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The Apes of Eden: The Journey Begins Paperback – January 15, 2014
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I first discovered this about myself right after college when I tried to read the latest Jackie Collins novel for which everyone was raving. I could barely make it to the end without gagging. After years of studying the masters of American and world literature such as: Nathanial Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Eugene O’Neil, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, John Steinbeck, Herman Melville, Henry David Thoreau, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Chaucer, etc., etc., etc., I found I was spoiled.
After struggling to read several contemporary novels for the purpose of conversation, I finally gave up and have since devoted my time to mostly nonfiction and journalistic writings. (Yes, I did read all three of the Shades of Grey novels—Yuck!) However, something came to my attention recently that really grabbed my interest.
My agent asked me to review a newly released work of art called The Apes of Eden. It is an epic poem written in iambic pentameter examining the development of man, religion, and the quest for God. This sounds intimidating but don’t let this description deter you.
It is obvious the author, Jon P. Gunn, had fun writing, playing with ideas and words, and occasionally teasing the reader along the way. We see this on the title page which says: The Apes of Eden, The Journey Begins, as told by Literate Louie, the Scribe of the Tribe.
Literate Louie tells us in the very beginning:
My present goal is briefly to describe
the mighty deeds of Eden's famous Tribe
from high antiquity to modern times
in lucid, readable Heroic Rhymes
that nearly any member of our band
with brains between his ears, can understand…
As they say, “this isn’t everybody’s cup of tea” and the author, via Literate Louie, knows this as he goes on to say:
of reader savors Art, the other, tripe.
There is no tepid "Middle Way" to go.
Like death, or pregnancy, it's Yes or No—
However Literate Louie knows there will be a market for his work as he says:
I don't expect my work to go to waste.
We have, among us, apes of cultured taste:
the Literate Elite. I write for those.
Let lowbrows read some Scribbler's dreary prose.
As the reader continues through the history of the Apes of Eden, many classical pieces of literature and scenes from the Bible will spring to mind. We see scenes reminiscent of Greek mythology, Dante’s Inferno, Milton’s Paradise Lost and others. Chapter titles such as Genesis, Exodus, The Fall, and David and the Cyclops give us a clue as to the influences upon the author.
Through the epic poem the author, Gunn, explores classic themes such as creationism versus evolution, pride before the fall, the validity of past historical and religious events, and the relationship between man (or in this case, Ape) and God.
we’ve always been as we exist today;
we neither dropped from Heaven nor arose
"by evolution" from our racial foes.
That open-ended past I can’t conceive,
nor do I know which theories to believe….
he’d met someone, he said, who’d thought it odd
that we, the Higher Apes, had not found God.
Who wants to be considered such a clod
he has to hedge when asked: Have you found God?
Let’s find the Deity!" our prophet cried,
and swung excitedly from side to side. (Remember—these are apes)
The apes begin their journey out of Eden, past a gate guarded by a being with a flaming sword and continue lost and without direction through desert and mountain and many strange adventures. They go on and on in their quest for a Deity until the end of the book. Throughout this quest we are reminded of Moses guiding his people to the Promised Land and other legendary figures.
If I have a criticism of the book it is that it just ends. It ends without any conclusion or a neat summary package. They say in art you must know the rules in order to break them and I feel this is exactly what the author is doing. It is his wink at the reader as if to say, “That’s life.” I understand this is the first of a trilogy so we can look forward to more in the future.
Every work of art has new discoveries to be found each time it is revisited. I found this true of The Apes of Eden. I have now read it about four times and each time I gleaned new information or a new insight. If you are hungry for a good read rather than the junk food and fluff that is fed to us in the commercial markets then look for The Apes of Eden by Jon P. Gunn at Amazon.com. It will be as satisfying as a good steak.
This is a must read for the “Literate Elite;” it is a classic in the making. So, I urge you to be among the first to read this gem and help spread the word. This is a treasure just waiting to be discovered.
