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The Invention of Sound

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A weird, wild ride. Just the sort of thing you expect from Chuck Palahniuk. A return to form of some of the author’s earlier works.
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The Invention of Sound is yet another great Palahniuk story. I am trying to write this review with no major spoilers because I want readers to be as absolutely shocked by every revelation as I was, even though, yes, I did guess the "big plot twist" about halfway through. I read this back in October but was struggling to gather my thoughts on it so I gave it some time to sink in, and I'm still not quite sure how to say exactly what I'm thinking.

Gates Fosters' daughter went missing when she was a child: one short moment of being out of his line of sight and she has disappeared into thin air. Seventeen years later, he spends his days paying an escort to pretend to be his daughter and browsing the Dark Web for child pornography, simultaneously hoping and fearing it will lead him to his daughter's fate and bring him closure. What Gates does not yet know is that he's already found his daughter and he did not even recognize her.

Across the city, Mitzi is a Foley artist, someone who creates the sound effects used in films and television. She is one of the industry's most renowned horror artists, seemingly able to draw the most grotesque and realistic noises. Her scream tracks are so brutal, they have a physical impact on the people who hear them, and Mitzi is determined to perfect her art at any cost. But Mitzi has a gruesome secret, one which connects her to Gates Foster and will send them both hurtling on a collision course toward one another. As usual, Palahniuk does his research into the topic of Foley art. This is one of my favorite parts of Palahniuk books - the random factoids scattered among the plot help pull you further into the characters' world. The passage about "tape bleed" was really interesting. The story is about the lengths we will go to for our families, the unfathomable horrors and traumas our families can commit against us, and the undying legacy we all want to leave behind, set against the backdrop of an exploitative and uncaring industry that paints itself as glamorous and desirable while bleeding pockets and souls dry - in this case, quite literally. Palahniuk somehow manages to weave the engrossing and bizarre phenomenon of QAnon PizzaGate/Adrenochrome conspiracies into an even more disturbing concept, without ever touching on it as source material. 

One thing that I did not like, that made me uncomfortable as it was not addressed directly within the story, is the overt racism. Within the first 100 pages, there were more than six references to black characters, namely a man named Jimmy, as being "from the ghetto," lacking the ability to dress or behave appropriately at a professional event, being "drug dealers" or "thugsters," depicted as the "Mandingo" stereotype, as disposable and easily forgotten, and with rather negative depictions of their blackness as dirty or somehow unsavory (black bodies described as "lanky and something excavated from a peat bog" and black hair such as dreads described as matted and dirty). This is not addressed, reflected upon, or corrected and there are no descriptors or scenes which contradict these messages.  

Palahniuk is likely trying to convey Hollywood's bias and hypocrisy as well as Mitzi's disregard for human life with these comments, but I would have liked to have seen him humanized at least by a third party or within the omniscient narration.  The book did explore sexism and sexual exploitation in Hollywood and sex trafficking from a much more nuanced angle, we had very clear scenes where Mitzi was reckoning with her guilt over her other atrocious actions but never this one, and the novel was already fairly short, so I feel like it could have definitely thrown in at least one or two more lines to bring the satire full circle (a moment of non-dismissive clarity for Mitzi, a concerned loved one which would stir up the conflict, a witty narrative comment like the ones I am so fond of). Palahniuk is so good at giving us these complex characters with intricate history and motivations, even when they are minor characters, so I really don't understand why Jimmy's character was basically so flat he was a cardboard cutout to be used as a plot device and never given the resolution others were. It was so close in drawing that parallel/divide between how our society regards white girls and black men (again, no spoilers, we'll just say that two scenes involving these two characters were pointedly similar), but that contrast fell short when it was not fully fleshed out.

