kept my brain cuurious as to how he's going to end up where he is. It added a certain sense of ugency, like if I don't read quickly it's going to be too late.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Chuck Palahniuk shows us his in depth story telling in Surivor by having the main character tell his life story to the black box of a plane that is about to crash. The main character hijacks a plane and lets everyone off and then begins flying again. He lets the pilot tag along for a little bit before he wants him to leave too. He jumps out with a parachute after explaining exactly what's going to happen with the plane during the flight, and then the crash. The rest of the novel is the hijacker telling his life story to the black box so that everyone can have something to remember the catastrophy by. The novel observes our media world in a very dark satirist way. He compares the world to having no soul anymore and shows how everyone is too caught up in their materials to enjoy their lives. The novel is an incredible read and I think it'd be a great read for anybody who enjoys a dark and entertaining read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Chuck has a unique way of storytelling that is filled with odd tidbits that add flavor overall. I love all CP'S books!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Worth a read or twenty
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was great from start to finish. Definitely one of chucks best.
Ashley Keith More than 1 year ago
This book is great. He really knows how to captivate a reader and leave you wanting more. I was so into this book that i read it in one sitting.
shannon18SC More than 1 year ago
This was a great story. Really enjoyed it! Love the author!
EReynolds More than 1 year ago
I am a huge Chuck P. fan. But this book was a bit difficult for me. I just couldn't get into it. It's about the "last survivor" of a cult, and the book is this last survivor telling his life story to an airplane blackbox. Going from, cult memeber to houseman, to overnight sensation and his fall from grace. Sounds like a good idea, but I just couldn't really get into it. In fact, I had to push myself to read it all the up to the last 2 chapters and then I just had to put it down. I couldn't make myself finish it. The writing was excellent, as Chuck P's always is. And the plot was good in theory, but in the end...I was kinda bored. Gasp, I know. But still, give it a try. You might like it.
Victoria-book-reader More than 1 year ago
I really love this novel. At first the main character seems pathetic, but you grow to like him and even feel sympathy for him as he's exploited. I can't think of another Palahniuk book where I sympathized more with the character. The ending pages stumble a little, but it's still a great book and one I highly recommend.
LizEA More than 1 year ago
I have read several books by Chuck, this is one of my favorite. It is cleverly written, and it highlights the drudgery of day to day life cleaning up after the rich and moronic which showing that being social inept is not so bad. He shows how a person goes from no one to famous and makes it tangible.
wrstlr3232 More than 1 year ago
By far my favorite book by Chuck. The first half is great, but I thought it slowed down for a little bit. The last third is gets really good again. It does a great job of making fun of how society portrays famous people and the lengths famous people go to to stay famous.
bb328 More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was pretty good. It's really short and leaves a big cliffhanger at the end of every chapter. So far Chuck Palahniuk isn't as amazing as everyone says but then again i've only read this book and saw fight club (which I loved), I think i'll give him another shot. I'm thinking of buying Lullaby or Rant.
Sally70 More than 1 year ago
The first experience I had wityh a story that Chuck had written, like many people, was Fight Club. I saw the movie, then read the book. Then I read Rant. Now Survivor. I've got to say, I like Chuck! This book is an interesting look at religion, culture (key word being Cult this time), relationships and just the desperaste commecialization of the world. Or at least our country. He never gets into the rest of the world too much. The main characters are interesting and flawed and, like other books by Chuck, this one manages to make you feel horny and uneasy at the same time. It's a great Story! Chuck is one of my favorite writers now, right up there with David Gregory. (Read Christmas at Sibyl's, too!)
CarlosMcRey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Some people think this is Palahniuk's best book, possibly even better than Fight Club. And for the first chapter of the novel, I seriously believed that might be true. As is made clear from the outset, the narrator of the story is the protagonist, and he is telling his story into the recorder of a jet liner which is soon to crash. The pages are even numbered backwards to add to the sense of impending doom, of a limited amount of time before the inevitable end. Seriously, that's a great way to build some suspense right from the start.And then, the second chapter. First of all, if a lot of the tension is built up around the way the story is being told (narrated into the flight recorder of a doomed jet), well, breaking it up into chapters is not a good idea. After all, this is basically a suicide note (or at least an Apocalyptic Log), and I'm pretty sure nobody has ever divided their own suicide note into chapters. Also, how did that work? Does he actually say "Chapter 2" into the recorder? Additionally, the tense immediately changes into the present to describe something the narrator was doing several months back. Again, nobody writes a suicide note or narrates their life like that. Perhaps Palahniuk was trying to call attention to the artificiality of the narrative, but it felt like a betrayal of the reader's suspension of disbelief. Well, I wasn't going to make that mistake again.Perhaps if I hadn't felt let down from the beginning, what follows might have kept me engaged. It seemed like mostly blunt satire on the usual bugaboos: religion! celebrity! cosmetic surgery! hypocrisy! And then the message at the end seems to be that if you want to be free, you should have sex. Real cutting edge sort of stuff.
teharhynn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I think this was excellent. From the first page, I knew that I was reading a Chuck Palahniuk book. I can see that I'm going to quickly become a hard-core fan. I'm excited to have enjoyed another unique book by him.
TybaltCapulet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After Fight Club, this is my favorite book by Palahniuk.A cult goes awry, and all members are instructed to kill themselves, and they all do except for a couple of the members living outside the commune. Then one by one, they die, leaving only Tender Branson.All of the members who aren't the first-born work outside of the commune and are named Tender, like money. They are the supply of cash for the commune, and the commune does nothing for them.The last member of a strange suicide cult becomes a religious leader, gets blamed for murder, hijacks a 747. That's where the story begins.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow. Just wow. What a brilliant read this was. Right from the start, where the protagonist announces that he's hijacked a plane and plans to allow it to crash it's time to fasten your seatbelts and hang on for a bumpy ride.We learn that he was brought up in a repressive religious cult and didn't see the 'outside world' until he was 17. How he arrived at that moment on that plane is a tragi-comic story that had me reading into the small hours.I liked the humour, the quirkiness of it all (not least the backwards page numbering) and the way the early chapters appear to be about one thing and then turn out to be about something subtly different. All this and a shedload of housekeeping tips: it's got to be worth a read!
Ginerbia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Survivor is a very twisted, dark, mind blowing book. I'm so glad I found it.It's about this guy who was born and raised in a religious cult and how he deals with life after the mass suicide of his fellow cult members. His story is forever saved in the "black box" of the airplane that he highjacked. He made everyone get off the plane and had the pilot take off, set the autopilot, and then parachute out of the plane. Alone in the plane, he tells his life story while he waits for the plane to run out of gas and crash land.This was an audiobook that I downloaded from Overdrive. The narrator was terrific and really brought the story to life.I've never read (or listened to, as was the case) anything by Chuck Palahniuk before and after Survivor, I will pick up more by him. I really enjoyed it.