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Review of the book, Bad Monkeys, by Matt Ruff

 
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Old 12-Jan-2010, 11:51 AM (11:51)     1        35711
Gurdur
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Book1 Review of the book, Bad Monkeys, by Matt Ruff


Matt Ruff has come out with a new novel, Bad Monkeys. Most of the novel consists of the conversations in the psychiatric wing of the Las Vegas County Jail between the central character, Jane Charlotte, arrested for murder, and a psychiatrist. Jane Charlotte tells the psychiatrist that she is a member of a section of an organisation dedicated to fighting evil; the name of her section is The Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Person, also known by the nickname of Bad Monkeys (the section being for the killing of evil people, termed bad monkeys). Charlotte tells of how her organization dedicated to eliminating evil people has an enemy in another organization which is dedicated to promoting and carrying out evil acts. Is Charlotte simply mad? Is anything exactly what it seems, or is there far more to it all? What is the nature of evil, and what shouold be done about it?

Throughout the course of her conversations with the psychiatrist and through many action flashbacks, Jane Charlotte also tells the alleged story of her life. The author, Matt Ruff, has created a novel that does contain many layers like an onion, and the final ending comes as a bit of a surprise. Most readers find the novel very gripping in its complexity and intensity -- up until the last chapter, a chapter and ending that seems to have disappointed a great many readers.


As for my own reactions, I did share a little in the disappointment at how the final chapter was done, but I also found the book flawed in several aspects before the final chapter. Matt Ruff has basically taken a great idea and with his good execution of it has still turned out what is only a mediocre novel. Ruff wanted to explore many moral dilemmas -- ethics -- and the nature of evil, but he descends to rather simplistic platitudes a lot of the time throughout the book. In other words, he asks the Big Questions, but all too often supplies Banal Answers. Furthermore, Ruff badly fails on one glaring ethics question; Ruff as author through Charlotte introduces the Panopticon, a nickname given to another section of Charlotte's organization, responsible for sweeping surveillance, but then Ruff miserably fails to even try tackling the issue of whether any ethical action can be said to be an ethical action if the person knows they are under or could be under complete surveillance (the problem of morality under a God who is a Universal Omniscient Policeman).

Additionally, Ruff makes no attempt at all to talk about madness in any way, and there is never really any genuine exploration of differentiating between madness and sanity; instead, as readers we are left only with the question of whether Jane Charlotte is actually lying or not, not whether she is insane or what that might mean.

Overall, I would give three out of five stars to this book; it is indeed a gripping read, but one which disappoints in its lack of depth.

Matt Ruff a fair few years back also brought out a novel (which is still in print) called, Sewer, Gas and Electric: The Public Works Trilogy , which despite the name consists of one rather small paperback. It was an exploration of some of the ideas of Ayn Rand, putting those ideas through dilemmas; I found that book of his rather disappointing too in its lack of real depth.
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Old 04-Apr-2010, 02:31 PM (14:31)     2        38724
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I had read this book last year and its very informative and good meterial for every one.
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