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Will the Real Rant Casey Please Stand Up?

You might not want to ask...

"You're a different human being to everybody you meet"

Buster "Rant" Casey may or may not be a legendary serial killer. It depends on who you ask.

Chuck Palahniuk's eighth fiction novel is a collection of interviews about Buster Casey as told by the people that loved him, hated him, grew up with him, were victimized by him, made love to him and crashed cars with him.

Like Jesus in the Bible, we never hear directly from Buster but instead are told about his life, what he did and what he said by the people around him. The result is a multifaceted look at the man's incredibly interesting life without really knowing which characters are telling the truth and which characters are lying for their own individual reasons.

Palahniuk's decision to ditch the usual third person narrator gives him a chance to challenge himself in a way he has not done in previous books. With a cast of at least 50 different characters, each must have his or her own unique voice and opinion about the story they are telling about Rant. While it is difficult at first to keep track of characters, their relationship to Rant and contradictory accounts of his life, Palahniuk manages to keep each character unique as well as a function in advancing the plot.

"Like most people I didn't meet Rant Casey until after he was dead. That's how it works for most celebrities: After they croak, their circle of friends just explodes.…"

Buster Casey grows up in a small town in the future but soon realizes he is destined for something more. At the same time he begins "vaccinating himself against fear" by subjecting himself to animal and insect bites, people around him begin to die macabre deaths. Before long, Buster's mysterious legend begins to grow.

Soon he leaves his home for the big city and Buster, known as "Rant" to some, joins a group of nighttime thrill seekers that play a deadly game called Party Crashing which makes a fight club look like a ballet recital.

One of the main themes Palahniuk explores in Rant is how a celebrity's life is defined by the people around them and the press they receive. Was Anna Nicole Smith America's Princess Diana or a drugged up, former plus size model? That depends on who you ask and what network they are being interviewed on.

If six different people describe how to draw a dog, I'd end up drawing six different dogs. The truth about Buster Casey and his extraordinary and grisly life is in the book, but a lot of the fun comes from looking for clues along the way.

Like the cults in his novels, fans of Chuck Palahniuk are a dedicated and neurotic lot. We, I mean…they love to read obsessive details about a variety of subjects ranging from what happens when you're bitten by a black widow spider to the economics of rare coins to the complex rules of Party Crashing. Palahniuk's imagination is so sharp, you're never sure where his research ends and where he begins making the whole thing up.

The format of the book did leave me with one minor complaint. I never had a real sense of urgency to read Rant. The fact that the various characters that are telling the story are telling it in past tense means that everything in the story has already happened. Without a traditional narrator to tell us the story as it's happening, the story lacks a driving plot line to move the book forward. While I enjoyed reading Rant when I picked it up, I never felt a need to keep reading it page after page after page as I have with most of Palahniuk's previous novels.

If you're a long time fan that has read his work from the start or a fan that only read Fight Club because of the movie, Rant continues to deliver the goods. Great action, ghoulish plotline and masterful storytelling add up to another must read Palahniuk novel. New readers may find the format annoying or difficult to read at first, but persistent readers will be rewarded.

Or maybe I never read the book and I made this whole thing up. The truth is in the review. Did you find the clues?

Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey

Michael Goodson

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