Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Book Review: BAD MONKEYS by Matt Ruff

This book review has nothing to do with horses, but I enjoyed the book enough to be inspired to write a review on my blog. Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff was one of my Valentine's Day gifts from my husband. Being a writer myself, I'm very picky about what I read. I had been complaining that I need a good, fast-paced suspense novel to get lost in since I have so many things I'd like to forget at the moment. Books are great tools to get your mind into an altered state when your own life sucks or is just plain boring, and you don't want to have to think about it.

However, my quandary went beyond just needing something new to read that wasn't a how-to manual or horse training book. I wanted a suspense novel that wasn't cliched and predictable. I have spent hours perusing the back covers of novels in Borders, and after a while they all sound exactly the same. Someone was murdered, someone was accused, some riveting plot unravels, and you are supposed to be left clenching your sphincter muscles in excitement. If I'm interested in murder, all I have to do is turn on the TV and tune in to any channel, whether it be a drama or the news, which saves me the hassle of having to tire my eyes reading small print.

I'm looking for something fresh that uses the author's imagination. I'm looking for quirky characters who I carry with me in my head throughout the day, wondering where their actions will take us next. I don't want just another novel written by someone who simply imitates other suspense novels or sticks to a predictable formula with some sappy romance blooming on the side.

I want to read books loaded with action written by people who can think for themselves and weave whole new worlds, so that I as the reader can feel like there really is so much more out there beyond what is under my nose. I have way too many responsibilities for me to be able to sit still through a long, drawn out, pointless conversation between dull characters, or sit still through pages and pages of more description than anyone ever needs.

Much to my surprise and pleasure, I managed to devour Bad Monkeys in three days. I probably could have done it in one sitting had I that kind of time to spare, but this was a book I took with me to work and read over my lunch breaks. I was willing to lie shivering in the back seat of my truck in freezing temperatures while snow was falling all around me in order to read this book without interruption.

Let's just call the book fantastical, but believable, easy enough to step into the pages yourself without hesitation or the questioning of loose ends. This plot is tight. There are so many twists and turns that I felt like I was on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. I hesitate to offer too much information, because I don't want to give anything away and spoil it for you, so here's the summary on the jacket:

Jane Charlotte has been arrested for murder. (Normally, at this point I would sigh and put the book back on the shelf, but this next line grabbed my attention...)

She says she's a member of a secret organization devoted to fighting evil. She says she's working with the Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons -- aka "Bad Monkeys."

Her confession lands her in the jail's psychiatric wing and earns her countless hours of poking, probing, and questioning by a professional. But is Jane crazy or lying? Or is she playing a whole different game altogether?

The book is catalogued in the following categories:

1. Secret societies -- Fiction

2. Vigilantes -- Fiction

3. Psychological fiction

I must admit that when I first read the synopsis, I was a bit worried that this might end up being a long, tedious monologue by a self-absorbed, pathetic, whining patient to her doctor, but this book was constructed so well that with the exception of every other short chapter, I forgot that Jane Charlotte was telling her story to a psychiatrist. There are short chapters where the psychiatrist brings us back to the present and challenges the facts, but there are longer chapters in which we the readers live through Jane Charlotte's amazing life, which includes seriously creepy serial killers, axe-wielding clowns running through the streets of Las Vegas, and some secret organizations that bring a whole new meaning to the term "Big Brother."

If you are looking for a fast read, I highly recommend this book. It is a National Bestseller.

6 comments:

Fantastyk Voyager said...

sounds interesting! I'll have to look for it.

I've been enjoying Life on Mars, the tv show. It's about a cop in 2008 that gets hit by a car and wakes up in 1973. Is he dead, dreaming, crazy, subject of an experiment, in a coma, or tripping through time??

Pony Girl said...

Thanks for sharing this book. Non-horsey or not, it sounds very interesting and being a pysch major, I am always interested in books that kind of focus on how minds work!
Weird though, when I first saw your post title, I thought this book had to do with that awful chimp mauling....so sad. But don't even get me started about keep wild animals in captivity!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Thanks for the terrific review. I get a kick out of reading your reviews. You're always so thorough and detailed oriented...you don't just say trivial things, like, Awesome!, Amazing! Stunning! So cool!. lol!
With you, I get the big picture, the small picture, and what made you like it, or not, including the pros and cons. I like that!

But...um...I don't see me reading this one. You got me at "axe-wielding clowns".
I'm terrified of clowns. If I read about clown murderers, I'd never be able to sleep! gah!

:D
~Lisa

Leah Fry said...

I might have to give that a look. Certainly sounds unusual. Right now, I'm reading a book about writing.

Flying Lily said...

Clown murderers!! I would never sleep again. But seriously, great review and I think I might look up this book.

msmartyr said...

An oldie but goodie about "the powers behind the scenes" is "Captains and the Kings" by Taylor Caldwell.

I also enjoyed "The Mephisto Club" by Tess Gerritsen involving a group dedicated to ferreting out evil of a paranormal sort.