Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff (2007, HarperCollins Publishers)
The first words ever to meander through my brain in relation to Matt Ruff were, "Oooh, pretty!" This might seem strange to some of you, but that would simply mean that you've never seen the nearly obscenely neon dadaist cover of Ruff's sophomore novel Sewer, Gas, and Electric: The Public Works Trilogy. His latest novel, Bad Monkeys, can best be visually described as intriguingly creepy, with its hazard yellow jacket and macaque-shaped Rorschach blot cover. But far from being just an author with great-looking books, Ruff is a master storyteller who is only getting better with each novel he publishes.
Bad Monkeys tells the story of Jane Charlotte, who sits in an interview room in the psychiatric wing of a Las Vegas prison after going on a violent rampage in a casino, then telling the police that she works for an arm of an invisible group dedicated to fighting evil. As she tells her amazing and unbelievable story to the psychiatrist assigned to her, the edges between fantasy and reality begin to blur, until they finally become completely insignificant. From trying to expose serial killers in her youth to NC (Natural Causes) guns and Mandrill bombs to quantum-powered DNA-specific X-drugs, Ruff not only twists the plot, but totally reverses it on multiple occasions.
This novel reads like a combination of a Chuck Palahniuk novel, a Phillip K. Dick novel, and a Terry Gilliam movie, though Ruff manages, as always, to tell his story in a voice that is completely and uniquely his own. In Bad Monkeys, he brings together elements of all of his past works: the uncertain psychological aspects of Set This House in Order, the far-out pop culture and action of Sewer, Gas, and Electric, and the epic and sweeping archtypal conflicts of Fool on the Hill.
Bad Monkeys demands to be read: so go pick up a copy, read it with the lights low... and for goodness' sake, don't be a Bad Monkey.
Rating: 4 1/2 Stars