I believe that The Invention of Sound is one of Chuck's best works, his writing style is one that I have long aspired to - and part of that style is the unapologetically realistic satire and extremely grotesque depictions of human depravity - but I read this ARC back in October (I weirdly got the ARC after it was published) and with current events, I felt this subplot should have went more in depth. Part of the impact and power of satire is that it is self-aware and shaped by actual events, and while I know this book was likely finished long before the largest and longest singular racial justice movement America has had in decades, the conversations about how people of color are depicted in media (especially horror) has been of concern frequently in recent years, and I just felt like this topic deserved more than twenty pages of nauseating exposition only to be once again abandoned and brushed over. Effective satirical commentary should expose the social flaw and condemn it, not reinforce it. I mean, Palahniuk doesn't usually leave much of anything to the imagination and is pretty clear and repetitive with his themes, so this just felt weird to me

Again, this was a small part of the book I felt could have been better executed, but overall the story itself is one of my favorite Palahniuk stories. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who is particularly squeamish (again, I don't want to include significantly detailed spoilers but I will say it discusses several very dark themes such as children being harmed, genital mutilation that even made me shudder, suicide, substance abuse, etc), but then again, if you're looking to read anything by Palahniuk, you'd know that by now.

Note: I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley. I was not compensated in any other fashion for the review and the opinions reflected below are entirely my own. Special thanks to the publisher and author for providing the copy.
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The latest novel from the author of FIGHT CLUB and so many other modern classics.
I haven't read as many of Palahniuk's novels as I would like, but after getting a DRC of THE INVENTION OF SOUND, I had no excuse not to address this oversight.

This is an engaging, gripping, weird novel - just what I'd expect. The characters are well-drawn, realistic, and imperfect. The story moves along nicely, and held my attention throughout. There's plenty of social commentary and, of course, commentary on Hollywood culture/mores.

If you're already familiar with the author's work, then I'm sure you will already have picked this up. If not, then I urge you to do so -- it's a very good read.
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The Invention of Sound follows a distraught father still searching for answers as to what happened to his little girl 17 years ago. In the process of searching, he finds himself entangled is something far more sinister than he imagined.

I will never get over how unique and *slightly* insane Chuck's writing is, and The Invention of Sound is no exception. While not "God tier" for me like Invisible Monsters and Survivor, this one is definitely up there in ranking. I love DARK books and this definitely fit the bill. The book is short, but packs a punch and I love the lil twist at the end! Readers beware that this book covers some really dark topics including torture.
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The Invention of Sound is everything you'd expect from Palahniuk - bizarre, twisted, and challenging but in a good way. The characters are so complex and interesting and really made the book. 
Many thanks to Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for the advance copyT.
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For the past seventeen years Gates Foster has been feverishly looking for his daughter Lucy who disappeared one afternoon while visiting him at work. Mitzi Ives is a world renowned foley artist that is trying to live up to her father’s legacy. Blush Gentry was a horror queen in her teens, now her career amasses to guest appearances at comic conventions and the continual attempts at reinventing herself to revive her acting career. One dark secret ties these three individuals together and will lead them down paths they never would have expected.

Palahniuk is a true master of developing stories that everytime readers think they have finally figured out what is really happening they are hit with a twist that turns everything they thought they knew upside down. The Invention of Sound is a prime example of that mastery and brought me back to those classic Palahniuk books that I know and love. The author’s descriptive abilities in this book are astonishing, each sound and scream created by the foley artists were so detailed they each felt like their own character and I felt like I could literally hear each one. Above all of that the item I do have to commend the author on is how he was able to take a dark tale that deals with even darker topics and make it not something that was purely morbid but a tale that makes the reader think. I highly recommend this book to all readers, especially those that are fans of Palahniuk.
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QUICK TAKE: I miss old school Chuck Palahniuk!! Invisible Monsters Chuck Palahniuk. I really haven't enjoyed one of Chuck's books since SNUFF, and unfortunately, I struggled through THE INVENTION OF SOUND. The story was a bit all over the place and confusing, the characters irredeemable (even for a CP book), and I felt so unsatisfied with the ending. I'd skip this one and re-read INVISIBLE MONSTERS or CHOKE or LULLABY or HAUNTED...
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I just don’t know what to say about this book. Did I like it. Yes. Can I explain why? No. Isn’t that what a Chuck palahniuk book is all about?
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Chuck Palahniuk has been one of my favorite authors since I read Invisible Monsters while in high school, as well as Survivor thereafter. It goes without saying, I was THRILLED to receive an eARC of his latest, and that’s truly an understatement.

