The Invention of Sound

Image of The Invention of Sound
Release Date: 
September 8, 2020
Grand Central Publishing
Reviewed by: 

“Deft with prose, inventive with structure, and gruesome in his delivery, Palahniuk’s latest will no doubt test some readers’ stomachs, while simultaneously guaranteeing him a brand-new batch of faithful followers.”

Relentlessly violent and eminently strange, Chuck Palahniuk returns to the literary landscape with another genre-bending novel.

The Invention of Sound sets a twisted story of judgement and revenge against the soundscape of Hollywood horror films.

Mitzi Ives, a Foley artist, drugs herself into oblivion while she creates her masterpieces. Viewed by Hollywood insiders as the best in her field, Mitzi’s life work is creating the perfect scream.

“‘My job,’ Mitzi said, ‘is to make everyone in the whole world scream at the exact same time.’”

Over and over, Mitzi selects her victims. For in the fake upon real upon fake world of Hollywood, Mitzi performs acts of brutality on her “actors” in search of a howl that would bring down the walls.

Meanwhile, Gates Foster, a man who lost his young child years before, engages high-priced hookers to call him “daddy.” Enlisted to help him live out the fantasy that his daughter never vanished, women who look like Lucinda might have had she still existed in his life, act as erstwhile daughters in various make-believe events and celebrations.

Throughout it all, Hollywood would-bes and has-beens populate Palahniuk’s dark and savage version of the industry, prepared to give up everything for a shot at stardom.

“Since the dawn of films when young women had been tied to railroad tracks and tied to logs sent into huge sawmill blades, Hollywood had never lacked new ways to take pretty girls apart.”

Other characters play their parts in the carefully orchestrated plot, designed in fragmented sections and held together by a breadcrumb trail of clues.

Skipping around from character to character, Palahniuk creates not so much a third-person multiple narrative, or an omnisciently told tale, as a mosaic of story, with each voice connected through a common thread of anger, despair, and a deep-seated need to know how the worst parts of their lives came to pass.

Along with Gates Foster’s passion for call girls that wear his daughter’s face, he’s also obsessed with seeking out pedophiles and seeing them suffer. “This, this office, no it wasn’t his dream job. His fantasy career would be to torture these men who tortured children.”

When a new development in the case of his missing child arrives at his doorstep, Foster hopes he may finally determine what happened to his daughter, allowing him to make the perpetrator of her disappearance, pay.

The surreal nature of Palahniuk’s world takes the reader along for a distorted journey, where the guides feel unreliable and the sickening nature of events preys on the imagination like driving past a car crash.

Not wanting to look, yet unable to look away, Palahniuk invites us to perform a fictional re-enactment of the very crimes he accuses Hollywood of perpetrating. Violence toward women. Violence toward children. Violence against humankind.

He can’t possibly show readers the worst that his characters set out to do, then he does. But even that might not be real, as reality shifts again and readers soon question everything that they think is true.

Like trying to stay upright in quicksand, Palahniuk keeps his readers guessing as to how the threads will come together at the end. While certain elements appear obvious—even from the beginning—nothing can be taken for granted.

Always playing with form, Palahniuk has created a novel that lies somewhere at the intersection of horror, surrealism, gothic, and noir.

Deft with prose, inventive with structure, and gruesome in his delivery, Palahniuk’s latest will no doubt test some readers’ stomachs, while simultaneously guaranteeing him a brand-new batch of faithful followers.

Not of the faint of heart, The Invention of Sound demonstrates why Palahniuk’s fans stick with him, as he continually promises something intensely dark, surprisingly funny, and always new.