Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Random House UK, Vintage Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
"A billion husbands are about to be replaced."
Twenty-five year old everywoman Penny Harrigan works at an entry level job in a New York law firm. She wants more out of life but isn't sure exactly what. Everything changes for her when she meets billionaire I.T. genius Cornelius Linus Maxwell. Maxwell, or "Climax-Well" as he is nicknamed by the tabloids, has previously been in relationships with glamorous and important women including an Oscar winning movie star, a princess and the first female president of the United States so Penny is flattered by his attention. However, she soon finds that she is part of Maxwell's reseach project to develop 'Beautiful You', a new line of sex toys for women. Beautiful You products are so dangerously addictive that women use them at the expense of eating, sleeping and going to work. Millions of women become helplessly enslaved by Maxwell and his corporate empire and it is up to Penny to try and free them and herself before it's too late.
I confess I requested this book without reading the whole synopsis first, just thinking "great, Palahniuk's written another book about women! Maybe it'll be like Invisible Monsters." I was very wrong. If you're looking for a return to return to Palahniuk's earlier form from Invisible Monsters and Fight Club then you are in for a severe disapointment. However, if you liked Snuff then this book will probably be right up your filthy, urine stinking, syringe strewn, rat infested alley. It is a spectacularly distasteful book from beginning to end.
Beginning as a parody of pretty standard chick lit it suddenly gets very 50 Shades of Grey before wandering into the realms of dystopian science fiction. I realise that it's supposed to be absurd and over the top but I just found the juvenile humour irritating, as was the repetition of things that had happened earlier in the book, making me want to shout "I know! I was there!".
I was impressed that a story containing so much sex managed to be not remotely sexy. It contains multiple rape scenes (so it would be triggering for some), coercion and detailed clinical descriptions of many, many sex acts. People masturbate with severed fingers and human bones, burning dildos turn into flaming projectiles shooting through the sky and women orgasm themselves to death. There's no doubt about it,Palahniuk likes to shock.
Beautiful You is most definitely not for everyone, but diehard Palahniuk fans will love it. They are welcome to it.