Let me tell you, whether you’re a fan of his or not (but especially if you ARE), this piece of work is just as bloody brilliant as everything else he’s written. I won’t leave you with a recap (that’s what the synopsis is for), but I will say this, it reminded me why I fell in love with his writing in the first place. He so effortlessly combines our human nature with dark, twisted thoughts. 

This story is crazy yet so unique, immersive, imaginative. Incredibly original and unlike anything else I’ve ever read. Buckle up, you’re in for an at times uncomfortable-to-read ride!
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Secretive Foley artists? The perfect scream as a weapon? Washed out actresses? Yes, please.
To know me is to know I love, love, Chuck Palahniuk. I started reading his books in the late 90s/early 00's, when I'd get made fun of in high school for carrying around books with dead birds on them (hello, Lullaby). But I didn't care, and each Palahniuk release was (and still is) my escape into a chaotic (and often nihilistic) world full of characters that you're not supposed to like, but somehow find yourself pulling for them anyway.

And The Invention of Sound is no different. 

Have you ever wondered who makes all the screams in your favorite horror movies? Especially the old ones, where the screams sound eerily real? Well, our MC, Mitzi, might know all about the magic behind all that. She's Hollywood's favorite Foley artist, with a penchant for popping Ambien and throwing it back with wine. She's got secrets, y'all. The family business is booming, but why does she feel like such a monster?

On the other hand, we have Foster, who has a deep and problematic obsession with finding his daughter's kidnapper. He thinks he's a vigilante for kidnapped children, but he's really bad at it. When he gets a tip that might help him solve his daughter's case, all hell breaks loose.

The dual narrative of Mitzi and Foster kept me on my toes, with the story tension relieved by excerpts from the memoirs of a Hollywood star, Blush Gentry. Can we take a moment to appreciate Blush Gentry? Is that not the absolute best name for a character, or what? I dare you to find a better one.

Without giving away anything, let's just say this is a quick read, and you'll find yourself googling things like "Foley artists" and "Wilhelm scream." Just like any other Palahniuk book, the research is solid, and you'll wonder what's real and what isn't—just like the characters in the book. 

Palahniuk books are very special to me, as I'm sure anyone reading this has that author that they will follow to the end of time. His characters raise big questions about the way we view ourselves, and how we're often wrong. His stories can (and will) make you laugh/cry. Just like I argue that Stephen King's books are actually deep on a human (and often, cultural) level, so too are Palahniuk's stories of people on the edge of civilization. 

I recommend The Invention of Sound to people that are curious about reading a book that isn't Fight Club, but want to dive into the very approachable voice and world of Palahniuk. Also, fans of:

The absurdities of Hollywood
Nerd-level research about things like Foley artists and sound engineering
Characters that are possibly nihilists, but don't think they are, which leads to personal chaos and so. much. conflict.
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I’m always glad to see a new Chuck Palahniuk book. While I recognize that not everyone is as engaged as I am by his brand of blunt-force transgression, it’s tough to deny that he inhabits an important space in the literary realm. His willingness to push deep-down unpleasantness to the surface, to follow trends and tendencies to their bleakest, darkest outcomes, isn’t something you often see on the bestseller lists.

His latest title is “The Invention of Sound.” It’s a twisted two-hander of sorts, with two primary points of view. Each of these people is consumed by a dark obsession, though they pursue and embrace those obsessions in different ways.

On the one hand, a broken man fully consumed by a Quixotic quest to track down his daughter, holding out hope that he will find her despite the years that have passed and traveling some dark paths to get there. On the other, a notorious Hollywood Foley artist, one whose gifts for perfectly capturing the sounds of violence and pain leave her regarded with unease and suspicion. The two careen toward each other, with neither knowing the other or having any idea what havoc their unexpected collision might wreak.

