Pin It
Favorite

Book Review 

by MARTY DEMAREST & r & Bad Monkeys


by Matt Ruff


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & o judge Matt Ruff's novel Bad Monkeys by its cover, it's a bright and playful book that has delighted the likes of Neal Stephenson (The Baroque Trilogy) and Christopher Moore (You Suck). Bad Monkeys is a soft-cover, vivid yellow book that is narrow and quite tall in the bathroom-humor novelty size. Some of the writing inside is funny enough, but nothing like the comedic deadpan of Moore or the mock-Renaissance Fair style of Stephenson.





Bad Monkeys draws most of its humor from its premise that a group of domestic surveillance goons is always watching and judging the lives of Americans. They contact and then recruit the novel's protagonist -- a young woman named Jane Charlotte. Accused of murder at the novel's beginning, Bad Monkeys is Jane's confession from the interrogation room -- that tired (and implausible) old clich & eacute; of crime novelists.





There is enough bureaucratic killing and spying between the secret gang of good guys and the secret gang of bad guys to keep Bad Monkeys politically relevant, even when it indulges in comedic flights of fancy involving future drugs and surveillance technology. But the character of Jane is unfocused, largely because Ruff has decided to make her a liar and a delinquent.





I'm not a big fan of unreliable narrators. Unless the author is a Nabokov and his narrator is as interesting as Humbert Humbert, I usually find that an untrustworthy narrator is really just an excuse for authors to get away with whatever they need to make their novels work. "Oops, I forgot to mention..." moments abound in Bad Monkeys, and they undercut any satiric edge that Ruff is developing.





Ruff has at least written a few set pieces that fill several chapters admirably. A standoff in a cryogenics bank is both terse and hilarious, with the power shutting off amid frozen heads and corpses. And Jane's early training with a bag lady named Annie has a heady whiff of sincerity among all the antics. But the novel's devolution into a Good Jane/Bad Jane battle draws the focus away from Ruff's oddball world, shifting it to the psyche of a not-very-believable literary creation.

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Four Days A Week
  • Four Days A Week

    Idaho schools that dropped one day a week from their schedule are saving a little money — but at what cost?
    • Mar 25, 2015
  • Odds And Ends
  • Odds And Ends

    Idaho lawmakers are pulled in lots of directions; plus, SPD weighs a "culture audit"
    • Mar 25, 2015
  • A County Ombudsman?
  • A County Ombudsman?

    Weighing the costs and benefits of oversight at the Spokane County Sheriff's Office
    • Mar 25, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon
Free Tax Preparation

Free Tax Preparation @ Spokane

Through April 15

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Marty Demarest

  • The Cowboy's Cowboy
  • The Cowboy's Cowboy

    A Canadian sings about the life —  not just the lifestyle — of the new West
    • May 15, 2013
  • Completing the Trilogy
  • Completing the Trilogy

    Mass Effect has finally arrived
    • May 23, 2012
  • Minecraft
  • Minecraft

    Adventure and survival too often give way to mindless crafts in this building-block simulator.
    • Feb 8, 2012
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Why Idaho kids don't go to college

    And what that means for the Gem State
    • Mar 4, 2015
  • New Blood

    Candidates are launching bids for Spokane City Council and could bring big changes to city government
    • Mar 18, 2015
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Briefs


Comment


Publisher's Note


marijuana


long reads


© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation