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Matt Ruff's Terse Psychological Thriller That's His Best Novel To Date,
This review is from: Bad Monkeys (Paperback)
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.