Bad Monkeys, Good Monkeys

bad monkeys book jacket Bad Monkeys, a novel written by Matt Ruff, is an insane Valium trip that’s a cross between 1984, Boondock Saints, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Sex, drugs, and conspiracy galore fill the pages with clever wit and surprises that will keep you turning till the very end.

Matt Ruff’s whimsical and satirical take on tactical espionage and “counter-evilism” is told through the Valium-popping, drug-happy Jane Charlotte, a decadent 36 year old woman who is a field operative for the mysterious “Bad Monkeys”, a subdivision of the much larger “Organization”. Having been arrested for murder, Jane was immediately placed in the loony ward to see Dr. Vale, who was called in to evaluate her outrageous story.

The story is written in the form of a dialogue, where Dr. Vale tape records the interview. Jane begins with a brief synopsis of the Bad Monkeys, a top secret organization not sanctioned by the government that dispatches agents to find and eliminate people that the Organization has dubbed “evil”. From there she briefly describes her years as a trouble-making teen, to her life as a drifter, and finally her time as a field operative for Bad Monkeys before her arrest, unwrapping the story through a series of flashbacks. The chapters are not terribly long, and Ruff’s mastery of dialogue makes this an easy book to read.

What I found most intriguing in the story was Jane herself. An eccentric, yet somewhat depraved person as herself leaves one to wonder how exactly it is an organization who’s goal it is to eradicate evil, ends up recruiting her. Yet despite her background, you cannot help but be captivated by her character. She’s blunt and to the point, telling Dr. Vale how it is, whether he believes her story or not. One can easily get sucked into Jane’s world as you read her words, laughing at some parts, shaking your head at others.

The book does not hold its punches on the content either. From heavy drug use, janitors making chimp noises while masturbating, the selling of liquor to 16-year-olds followed by underage sex, and other sexual innuendos, Bad Monkeys definitely delivers on vulgarity, surprisingly without going too overboard. For those who prefer Big Brother conspiracy theories, vigilante justice akin to that of the McManus brothers, and storytelling in vein of Raoul Duke’s drug-hazed trip, this book is definitely worth a read. Just make sure the Bad Monkeys don’t catch you!

matt ruff Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (July 24, 2007)

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