on 7 November 2008
Jane has been arrested for murder. In a series of interviews with a psychologist, she explains that she's a 'Bad Monkey', part of a vigilante group dedicated to covertly killing evil-doers who would otherwise escape justice. Her interviewer tries to keep up and decide what to believe as she reveals more and more about this group, its missions and its enemies, and her story just keeps getting darker and stranger...
This book moved fast and dragged me along with it. Halfway through I was thinking "Damn, I'm already halfway through. I wish this was longer, or part of a series or something." In retrospect it was exactly the right length, but that response reflects how entertaining the book was, both in premise and in execution. If the set-up put you in mind of a smart modern thriller film like 'The Usual Suspects' or 'Fight Club', you're thinking along the right lines. It's visual, vivid, atmospheric and action-packed, and just keeps intensifying as it builds to its climax. Sure, you might find yourself looking back on it all with a slightly dazed suspicion that the speed was used to dodge questions or jump plot holes, but it was bloody good fun while it lasted.
on 20 June 2014
This story isnt bad, far from it, but something stops it from being good.
The story follows one Jane Charlotte who has been arrested for murder. During the questioning, she tells the police that she is a member of a secret organisation. Her division, the Bad Monkeys, is an execution squad, determined to rid the world of evil people. But the man she has just killed was not on the target list.
You start the book thinking this is a good science fiction novel, a bit different like terry pratchett turned bad. It even gets better as it dives more in the psychological aspect of the main character. Is she insane? Addled from drugs? Compulsive outrageous liar? Or is it all true?
As the characters and plotline are reavealed you are given Jane's version and a counter 'reality' version. You get to decide throughout what you believe, and the truth is not given away till the very end. You are kept guessing throughout. That in itself should deserve a better rating, the talent required to give you enough to always keep wondering but not to over weigh it one way or another is amazing.
Buuuuuuut, its tiring in its repetitiveness of plot and discussions. It takes half the book before she meets the bad monkeys and she doesnt have that much to do with them as a team. You spend so much of your time unsure of the truth that there is no connection to the character, who isnt very likable just a bit sarcastic. I know a good book is boring when you have a complete wholsome character as the shinning knight (I have always liked my characters a bit damaged, a bit evil) but I spent most the book watching more interesting characters slide past. I was left straining to catch a better look out of the corner of my eye,while Jane took up my whole vison. The problem is when a charcter has to be shadowy and a bit formless to keep readers guessing you just cant connect. And the little I did find out was off putting. By the end I didnt really care whether or not it was true, I just wanted to see what the other better characters were doing.
Add to that the fact that the end was a little bit like "and it was all a dream" for me and you have one unsatisfied bunny.
Apart from that, yeah its a good clever unnusual little book... but I would hesitate to foist it on a friend.
'Bad Monkeys' almost defies description but if I had to use three words, I'd say 'surreal psychological thriller'. Fans of Jasper Fforde or Neal Stephenson's earlier books will love this.
The novel starts with a woman, held in a secure unit, being questioned about a murder of a man in a Las Vegas casino. Rather unconvetionally, she claims to a member of the 'Bad Monkeys', an underground organisation responsible for ridding the world of evil. There then follows the amazingly implausible but wonderfully entertaining story of how she came to be where she is, involving 'Natural Causes' guns, bugged dollar bills and hatchet wielding clowns.
When reading this novel I was constantly reminded of Fforde's 'Thursday Next' books and there are some startling similarities between the two. Bad Monkeys, however, has rather more depth to it and fancies itself as more of literary novel. There is a complex and disturbing analysis of good and evil in western society that underpins all the silliness.
I have to say, I lost the thread towards the end. There were a few too many plot twists and literary 'rabbit out of hat' tricks, as the novel drew to a close and I lost sight of what, if anything, the author was trying to say. This gripe aside, I thoroughly enjoyed Bad Monkeys and will soon be hoovering up Ruff's backlist.
on 22 October 2008
I've read most of Chuck Palahniuk's (amazing) work and much by Douglas Coupland, but the chance discovery of Matt Ruff's 'Bad Monkeys' by my girlfriend and her subsequent hearty recommendation suggest a new fave author to add to our list. This is clever but never annoying, witty, ingeniously plotted and has a feverish, twisty sci-fi element reminiscent of Phillip K Dick at his best. A really enjoyable read. Rest assured we will be seeking out lots more of Matt's work. Genius.
on 18 December 2013
As psychotic as it is psychedelic, and as SF as F. The Matrix on bad acid, League of Gentlemen meets Philip K. Dick and actually more mind bendingly distorted than that, because you'll wish you were as bad a human being as Jane Charlotte, just to get into the Bad Monkeys. This is the best book I've read in the last 20 years.
Is Jane Charlotte mental as anything, or does she really know the truth about organisations that would give Robert Anton Wilson the screaming ab dabs? The Bad Monkeys are The Illuminati of the maladjusted, fighting evil because, well, who better...
This deserves to be read more widely; and if possible insanity, secret organisations, strange weapons and oddly distorted reality isn't your cup of tea, best you sit down with some bad erotica and declaim it's brilliance and you'll forgive me if I never trust your judgement.
Honestly, I think I fell in love with Jane Charlotte more than a little bit.
on 3 August 2012
Jane Charlotte, arrested for murder, is telling her literally incredible story to a sceptical psychiatrist. It's a story of secret organisations fighting evil, using weapons straight out of sci-fi, learning techniques that sound more like brainwashing, and a fair bit of murder, paranoia, and - in Jane Charlotte's case - rather more illegal drugs and dubious morality than is typical.
Of course, one of the big questions in any first-person narrative is just how reliable is the narrator? Matt Ruff keeps playing with our suspicions here, weaving the sadly plausible and the frankly incredible into a labyrinthine (and sometimes too confusing) narrative. There are twists and turns all the way through, right up to the very end.
This isn't an especially long book, and the action moves along at a good place, so it's a pretty quick and easy read.
on 9 August 2008
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 2 May 2016
Read this book in almost one sitting (I read the first chapter the day before reading the rest). The description of it being "The Matrix meets Silence of the Lambs" is pretty much spot on although this isn't any kind of gore-fest. Well..not much. You could also throw a bit of "Men In Black" in there for good measure I think - although no aliens are involved. The twists and turns of the plot come thick and fast and there's really no putting the book down! It'll keep you guessing right up until the final paragraph. Note: it contains a lot of bad language so this isn't a kid's book!
on 31 May 2012
I read this book on a recommendation and it's not my usual style of book. However I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it really hard to put down. It's very fast-paced with something happening on practically every page. Great storyline which pulls you in and makes you wonder what's going on. There's no point trying to guess ahead though as there are so many twists and turns and you're never quite sure if you're hearing (or reading!) the truth.
on 3 April 2016
I enjoyed all of the book but I enjoyed the discussions part slightly more than when we get to the Bad Monkeys. But this says more about me than the book, as I prefer all things psychological. The book was recommended on the LBC radio station and I just had to buy it as the presenter said he couldn't put the book down, and that was true for me too because I really did look forward to returning to the book each night.