by Matt Ruff
Review by Ernest Lilley
HarperCollins Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0061240419
Date: 01 August 2007 List Price $20.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Matt Ruff delineates the forces of good and evil in this twisty tale of secret organizations told in the interrogation room of a Las Vegas hospital by a woman who claims to be an operative whose job it is to kill "bad monkeys". Bad Monkeys is organization slang for evil humans. And oh yes, Virginia, there is evil in the world, and there are people out there fighting it, watching for it, and zapping it in the middle of the night.
The Las Vegas police are holding a woman in an interrogation cell in the psych wing of a hospital for questioning. She claims to be an operative for an organization, dedicated to rooting out "bad monkeys" and dispatching them with their zap guns. Bad monkeys are what they call human's with evil in their hearts, and for the most part we can give them the existence of actual evil, cultural relativism notwithstanding. Still this all sounds crazy to the cops, so they send in a shrink to determine if Jane Charlotte is spinning a fantasy, living in one, or possibly, something more.
So this engaging novel is told to us as it's being told to the shrink, and it's a long wild ride down a bumpy road from an abused childhood in San Francisco to a shootout with high tech weapons at the top of the Luxor in Las Vegas.
Author Matt Ruff spins quite a yarn here with Bad Monkeys, and he comes up with a slew of good ideas along the way. "Do you work for the government?" Jane asks of the recruiter for the Organization. No, nothing so mundane. Governments aren't there to make the world a better place, but to maintain the status quo. The Organization, on the other hand, answers to no one, and is hampered by no laws...only the knowledge that there are organizations within the organization whose job it is to guard the guardians, and their eyes are (literally) everywhere.
Is it better to kill a criminal at the end of his career after he's dealt death and terror to hundreds or to nip him in the bud before he has a chance to fulfill his potential? To the Organization it's a no brainer. They're all over the Bush Doctrine equivalent of law enforcement. Get 'em as soon as they represent a clear and present danger. Don't wait until they've already strewn death and destruction on a grand scale.
This isn't about justice, or even fairness. It's more like a gardener weeding out the bad seeds in their patch of green. Or in this case, culling the bad monkeys from the troop. Unsurprisingly, not all bad monkeys are acting alone. If the forces of good can have an organization to fight evil, would it be surprising to discover that the forces of evil have one of their own?
Unfortunately for the good guys, the bad guys are pretty tricky, and even with high tech gadgetry it's not always easy to tell who's pure of heart and who's rotten to the core. Fortunately, Matt Ruff makes it fun for us to watch the game play out from the safety of our own reality.
Bad Monkeys is a twisty tale of good and bad, possibly a bit twistier than it should be at the end, but a pretty good yarn nonetheless. And like the best idea fiction it leaves you wondering, just a bit, if there couldn't be an Organization like the Organization, or if just maybe there always has been. Ruff makes just enough vague references to secret societies we know have actually existed, to make us wonder if they might have morphed over time into a network of operatives ready to strike at the heart of darkness wherever it might be found.