Palahniuk has always been fascinated with what goes on in the shadows cast by polite society. “The Invention of Sound” delves into those shadows, crafting an ugly and compelling look at the horror and violence lurking beneath the veneer, illustrating the notion that we never really comprehend what people are capable of – even those we think we know.

Gates Foster has been searching for his daughter Lucy for 17 years. One day, she was with him at his office and simply … disappeared, leaving behind no trace aside from a grainy surveillance video of her walking hand in hand with a slightly older girl. Every day since has been consumed with the search. So desperate is Gates is that he even searches the truly evil corners of the dark web that may have become Lucy’s ultimate destination, risking his safety and his soul alike.

Mitzi Ives is Hollywood’s most renowned and reviled Foley artist. The latest in a generational line of sound craftspeople, she excels at the family business. The Ives specialty is and has always been screams; they have proven capable of delivering the sorts of screams that are bloodcurdlingly real. So real that they have always been industry pariahs, a dirty little secret that producers have nevertheless paid millions to know.

However, Mitzi has a secret of her own, a disturbing family secret that is the key to their decades-long success in the cinematic sound industry. It’s a secret that may prove her downfall, as it attracts the attention of Gates Foster, who has lost everything and is desperate for the slightest chance that he can get some piece of his life back.

But secrets beget secrets, and there are some very powerful institutions out there willing to do whatever it takes to keep their own dark truths from being brought to light. Both Gates and Mitzi must come to terms with what they have done – and what they are prepared to do – in the face of the mysterious forces brought to bear against them.

Some of that might ring a little vague, which is very much by design – many of the plot specifics in “The Invention of Sound” will be far more effective without prior knowledge. Fret not, because you’ll be dropped into the unsettling viscerality of it all very quickly and you’ll be grateful for the opportunity to experience it without expectation.

We’ve seen a lot of condemnation of capitalism’s evils from Palahniuk over the years; his disdain for commodification and consumerism are well-documented. Here, he satirizes the entertainment industry’s dark pragmatism with regard to success, teasing out the general “the ends justify the means” philosophy into a horrible, yet bleakly logical conclusion. Profit derived from pain is still profit; it all boils down to what you’re willing to accept as the cost of doing business – and that’s just as true in the creative realm as anywhere else.

As per usual with Palahniuk, things get a little queasy from time to time. He has never shied away from ideas and imagery designed to churn the stomach and chill the blood; “The Invention of Sound” finds plenty of opportunities for the author to indulge his talents and affinities for that kind of challenging evocation. And those talents are considerable – his tight-yet-florid writing style allows him to create these moments of intense unpleasantness without numbing his audience or descending into schlock. No one crafts splatter quite like Chuck Palahniuk.

“The Invention of Sound” is gross and weird and meta and darkly funny – the kind of work we’ve come to expect from Pahlaniuk. Smart and subversive, the book manages to take aim at some of the author’s familiar targets and maintain the old transgressive energy while also bringing something new to the table. A fast read that nevertheless lingers in the consciousness.

You heard it here first.
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Published by Grand Central Publishing on September 8, 2020

Chuck Palahniuk is known for transgressive fiction, but being transgressive for the sake of being transgressive gets old. Shock value only has value if it wakes readers up or makes them think. The Invention of Sound isn’t particularly shocking — I don’t know if it is still possible to shock readers with violence — but more to the point, the novel has nothing new to say. It’s simply Palahniuk being Palahniuk.

The story centers on the production of sound effects — particularly screams — for movies. Palahniuk gives the reader interesting tidbits about screams, yodels, and other vocalizations that moviegoers have heard, probably without realizing that they’ve heard the identical scream in other movies. The Wilheim scream, for example, is a stock sound effect that has been used in over four hundred movies. Who knew?

Mitzi Ives has followed in her father’s footsteps as a Foley artist by making a lucrative living recording screams. They seem more realistic than the screams produced by actors because they are actual screams produced by fear, torture, and fear of torture. After tying down her victims in a sound studio, Ives sedates herself with Ambien and alcohol so she won’t remember what she did. The reader will find that odd and will likely not be surprised to learn the truth about the torture sessions.

