on January 20, 2008
Bad Monkeys is a book certain to satisfy fans of science-fiction, of mysteries, and of conspiracy thrillers. Author Matt Ruff masterfully combines all three genres in his fourth novel, which is anything but "genre fiction."
The novel opens in the psychiatric ward of the Clark County Detention Center (Las Vegas, NV). Accused murder Jane Charlotte explains to her psychiatrist that her alleged crime was authorized by a covert organization dedicated to crime prevention. Jane was an operative in the Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons ("Bad Monkeys"), regularly dispatched to eliminated evildoers who eluded the justice system. Her life story revolves around this organization and its departments of Ubiquitous Intermittent Surveillance (Panopticon), Optimal Utilization of Resources and Personnel (Cost-Benefits), internal affairs (Malfeasance), and The Scary Clowns. She tells her story from childhood to date as her psychiatrist gently points out inconsistencies between her version and the official record.
The reader is left to question, "who is Jane Charlotte?" Ruff layers the story with basic questions of good vs. evil (characters named Wise, True, and Love all make appearances) as he leaves the reader with riddles upon riddles about the sarcastically funny Jane Charlotte. The author delivers a surprise ending worthy of a tale with this level of manic energy.
Visit author Matt Ruff's website to read the soundtrack of music he "listened to obsessively while writing this book."
This novel begins so well, and is so fast-paced and compulsively readable, I was recommending it to people left and right .
Then I finished it.
To make a movie comparison, this is like the Matrix trilogy, where 2/3 (3/4 ?) through the story, all the interesting story arcs and subplots are abruptly dropped, and the story finished quickly in a bizarre, disjointed and unsatisfying manner.
One of the finest writers of American fiction working today, Matt Ruff is one whose work remains unfamiliar to most, due perhaps to his keen interest in science fiction and fantasy, and his elegant literary mastery of both. But he's an important writer worthy of widespread attention simply because of his ample artistic talents. He's an elegant literary stylist whose most endearing quality is a consistently uncanny ability to create memorable characters within mesmerizing tales. He's a smart, brilliant writer who can transport the reader to a vivid "Dudgeons and Dragon" fantasy set on the campus of his collegiate alma mater, Cornell University ("Fool on the Hill") and then, many years later, inside the fertile imagination of a young woman afflicted with multiple personality disorder ("Set This House in Order"). Ruff is truly notable for being able to plunge successfully into fantasy, cyberpunk and psychological science fiction in a remarkable literary career that now spans twenty years; his early works "Fool on the Hill" and "Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy" remain cult classics still treasured by those familiar with his sparse output. Hopefully, with "Bad Monkeys", Matt Ruff is now poised to acquire the vast audience that his ample literary talents deserve. Why? In "Bad Monkeys" he offers the reader a heart-pounding original twist on the very nature of evil, wrapped up in a terse, film nourish thriller, that owes as much to Philip K. Dick, as it does to great crime fiction novelists like Elmore Leonard, in its engrossing exploration not only on the very essence of evil, but also in focusing upon one's own motivation to commit heinous deeds against humanity. It is a heart-pounding tale that's a literary rollercoaster, replete with unexpected twists and turns, culminating in a bizarre, but still brief, ending that's almost inexplicable. A wickedly funny brilliant tale that's impossible to put down, and will leave you speechless at the very end; one that deserves recognition as among the finest works of fiction published this year.
Who is Jane Charlotte? Is she a delusional, homicidal crime suspect trapped in the psychiatric ward of the Clark County (Las Vegas, Nevada) Detention Center? Or is she a member of a secret organization devoted to fighting evil, belonging to a division known as the "Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons", which goes by the name of "Bad Monkeys". Is Jane Charlotte a Bad Monkey? These incredulous facts are those she told the police immediately upon her homicide arrest; "facts" which a doctor assigned to the psychiatric ward attempts to determine by his extensive interview of her; an interview that's among the most engrossing I've encountered in fiction. One that most readers ought to find as compelling and as brilliantly realized as I have.
Though set almost a year after the events of 9/11, "Bad Monkeys" is not just a clearly conceived excursion into paranoia and police thriller fiction. It is a spellbinding work of science fiction whose contemporary setting may persuade most readers that it is a witty, terse, and elegant, example of crime fiction. But it is a clever piece of science fiction writing, for reasons that will become obvious all too soon to a discerning reader. However, I suspect that most will miss these reasons, and conclude erroneously that Ruff has written just a brilliant, exceptionally well-crafted, psychological thriller. Without question, it is a captivating piece of splendid fiction writing that will remain in your consciousness long after you've finished reading it, like a still vivid memory of a memorable film or some hitherto unknown, but remarkable, wine. "Bad Monkeys" is a most original tale from one of the finest writers of my generation, and one that's worthy not only of the critical praise it's garnered so far, but ample popular acclaim too.
on March 21, 2007
I read this book in a day. ANd not really a day, I started around 2pm, and it's 8:30pm now. I was at work when I read it, so I was interupted alot. I say this as an example when I say, I could not willingly put this book down. It grabbed me, and not only refused to let go, but when I looked down, I saw that I had grabbed IT. I have no idea how to talk about this book without giving anything away. The basic plot, and I mean basic, is that our main character, Jane Charlotte, has been arrested for murder. She tells the cops that she is a member of a shadowy organazation that fights evil, and the book is an interview with a police psychiatrist interspersed with her telling him how she came to be a part of this organization.
