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Publisher's Summary

"Begins here first account of operative me, agent number 67, on arrival Midwestern American airport....Code name: Operation Havoc." Thus speaks Pygmy, one of a handful of young adults from a totalitarian state sent to the U.S. disguised as exchange students to live with typical American families and blend in, all the while planning an unspecified attack of massive terrorism. Palahniuk depicts Midwestern life through the eyes of this thoroughly indoctrinated little killer, who hates us with a passion, in this cunning double-edged satire of an American xenophobia that might, in fact, be completely justified.
©2009 Chuck Palahniuk; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"[A] potent...cultural satire...[full of] characteristically scathing observations....[A] singular, comic accomplishment." (Publishers Weekly)
"Hilarious....Palahniuk leaps over the line of good taste - and lands squarely on his feet." (Booklist, starred review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall

A Kinder, Gentler Chuck

The first thing everyone has to say about Pygmy has to do with, of course, the broken English. It is extremely hard to get used to. It took me three times to get rolling, but once I settled in to the cadence of the work, I rather liked the writing style. I found that he created some astonishing word combinations that made me laugh out loud, and think very hard on how we, as Americans, must look to outsiders.

Now- that's out of the way. Please read the following text delicately, as you COULD construe this to be a spoiler, though I'll give no plot details at all.

I've read all of Palahniuk's books. I began with Haunted, and ended with Fight Club. I've read Survivor three times, and never loses its punch for me. Consequently, when CP puts out a new book, I have come to expect a certain thing. I don't go to Chuck's well to walk away refreshed and joyous. I read Chuck's work in an effort to turn myself inside out with every page. This novel, rape and United Nations notwithstanding, is the feel-good book of the year.

Let us just say that, if you are looking for that ending that leaves you hollow and sick and alone in the world- this is MOST ASSUREDLY not it. And if you're looking for the characteristic gore and horror in his writings, you won't find it here.

You will find plenty of admonitions against the evils of America, and far more directed toward the church. But really- is that so hard these days? That seems too banal at this point- too simple. I can get all that from The Daily Show, though admittedly John Stewart isn't as funny as Pygmy.

Palahniuk remains my second favorite author today. He is always thought provoking and witty, and always challenges the reader. Unfortunately, this time, I felt far too much a member of Team Cedar, when I really wanted to be closer to Agent 67.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Ryan
  • Somerville, MA, United States
  • 10-09-13


The cover blurb bills this an over-the-top, edgy satire, which is what I look for from Chuck P. However, the actual novel is more of a juvenile farce, as though the author went on a South Park binge, then wrote it.

It starts off promisingly, narrated in ludicrously mangled English by an insane caricature of an agent from some imaginary North Korea-like country. The agent, who refers to himself as “Operative Me”, has somehow been placed as an exchange student with a cardboard caricature of an American family (known as “Cow Father”, “Chicken Mother”, “Pig-dog Brother”, and “Cat Sister”). His mission, like his fellow agents’, is to wreak havoc on American capitalist devils with an insidious science fair project and to “impregnate fertile American ova with Operative Me seed utilizing bam-bam-quick pumping rabbit maneuver.” Yes. And, yes, that’s how he talks -- listen to a clip of the audiobook.

Being a Palahniuk book, it contains a few trenchant observations, such as when the protagonist notes that American high schools seem to be good for little more than brain-wasting fluff classes and useless mating rituals, with social failure being the main incentive for actual knowledge pursuit. Mostly, though, the clumsy, unbelievable plot is just an excuse for bad English humor (featuring phrases and grammar no one would ever use), foreigner-misunderstanding-something-obvious humor, rape humor, vibrator humor, boob humor, dogs-as-food humor, and predictable shots at dumb American teenagers, evangelical Christians, and Wal-Mart. "Satire" is rather generous.

Still, Operative Me’s voice often made me laugh. He addresses an old lady at church (“religious propaganda distribution outlet”) with titles like “venerated living skeleton” and “revered still-animated corpse”. Taking a page from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong Il, he ticks off a well-informed listing of America’s national blemishes during a model UN debate, then lists insane suggestions about how to atone for these misdeeds, such as “offering beloved children to serve as sexual chattel slaves to noble third worlders”.