You will not be bored. It is also a good story, well told. As always, look up any word you’re not absolutely sure of. This author has a wide range of knowledge and sprinkles neat, obscure, and entirely appropriate words in what passes for a simple narrative. The versification is more like Robert Service’s narratives, telling a tale well. The repetitive rhyme scheme is so cleverly done that you will enjoy some of the harder rhymes.
Gunn has provided us with a classic mythological journey in the Joseph Campbell sense. In this world, humanity is not the dominant species. The apes are. They set out on a quest from Eden in search of God. The evolution of humanity has taken a different course. This is not our world, but much of our world’s philosophy is known here.
As an example of the whimsy in this unique volume, here the ‘author’ explains why a creator must exist: “Consider trees: Were trees one foot in height,/ how could we build our nests up high at night?/ Or fingernails: exactly where they ought /to grow. Without them, how could fleas be caught? /There’s no place on us where a flea can go /that can’t be scratched with finger or with toe; /so even we were planned, in each detail, /to be ourselves, from brain to fingernail. /This couldn’t all be chance. Please understand /this world did not 'just happen'--it was planned ! This proves-- /(He paused to puzzle through his scroll) /--that all these things are under God’s control!"
If you’re looking for raw humour, try this: “... When he sought /suggestions from the magic Scroll he'd brought, /he found that tribal wags, with peerless wit, /had rolled Repugnant Matter up in it. /We'd known he had a flair for words. Now he /displayed a talent for profanity.”
If you’re looking for the tiny carps, they are few. There might be one or two close rhymes (everything else is perfect.) There might be a typo or two. In a work of this size, these are ridiculously small carps. Back to the book, where the undaunted apes continue their quest: “Our leader called the Tribe in council, then/ (or what was left of it). He spoke again /of Pithecanic Destiny and such. /Our current woes, he said, were nothing much.”
There is an alternate version of heaven, expounded by a devil: “"I can't describe the sense of uselessness /you'd feel, if you'd attained Eternal Bliss. /You sing the praise of God, but when you're through /there's simply no constructive work to do.”
There are strange moral questions too, as in this: “My expertise in teaching Virtue should /not be construed to mean I must be Good. /We Teachers only practice what we preach /when teaching student teachers how to teach!”
As for theology, Gunn has a mermaid priestess utter these words: “A god comes into being at the whim /of those with genuine belief in him /so there's a mutual dependency /between believers and their deity.” Buy this book and read the rest of this passage slowly when you get to it; it’s a lot of fun and questions belief while also supporting it.
In the final third of the book, Gunn gives us a version of Satan’s temptation. Again, this is lightly done, cleverly disguising the careful thought and provocative content in a deceptively simple narrative. For example, the satanic figure claims, ‘my cause is just.’ You will laugh, and then be startled by what you are laughing at. The book ends with an epic battle between the apes and the underlord’s horde. No spoilers here; again, buy the book and just read and enjoy it.
Why five stars?
My personal guidelines, when doing an ‘official’ KBR review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer. Usually assigning the star count is the hardest part of a review, but in this case, it was the easiest. Gunn easily rates five stars. Trying to give you an appreciation for this work was the hard part, and I hope to have done an acceptable job. Extremely recommended.
Jim Bennett, Kindle Book Review Team member.
Jon P Gunn wrote the book in “rhymed iambi pentameter thus falling into the category called heroic couplets. Each line has 10 syllables and the pairs of lines rhyme.” This follows the style of Geoffrey Chaucer and many of the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare. For me this made for a great read.
The author developed a story around spiritual restlessness using apes as his main characters as they travel through human history looking for God. He did a great job of taking a very deep, philosophical subject and creating a fictional look at it. The story was easy to follow and very well written. I really like the way Jon P. Gunn developed his characters and made them real and easy to identify with.
I really enjoyed reading The Apes of Eden – The Journey Begins by Jon P. Gunn and I recommend it to all readers.
[Please note: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.]
This story has a philosophical tone and is told through the narrator's subjective prism-- which makes his character easy to connect with on a personal level. His uncertainty and hunt for answers is the driving force of this narrative, which is what kept me engaged and immersed in this adventurous journey.
"Apes of Eden" is elegantly crafted, whimsical, and witty. I enjoyed reading it and I know you will too.