After that, I'll leave it up to you to read this. And, if you enjoy an excellent read that illicits all sorts of comparrisons, from Palahniuk to Moore, then you'll enjoy this. It's unique, at least as far as books I've come across. And I can't think of a better thing to say about a book other than that it was an excellent read, and that it's unique.
on July 8, 2008
Okay, let's start out at the beginning. This book was amazing in every aspect, from the plotline (A secret organization of assasins?! Classic, but great.) to the characters (A lady that acts schizophrenic for her own sake even though she is really quite sane makes an appearance.) to... about five pages before the ending. (Jane has her NC gun pulled on our main villain, and then...)
Let me tell you of my experience the ten minutes after finishing the book: nearly crying, I searched through the remaining (blank) pages, convinced that this was some sort of joke, that the real ending was sure to come. The final twist was a baseless, cliched character-destroying move that had me crying, "Matt Ruff, what are you thinking?!"
In the end, I had to write a new ending and tape it to the back of the book to put my broken heart to rest.
'Course, the book was still amazing. Until it ended. Read it, PLEASE read it, but just stop at the point I mentioned earlier. Please.
on June 23, 2012
A very unusual book to say the least :)
At the beginning of the story, Jane Charlotte is arrested and is questioned by a psychiatrist. When the police arrest her, she confesses that she works for "The Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons", or, for short, the "Bad Monkeys". The Bad Monkeys is a division of a secret organization devoted to fight evil. - an underground fight between good and evil. Is her story "real" or is she crazy. In this organization they call evil people "Bad monkeys" - and these are people who must be destroyed. It is an interesting story of the nature of good and evil and about a secret society dedicated to improving the world by assassinating serial killers . Fantasy, falsehood, science fiction, all mixed together, as one reviewer wrote.
Her psychiatrist is trying to get to the bottom of what is true and what is false.
Jane starts out sounding sincere, then she begins to lie , and we have to sort it out - what is truth, what is lies, what is delusional, and what is real. She says her victims are all serial killers, mass murders or child molesters. So is she good or is she evil? You wonder. You keep wondering as you read all the way to the end.
Even though you know she lies - and you know her story is fantastic - you find yourself believing her when you shouldn't - just like in real life we tend to believe people we shouldn't in real life.
Very interesting book
on October 17, 2013
This was a staff pick at Blackwell's bookstore in Oxford UK. My wife and I both loved it, and you might too. My short review is: Bad Monkeys is a cool funny trip with an enigmatic heroine killer who may be as mad as a hatter. My long review...
The book opens up with our heroine Jane Charlotte under arrest for murder. Her crazy defense? She's part of a super secret organization dedicated to wiping out evil people, "bad monkeys," so this wasn't murder, but an execution. Her interviewer doesn't buy it (why would he?) but convinces her to tell her story as part of her interrogation. And her story is the book. To tell you any more would be to give away too much (you find all this out in the first few pages). But the voyage of discovery is a delight.
One of the tensions in the book is trying to figure out how much of Jane's story might be true and how much might be the ravings of a delusional madwoman. Ruff's prose is smooth, clear, and ambiguous, whenever each of those tones is necessary. The reader is never quite sure what is true and yet is still drawn into the action of Jane's crazy adventures (or crazy hallucinations).
Will you like Bad Monkeys? If you like your books straightforward and sane, probably not. I actually tend in that direction myself--I'm not a big fan of the post-modern jumbled prose of some current writers--so I was a bit surprised that Ruff's style didn't annoy me. Partly, perhaps, because he's always clear about what's going on, even if you aren't quite sure if it's actually going on. I never felt lost, merely in doubt. Still, if you're not into a bit of weirdness, this may not be your cup of tea.
Also, if you're mad for deep character development, this is not the place to find it. This is more an intellectual journey than an emotional one.
But if you like smart writing and traveling to a very strange vision and version of our world, I highly recommend Bad Monkeys. If you don't like it, well maybe you are a bad monkey.
on October 15, 2015
This is not my favorite Matt Ruff book but it did stick with me. It's not really a full-fledge novel, it's more of a character study, a novella. However, it's also more thoughtful than you might imagine from the plot descriptions. The publisher did Ruff no favors suggesting this is thriller. It does, yes, have thriller elements but, in the end, the parts of it that work function more as an anti-thriller. Totally worth reading just not exactly what you might expect from the jacket copy and the opening pages.
on June 10, 2016
I won't go into detail here because I am echoing many other reviewers. It was an interesting Inception-style play on reality and illusion until it spun off into complete absurdity at the end. Disappointing.
on October 15, 2009
Bad Monkeys was the first book from Matt Ruff that I picked up. I'm so glad I happened upon it in the library - he's quickly earned a place among my favorite authors.
Bad Monkeys is a book that keeps you guessing all the way to the end. It's not a mystery - in fact, I'd be hard-pressed to categorize it all all. It's quirky, with a healthy dose of satire and a storyline with more twists and turns than perhaps anything I've ever read.
I want to be careful not to give anything away, so here's a brief and deliberatly vague teaser: Jane Charlotte is a self-confessed member of The Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons (or Bad Monkeys). In a series of sessions with a psychotherapist in a prison psych ward, Jane tells the story of how she joined the Bad Monkeys, an organization devoted to fighting evil. Are the Bad Monkeys only in her head, or is something very large and very crazy at work?
Ruff has spun a real page-turner in Bad Monkeys. This is a book I stayed up half the night to finish, and couldn't help myself from exclaiming, "WHAT? No WAY!" to no one in particular at several points in the story.
Check it out. Ruff's masterful with his deception -- you won't be disappointed.