The Ol’ One-Two Mind Punch: A Review of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club 2 (with mild spoilers)

Written by O'Brian Gunn

Fight Club 2

Over the years, Fight Club has become more of an experience than a movie, one that has shaped many a mind and outlook on life. While it was considered a box-office failure when initially released in 1999, it has since become somewhat of a lifestyle, mostly for men. I admit that when I first watched Edward Norton and Brad Pitt pummel each other’s bodies, lives, and minds, I, too, was a bit taken in with the message about the dangers of toxic consumerism. It also didn’t hurt that the film had a healthy dusting of homoerotic subtext, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Sebastian & Marla

With Fight Club 2, Palahniuk and artist Cameron Stewart lull us back into the head of The Narrator (now going by the name Sebastian) to explore his life 10 years after Project Mayhem. He’s married to Marla, lives in the suburbs, and has a son, all the trappings you think he’d avoid at all costs. But just like with typical life in the suburbs, a white picket fence isn’t enough of a barrier to hold back the dual-darkness churning within the seemingly happy home.

Sebastian still has Tyler Durden haunting and rearranging his mental house, despite his taking medication and working with a therapist to keep his alternate personality under control. The fact that Marla is willingly undoing her husband’s mental renovations by replacing some of his pills with aspirin so she can feel alive again with Tyler also doesn’t help matters. Readers are treated to the familiar narrative voice, well-marinated revelations, and turns of phrase that glazed the movie script, easily drawing you back into the jangled world. But just like the inside of Sebastian’s skull, there are some major differences.

With the help of members of Project Mayhem, Tyler has birthed a new movement called Rize or Die. Just as Sebastian shifted his life to the suburbs, Tyler has shifted his focus to the entire world, inciting wars and terror in various countries in the hopes of sieving through mankind to leave only those who are worthy of inheriting the earth...or at least what remains of it once the dust has settled, the fires of war have been extinguished, and the casualties have been taken care of.

Just like in Fight Club, Sebastian acts as the fly in Tyler’s psychedelic ointment, this time fighting to save his son, who has been kidnapped by Tyler and the rest of Rize or Die/Fight Club in an attempt to turn the child into a military leader. Tapping into newly developed maternal instincts, Marla does her part by working with a progeria support group (which she infiltrated in her usual fashion) made up of computer geniuses who help her track down her son.

Throughout the novel’s 10 chapters, plus a revisited ending to the original novel, Palahniuk and Stewart weave an at times confusing tale that still manages to offer up some insightful commentary about the banal prison of routine that suburban and married life can sometimes become, the current state of masculinity, and the concept of ideas shaping humanity rather than humanity shaping ideas.

A Family dinner in Fight Club 2.

That’s just the general foundation of the plot. To avoid ruining the full experience, I won’t go into too much detail about Tyler’s origins; the meta tissues powering the movement of the narrative; or how parts of the story reminded me of Mr. Robot, Legion, and the Metal Gear Solid series. What I will do is say that the “2” in Fight Club 2 not only signifies the fact that it’s a sequel, but also the fact that you’ll likely have to read the story twice to truly start to wrap your mind around what’s really going on...and maybe even “2” for the number of alternate personalities you’ll need to not just know, but understand what’s going on.

Fight Club 2 pummeled me to a bloody, confused pulp, but that literary beating is balanced out with a full mental massage of introspection administered by the same hands that frenetically put together the puzzle of the original Fight Club. I didn’t love this graphic novel, but I didn’t entirely hate it either...which might be intentional in a story about someone with dual personalities, to add a hint of dualism to the narrative. I’m gonna need some time to recover before round three.

Chronicle (2012)

Next Up: Chronicle, film director Josh Trank’s initial 2012 foray into the cinematic world of superpowers before the much-lambasted Fantastic Four. Chronicle is the story of three high schoolers given the power of telekinesis and their shared journey down the fine line separating heroes from villains.