You Wicked Little Monkey!

Friday, October 08, 2010

It only took me three weeks, but I finally finished a book!  So I guess you could say I was the wicked little monkey!  I sure felt supremely slackerish in the reading department.  But the title of this post has more to do the the novel, Bad Monkeys, by Matt Ruff, than with my own lack of reading achievement in the month of September.

Bad Monkeys is the story of Jane Charlotte.  Jane has been arrested for murder, and during her interrogation in the psych ward she reveals that she actually works for a super secret organization called Bad Monkeys, whose sole purpose is to track down and stop evildoers by any means necessary.  If all else fails, it is Bad Monkeys' job to assassinate the evildoer.  No one has heard of Bad Monkeys, who have the ability to track our every move.  You know all of those rock posters you had on your wall as a teen-the eyes on the posters were actually spying on you.  The books you read-the spines transit information to the organization.  Even the money you spend tell them where you are and what you are doing.  Trouble is, there is no way to verify Jane's story.  Of course, she says that's because the organization can change any record, erase any tape, falsify any video-basically they can control everything we see and hear.  So, is Jane really an agent of good in the form of a Bad Monkeys assassin, or is she delusional?

This book is quirky and well-paced and fun, despite the sometimes horrific content.  I mean, Jane kills people who are evil-many of the characters are not exactly likeable.  By the end I wanted Bad Monkeys to exist-though the Big Brother aspect of it was pretty frightening.  And I wanted Jane to be good.  Throughout the novel she struggles with her own evil, and in the end that seems to be the message Matt Ruff is trying to get across, at least in part.  All of us have the capacity for good or evil, and it is our choices that determine whether we are on the side of right, or whether we are a bad monkey.

I realized after I finished Bad Monkeys that Ruff had written another novel that I found really quirky and fascinating, Set This House in Order.  It ist he story of Andy Gage, the public face of a mind with multiple personalities.  He is integrated enough to work designing virtual reality environments.  At work he meets Penny, another multiple personality who needs Andy's help.  The novel is engaging right from the start, and while I don't necessarily believe in the multiple personality disorder as a real condition, I do think that MPD as a mechanism for showing the multiple sides of our psyche and the conflicts they can create within us was pretty genius!


  1. I think the dissociation that happens with multiple personalities is interesting so maybe I'll look into Put This House in Order. Thanks for the review!

  2. I realized after I had already published that the correct title of the MPD book is Set This House in Order-oops.

  3. Bad Monkeys sounds like a really interesting book. I was just wondering if the likeability of the characters got in the way of you enjoying the story or not?

    And out of 5, how would you score it?

    Thanks, Ed


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