Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bad Monkeys

I had a bit of a low activity day today. Futzed around on the computer this morning, without any inspiration for a blog post. Did some laundry. Washed some dishes. Then took myself off into Newtown to grab a few things from the supermarket.

So I came home with a new book, some food, and absolutely none of the things I had actually set out to get. I can survive one morning without deodorant, right? I mean, if I rectify that situation pretty early and don't run into anyone I know, or get too close to any of the cashiers?

As always when I'm down the shops as my parent's used to say (like we lived in a village called Something Quaint-On-Sea) I popped into Better Read Than Dead for a browse. As always, I walked out with a new book. This time "Bad Monkeys" by Matt Ruff.

UK edition cover by Will Webb Design. The Australian edition cover is almost the same, except for the placement of the text for some reason.

I did something I haven't done with a book in ages, I started it as soon as I got home and the next time I looked at the clock I had been reading for around three hours. I've been reading it on and off while I made dinner, and now I'm around 3/4 finished already.

The story kicks off with a woman called Jane Charlotte being questioned for murder. Only she is being questioned by a psychiatrist and not a police officer, on account of the strange tale she told during her arrest. That she was a member of a secret organisation devoted to fighting evil. Her department, "The Department For The Final Disposal of Irredeemable Persons" or "Bad Monkeys" in the colloquial lingua franca of the organisation, is an execution squad. Designed to rid the world of Bad Monkeys, or at least ones that have been labelled as worth removing by the "Cost Benefits" department.

US cover design. I really like this Rorsach Test inspired design, and I'm not sure why they changed it for the UK and Australian editions.

Jane's story is told in extended flashback sequences, starting with her childhood and the situations that lead her to be recruited by The Organisation. Jane's story grows increasingly bizarre in the telling. Quite skillfully Matt Ruff blends enough elements of the plausible, the unlikely and the outright strange to make you want to believe Jane, then doubt her, then wonder if she's delusional. Every time the doctor seems to uncover possible holes in Jane's story, new twists take her tale in a new direction.

As mentioned in the NY Times Review the tone of the book does owe some to the novels of Philip K. Dick. The wry tone and use of the outlandish as every day. There are a few science fiction type elements, and the book also sits in the psychological thriller/crime novel genres.

I'm only about 50 pages from the end, and I can't wait to see what happens. It's been a while since I've read something this engaging!

[Updated: Finished! I really enjoyed it, and best of all there were some plot twists towards the end that I did not see coming! Very enjoyable.]


Ur-spo said...

that experience is what we call a 'thumping good read' - when you get so engrossed in turning the pages to get more all else is forgotten.
a rare gem when a TGR is found!

Michael said...

So....good to the last drop?

My interest, he is piqued.

The Other Andrew said...

Oh yes. Plot twists galore! Very entertaining.

thombeau said...

Sounds like a jolly good read!

Jodie Sorrell said...

Sounds like a good read, but as I already have a backlog of about 12 books to read I probably shouldn’t any more just at the moment.

As to the question of why covers are different in the US, UK and here. It all about what the publishers believe will attract the ‘local’ audience. The US audience (judging by evidence and using the knowledge gained during my Uni course) will be attracted to the psychiatrist angle of the book also the stark contrast or black on yellow, where as the UK and Aussie market will be attracted to the more arty and more subtle colouring.

Despite the warnings as a child, people do still judge a book by its cover.

John C said...

The Rorschach cover is a goodie.

The flaw in the argument about multiple covers for books (which situation provides me with work...) is that those rules don't apply to music for some reason. Madonna decides what she wants on her CD and that's it for the world and, indeed, for good, since album designs are rarely altered after release.

Being a book and CD designer this often perplexes me since exactly the same commercial considerations apply. Yet for some reason many authors are indifferent to their cover designs while I've never met any band that wasn't passionate about the presentation of their work.

The Other Andrew said...

It's always interested me, the whole cover art differences issue. I can understand if a cover has deemed to be ineffective in promoting the book, but frequently the editions are released almost simultaneously. I guess on the upside it provides work for more designers, but it must be frustrating to not see your own work rolled out in all editions if you designed the first cover.

For a long time all commercials on Australian tv had to be made in Australia, so even big international ads like Coke were made (or sometimes remade exactly) here. It was silly, but it provided lots of work for the local industry. It's been deregulated now and we here a lot more American accents on our tvs (or poorly dubbed Aussie ones). Different issue, but I wonder if there isn't some sort of protectionist policy making the publishers use new art for some regions? I don't know.