The surrounding plot involves a long-missing girl named Lucinda (her face has been on every milk carton in the country, presumably terrorizing children who wonder when they too will go missing) and her father, Gates Foster, who spends his time tracking down pedophiles in the apparent belief that one of them must be to blame for his daughter’s absence. An aging actress named Blush Gentry adds her perspective, both as a character and as the author of an autobiography, excepts of which pepper the plot. A caricature of a producer and a supernatural element are additional ingredients in a stew of clashing flavors.

Foster can’t come to terms with his loss, as he makes clear when he disrupts Lucinda’s funeral. He even pays actresses to play her part based on computer-generated likenesses of what she would look like at the age of 24. So okay, that might be a shocking, although I’d probably categorize it as creepy.

The novel’s key concept seems to be that the blending together of screams can create a sound that is greater than the sum of its parts, a sound that can wreak havoc. That’s likely intended to be disturbing but Palahnuik didn’t make me feel anything for the theater patrons who find themselves buried in rubble after the collective scream is unleashed. If the novel is intended as a work of horror, it is less than horrifying. Perhaps it is intended instead as dark humor, but if so, it doesn’t generate enough grins to be satisfying.

Palahnuik can always be counted on to craft interesting if twisted characters. His in-your-face prose style always creates a sense of immediacy that always keeps me reading to the end. Perhaps true fans of transgressive fiction will love The Invention of Sound. Readers who wonder, as I did, if Palahnuik had a point other than showing off how transgressive he can be will probably agree that this is not his best book.

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Palahniuk is hit or miss for me and this one was a miss. While I like the idea of the book I spent a huge chunk of time just trying to figure out what was going on. The constant back and forth between the characters’ stories was especially confusing towards the end. There were scenes that weren’t described clearly and left me confused about what was actually happening. And I really couldn’t stand the Yoda talking/writing. I have friends who loved this one, but I didn’t. Giving it a generous 3 stars because towards the end I started to skim and some of my confusion at the ending may be due to that.
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Chuck Palahniuk can be a divisive author, and I just didn't vibe with this work. Seems like he came up with one interesting idea (recording *real* screams for movie use) and ran with it, but the result was meh.
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I’m still not sure what to think of this book. It’s classified as horror but I’m not sure that’s how I would describe it - it definitely wasn’t scary. Just weird. This is the first book I’ve read by Palahniuk but from what I understand, all of his books are weird. There were parts that were meant to be disturbing, but they didn’t bother me. A lot of the reviews found the book confusing, but the only thing I couldn’t understand is why Mitzi didn’t label all of her scream tapes... And of course you have to suspend some disbelief as far as how much damage a scream can do. (Of course that last sentence won’t make sense until you read the book.) The Invention of Sound has two main characters - Gates, who is forever looking for his daughter who was lost as a child, and Mitzi, a Hollywood sound expert who specializes in recorded screams. Their stories come together in a sad, unsettling way but surprisingly, I liked the ending.
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The Invention of Sound by Chuck Palahniuk is one crazy story that connects a serial killer, a foley artist, con men, and a grieving father of a lost daughter. If you have ever read anything by Palahniuk who is most famous for writing the mind bending Fight Club, you know you will experience something totally unique and that is what is delivered here. A story I can not imagine anyone else producing other than Palahniuk. The writing is very good, Palahniuk makes some of the craziest observations; also he knows his history when it comes to sound editing, you will come away from this book knowing a lot about the interesting world of foley sound; which is the creation of fake sounds in movies. The cover features a watermelon getting split open which is the sound used for a skull cracking in movies. This book is mind bending, as it will make you the reader ask is this real, is this a drugged out fantasy, is this mental break, or is this a dream. I would read something in this this story and ask that question and read a little further to find out if it was real or not. There is some readers who will driven mad by this, I for one enjoyed it because you who always get the answer on what was real. This wasn't my favorite Palahniuk which is Choke and Lullaby but it is up there for me. Thanks to Netgalley and Grand Central Publishing for giving me an Advanced Reader Copy. The Invention of Sound is Published on 9-8-20.

