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Bad Monkeys Paperback – July 24, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
In this clever SF thriller from Ruff (Fool on the Hill), almost everyone is a bad monkey of some kind, but only Jane Charlotte is a self-confessed member of The Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons. Or is she? In a series of sessions with a psychotherapist in the Las Vegas County Jail nut wing, Jane tells the story of her early life in San Francisco and her assimilation into the Bad Monkeys, an organization devoted to fighting evil. Crazy or sane, Jane is still a murderer, whether she used a weapon like the NC gun, which kills someone using Natural Causes, or more prosaic weaponry. Still, nothing is quite what it seems as Jane's initial story of tracking a serial killer janitor comes under scrutiny and the initial facts about her brother, Phil, get turned on their head. At times the twists are enough to give the reader whiplash. Ruff's expert characterization of Jane and agile manipulation of layers of reality ground the novel and make it more than just a Philip K. Dick rip-off. (July 24)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Matt Ruff's fourth novel, a speculative thriller and takeoff on secret agent fiction, is clever, highly imaginative, fast-paced, hallucinatory, and even maniacal. It's also a satirical (and somewhat philosophical) riff on American society, good versus evil, and reality versus illusion. Jane Charlotte, who proves to be a totally unreliable (but intriguing) narrator, had critics guessing about her-and the Bad Monkeys-until the very end. While Bad Monkeys has whiffs of Philip K. Dick, G. K. Chesterton, Brian Azzarello, and Thomas Pynchon, a few critics thought that without Ruff's crazy tricks (which some thought too preposterous), Bad Monkeys would be a ho-hum novel. The verdict: extra suspension of disbelief required.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
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The setting is the interview of an arrested prisoner, Jane Charlotte, who spins a complex tale where she claims to be working for an unnamed organization that is fighting evil. She insists on the important distinction that the organization is fighting "evil" rather than merely fighting "crime". The organization allegedly uses a range of advanced technologies, including near-universal surveillance ("panopticon") and the NC gun, which simulates death due to Natural Causes. Jane belongs to a special unit "Bad Monkeys" which terminates irredeemably evil individuals. Her tale starts with her recruitment into the organization and her initial assignments.
The interviewer is quickly able to provide evidence contradicting parts of her story. It becomes clear that Jane is an unreliable narrator and has much to hide.
Jane's rapid-fire narrative of high adventure is gripping, but I also found it useful to pause periodically to reflect. A key part of the fun is trying to gauge the reliability of what Jane is telling us. But it is also clear that she is no angel, so another useful topic is to reflect on her moral choices, especially the boundaries she draws around both "crime" and "evil". How much self-deception is included in her narrative?
I don't want to reveal the ending, but like the book itself, I found it surprising and ultimately satisfying. It is neither simple nor straightforward, but it does succeed admirably in pulling the many loose ends together.
This is by no means a simple tale. But I found it a very gripping and rewarding read. Five stars.
"Bad Monkeys" is funny, thought provoking, and choked full of surprises. If you liked "Sucker Punch", you'll love "Bad Monkeys". I did and I do.
Or is she just telling the truth: She is an agent for the good guys.
Matt Ruff's story is suspense and mystery, with a bit of science fiction thrown in. Overall, good fun and a fair number of interesting ideas.