I probably would have loved a book like this as a teenager, but there’s not enough brilliant craziness to really get it off the ground for the adult me. Mostly, it’s just puerile. If you’re a fan of the author and/or are a young male, consider checking it out from the library. Otherwise, don’t bother. 2.5 stars.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

More enjoyable than I thought it would be

While Chuck's books usually have the flaw that they start out strong and end kind of weak, and I was fully expecting that, it was a very solid work. The main character speaks a pigeon English, which may turn off some, but it's easy to get used to.

Yes, this book is filled with some horrifying scenes, like a rape scene, but even that has a purpose based on Pygmy's past training in flashbacks. If you can stomach that early scene, then you'll appreciate Pygmy's take on spelling bees, school dances, school science projects, church, Thanksgiving and various other American rituals.

There's even Pygmy's take on the model United Nations, in which he's the U.S. delegate, who apologizes for our past crimes and demands all current and past leaders be executed.

Laugh-out funny in parts. Very enjoyable if dark humor is your thing.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Unique Writing and Excellent Narration

Gotta tell you, it was a bit hard to get into this book. However, once you begin to follow the story and put together the dialogue, this book will not disappoint. I found myself laughing out loud during many parts. Character development is fairly rich and some of the concepts about the differences of cultures are extremely insightful.

This will definitely be the most unique book you have ever heard.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


One of Palahniuk's best. Once you get used to the language, the story is compelling, smart, and at times, laugh out loud funny. Palahniuk is definitely my favorite writer of contemporary fiction. Also, the narration was spot on. Excellet job all around.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Classic Palahniuk

Chuck Palahniuk isn't for everyone and just because you watched Fight Club on DVD in the comfort of your Boca Raton condo doesn't mean that you are going to like the book... and even if you "liked" Fight Club, you still might be shocked and horrified by the reality or unreality of Palahniuk's imagination. Pygmy is an amazing piece of writing and Paul Garcia's narration in this audio version is nothing short of brilliant. This is some of the most complex linguistic goop I have ever read and listened to. If you think you like Palahniuk's writing then definitely give this audio book version a listen because it is amazing.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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least favorite CP on audio

I have listened to all CP books and usually enjoy his work, but this one I couldn't get through. after 3rd attempt I am 'shelving; this audiobook for good

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


I don't think I'll ever forget Secret agent Me, and Cat sister :D
Even pig brother!

If English inst your first languish this book can be hard to swallow.
Hell if English is your first languish you might have a hard time understanding the story.

When i was listening to the story i found that i had very little mental wiggle room to try and figure out the plot before hand, and predict etc. etc.
But! with this! you have to remain focused on the story, the parts where Quotes and Extras are talking "normally" Are sort of rest bits :D


1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Tough to listen to and tougher to read

At first, I thought, "oh good", a story told in the flavor of "All Things Illuninated", with a new twist on the English Language. However, this author goes a bit too far, making the story telling a bit like reading a foreign language with a dictionary in hand. Every sentence needs translated. The violence and hateful thoughts are also not pleasant. The description of some of the weakest parts of being human (not just American) are thought-provoking, but I found myself either angry or bored through much of the book. I did not laugh out loud, and wondered about those that did.

6 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
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Palahniuk doing as Palahniuk does

The performance of this audiobook is superb, and catches Palahniuk's form of expression very well. It may be the only reason I finished this audiobook in the time I did, as the story itself was not the driving factor for me.

Chuck is doing what he does best here, which is being transgressive and yet strangely tender; bizarre and yet instantly recognizable. And human. If you enjoy his squick and lack of reverence, this book will probably be enjoyable to you. But as for his normal quality of writing, his poetic encapsulation of the damaged, calloused, and vulnerable, then you may be disappointed like I was. He really seemed to phone it in. All in all, I am glad i stopped to read, but then I have a sick sense of humor that authors like Palahniuk have an easy time touching on.

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  • Story
  • Steven
  • 12-17-14


What would have made Pygmy better?

I expected more of a story from such a strong writer who wrote such interesting stories like Fight Club, Diary and Invisible Monsters.

This feels like it's talking about female orgasms as a prelude to his newest book, Titled something something.

What was most disappointing about Chuck Palahniuk’s story?


What about Paul Michael Garcia’s performance did you like?

It was okay. He stayed mostly in one accent then at one point did a Chinese accent then back again. Wierd.

What character would you cut from Pygmy?

I remember none of them to really think it would make a difference.

Any additional comments?

I love Chuck's work, this is why this book stings a little bit. Upset.