Bad Monkeys - Matt Ruff

"Tell me something," I said. "Are you acting weird because there's a guy with an ax crouched behind my back seat?" The gas-station attendant blinked. "You know him?" "Well, we haven't been formally introduced, but I'm pretty sure his name is Bob."

Okay, I'll admit it: what drew my attention to Bad Monkeys was the packaging. Bright yellow, with a sort of Rorschach-like mandrill face on the cover. Plus it's sort of an odd stiff paperback, and the proportions are funny: a tall, skinny book. (And the description on the back sounded kind of interesting, too.)

Jane Charlotte has been arrested for murder, and is being questioned by a psychiatrist because her story is a little, well, odd. She claims that she works for a nameless organization which fights evil (not crime, as she's quick to point out), and she works for the group nicknamed "Bad Monkeys," the Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons. That is, she's an assassin.

As the story unfolds, we're meant to question whether she's actually insane, or if her story is true, outlandish as it is. The organization (with its various oddly-nicknamed departments) is one of those far-reaching, nearly omnipotent conspiracy-theory-inspired entities, with the ability to hide invisible surveillance equipment in everything from library books to dollar bills. The title (and some of the plot) recalls the movie "12 Monkeys," which also involves a main character who is either on a secret mission or totally bonkers.

Unfortunately, as with the movie, the reader is never really convinced that Jane is crazy, despite the black helicopters and NC guns. Why? Because it's fiction, I guess. Because when you read a book you're automatically primed for suspension of disbelief, and so you don't go into the book thinking, hmmm, is this realistic? Instead you think, ok, in the world of the book, this is really happening. So that part of the tension, at least, is missing.

However, it's still a pretty fun ride, and even without the "Is she crazy?" question hovering over the whole plot, there are still enough twists and turns and double-backs that you really won't be able to guess how it ends. Jane's confession begins with her initial encounter with the organization to her eventual recruitment and subsequent involvement taking care of the "bad monkeys." It's also wickedly funny, playing off all the classic conspiracy theories and rolling them into one big uber-explanation.

It's not a book I would recommend to everyone, but I figure you'd know if you're the sort who would enjoy something like this.

Fed to jonathan's brain | August 31, 2009 | Comments (0)


Post a comment

Remember Me?