Just swallow the outrageousness

(Double Day, 2001)

IN HIS latest novel, Chuck Palahniuk serves up a portion of signature satire on yuppie America's pretensions of safety, the emasculation of modern man and the joy of blowing things up.

See: Survivor and Fight Club.

His loser-saviour this time is one Victor Mancini, a medical school dropout and sex addict who has to pay for his anarchist mother's elder care.

To do this, he chokes himself in restaurants nightly - creating heroes out of plebeian bystanders, gaining sympathy and cash donations in the process.

And he may be the genetic clone of one really famous dead person.

If he weren't such a crackingly good writer, Palahniuk's fictional formula of outrageous situations, unlikely messiahs and anarchy - which he pioneered in Fight Club - would have worn thin by now.

But Choke, his fourth novel, manages to deliver the requisite dose of the right stuff to keep fans hooked: Wise-ass one-liners laced with genuine insight, jet-black humour, and more fun facts than you can shake a stick at (how to do a tracheotomy with a fork; the best jet planes for mile-high hanky-panky). It's Palahniuk's most sexually explicit book to date.

The novel's basic theme of folks choking on the past instead of creating their future plays out as a series of well-penned, camera- ready set pieces: From the recursive loops of sex addiction to a fascist theme-park reconstruction of 18th-century America.

The novel's atypically upbeat ending could be a downer for fans looking for a Gothic curtain call.

Still, the ride's irresistible. Don't swallow it all at once.