The Plot: Gates Foster lost his daughter 17 years ago, when she was only 7, he has spent that lifetime wonder if she is alive or dead. Lately he has been obsessed with child predators and working on tracking them down like a vigilante. On a plane he has a breakdown, swearing he heard his little girl call for him. he then accuses a fellow passenger of being a kidnapper because the girl looks so much like his daughter. A friend of a local support group for kids that have died early bail him out. Mitzi is a foley artist known for creating a realistic scream, she learned the technique from her dad and has since taken over the business. Gates Foster is on the brink of madness when he realizes where he heard the his daughter from a movie, is he paranoid, crazy, or is he on the right track to discovering the truth about his daughter.

What I Liked: the twist, there's so many, and it keeps changing you perception of people. The history of Sound design I found really interesting, me, having worked on a couple of independent short films doing foley sound, loved the history, and how it was told. The flipping back and forth from Mitzi to Gates works great while they're stories don't intertwine. The uniqueness of the story is so refreshing for some one who reads so much, I had no way of knowing where this story was going, and just enjoyed the ride. The wild subplot about the conmen, I don't know if it is was really necessary to the overall story but man was that plot crazy.

What I Disliked: Flipping back and forth between Gates and Mitzi while they are in the same place, listening to different things was super confusing for no reason. Why wouldn't you just listen together.

Recommendations: I recommend this crazy, crazy, story. If you enjoy stories that are wild ride that you can't predict, then this is the story for you. The story is mainly mystery, which too my knowledge is Palahniuk's first, even though all his stories have an aspect of mystery. I rated The Invention of Sound by Chick Palahniuk 4 out of 5 stars. The Ranking of best to worst of Chuck Palahniuk's work that I have read, Choke, Lullaby, Diary, Fight Club, The Invention of Sound, Survivor, Haunted, and Invisible Monsters. Most of these titles I have read at least 15 years ago so maybe my taste have changed. I know a lot of my friends who say the one that I have as worst Invisible Monsters is their favorite.
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While not as torture-porn as I was dreading, still dark as hell.

If you liked Fight Club, you'll get this story pretty well... The narrator's sanity comes into question and the reader has to decide what to believe and what to save for later.

While I liked the overall plot idea, I just couldn't follow some of the story, as in why total strangers were motivated to con someone, or why [ insert plot twist here ] happened.  I get the overall plan, but without SOME kind of help I don't know why Deep State agent was on a sit-com?  No, I'm not explaining that, just read the damn book.

The prose still carries it for me.  Palahniuk looks at the darkest side of humanity because like it or not that side of us still exists.  

**I received an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Another mind melter from Chuck. 
The premise is so outrageous and the scenarios so revolting that if he didn’t create characters that were so fun, flawed, and fascinating it might be too much to take. For a fan of Palahniuk’s work, it’s just right!
Highly recommended.
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I've read most of Palahniuk's books, and I'll continue to read them. But I had to put this one aside. Maybe it's because children are involved. Maybe it's because the world is just too dark right now. He's still brilliant, twisted, and bonkers. Most of the time, I fully dig that. Perhaps I'll revisit this later. Or maybe I outgrew the self that could look past the brutality and sickness to simply enjoy the sheer talent on display.
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I love this author. I have no idea where he comes up with his ideas, but they are all really unique. Every book, while having a similar voice, is totally different from all of the others.

Foster is still looking for his missing child, seventeen years later. He has it in his head that she was kidnapped by child pornographers (because that's the obvious conclusion, right?). I'm just going to stop there because I don't want to ruin the surprise. It's much better if you don't know.

Mitzi is a sound artist. She drinks a lot. She does some drugs. And she's on a quest to find the perfect scream. And maybe she's not totally sure what happens when she has someone tied up in her sound studio. How's that for a sound bite (story bite, whatever)?
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