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Bad Monkeys: A Novel

Bad Monkeys: A Novel

4.2 57
by Matt Ruff

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Jane Charlotte has been arrested for murder.

She tells police that she is a member of a secret organization devoted to fighting evil; her division is called the Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons—"Bad Monkeys" for short.

This confession earns Jane a trip to the jail's psychiatric wing, where a doctor attempts to


Jane Charlotte has been arrested for murder.

She tells police that she is a member of a secret organization devoted to fighting evil; her division is called the Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons—"Bad Monkeys" for short.

This confession earns Jane a trip to the jail's psychiatric wing, where a doctor attempts to determine whether she is lying, crazy—or playing a different game altogether. What follows is one of the most clever and gripping novels you'll ever read.

Editorial Reviews

Jonathan Ames
Along with the Salingeresque details, Ruff has animated Bad Monkeys with the spirit of Philip K. Dick, and he's borrowed a little seasoning from Jim Thompson and Thomas Pynchon. The ray gun is, naturally, pure Dick, and the fact that you root for Jane even though it becomes clear she’s a sociopath is a classic Thompson touch. (See The Killer Inside Me and Savage Night.) And I felt Pynchon-like flourishes out of The Crying of Lot 49 in Ruff's elaborately conceived secret societies. The real debt is to Dick, though, in the way Ruff expertly plays with notions of what is real and what is illusion. Bad Monkeys, allusions aside, is highly entertaining. It moves fast and keeps surprising you. There are also some exciting and hallucinatory action sequences that are so skillfully written I felt as if I was watching the first "Matrix" movie, which I unabashedly loved.
—The New York Times
Paul Di Filippo
The book alternates between real-time discussions involving Dr. Vale and Jane in the interrogation cell and Jane's long flashbacks. We witness her whole life from her wayward childhood and her first glancing teenage encounter with the organization, through her misspent young adulthood and eventual full-scale recruitment and training right after the destruction of the World Trade Center…But guess what? Jane proves to be the most unreliable narrator possible. Her life is a bundle of self-deception and misdirection, which Ruff wraps inside so many ingenious fake-out layers that readers will find their heads spinning with awed delight by the book's frenetic climax.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

In this clever SF thriller from Ruff (Fool on the Hill), almost everyone is a bad monkey of some kind, but only Jane Charlotte is a self-confessed member of "The Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons." Or is she? In a series of sessions with a psychotherapist in the Las Vegas County Jail "nut wing," Jane tells the story of her early life in San Francisco and her assimilation into the "Bad Monkeys," an organization devoted to fighting evil. Crazy or sane, Jane is still a murderer, whether she used a weapon like the NC gun, which kills someone using Natural Causes, or more prosaic weaponry. Still, nothing is quite what it seems as Jane's initial story of tracking a serial killer janitor comes under scrutiny and the initial facts about her brother, Phil, get turned on their head. At times the twists are enough to give the reader whiplash. Ruff's expert characterization of Jane and agile manipulation of layers of reality ground the novel and make it more than just a Philip K. Dick rip-off. (July 24)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Imprisoned in a nearly featureless room, Jane Charlotte is being interrogated by a man in a white lab coat. It seems she's killed somebody. How? And why? Her answer is a convoluted tale of a vast secret organization whose agents fight evil by keeping humanity under "ubiquitous surveillance" and selectively assassinating the "bad monkeys," people deemed irredeemably evil. Of course, such vast and secret organizations tend to have equally vast and secret nemeses. They also have to keep careful tabs on their own agents. Jane's not quite certain which side her captors are on, and it's an open question whether she's crazy or not. There are echoes here of the pervasive paranoia of Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49and Walker Percy's unreliable jailhouse narrator in Lancelot, as well as the sardonic black humor of Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams, not to mention Max Barry's sly satires of the absurdities of bureaucratic organizations. Cult favorite Ruff's (Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy) scenario inevitably raises questions about the morality of secret and summary "justice," but the story moves along in a fast-paced, satirical style that never slows down or turns preachy. Jane's tangled tale, from her confused, youthful introduction to this complicated secret world to the final, catastrophic mission, will keep most readers guessing until the last page. Recommended for all public libraries.
—Bradley A. Scott

Kirkus Reviews
A dreamlike novel of good and evil mind games. Bad girl Jane Charlotte has been arrested for murder and is being interrogated by a doctor about her proclivity for offing bad guys, especially actual or accused child molesters. She claims to be a member of a secret organization whose job it is to engage in vigilante justice by killing evil people. No guilt, no accountability, no consequences. Until her arrest, Jane had been one of the most efficient killers in the organization and had both impressed and distressed her mentors by killing two evildoers rather than one in her probation period. (She was supposed to make a choice.) Ruff (Set This House in Order, 2003, etc.) structures his novel largely as a series of dialogues between doctor and "patient," though as Jane's obsessions become more intense and her rationalizations more acute, she engages in increasingly bizarre and paranoid monologues. In extended flashbacks, we learn of Jane's troubled past, of her dysfunctional mother and of her contentious relationship with her brother Phil, whom she used to terrorize with tales of gypsy child-robbers. Along the way, she links up with a creepy cast of characters who haunt her nightmarish life, including harlequins, clowns, a feisty homeless woman and the sociopathic owner of a railroad hobby shop. She eventually meets "bad Jane," who opines that "evil . . . is just so much cooler than even you know." This double works for The Force, a counter-organization dedicated to the destruction of the good. In a dizzying set of final reversals, we learn once again that nothing is as it seems, for the doctor and the "twin" Janes have their own duplicitous agendas. Despite the metaphysical trappings ofExistential Big Themes, it's hard to care too deeply about the characters, who remain intellectual cardboard cutouts. Agent: Melanie Jackson/Melanie Jackson Agency

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Read an Excerpt

Bad Monkeys

By Matt Ruff

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Matt Ruff
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061240416

Chapter One

White Room (i)

It's a room an uninspired playwright might conjure while staring at a blank page: White walls. White ceiling. White floor. Not featureless, but close enough to raise suspicion that its few contents are all crucial to the upcoming drama.

A woman sits in one of two chairs drawn up to a rectangular white table. Her hands are cuffed in front of her; she is dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit whose bright hue seems dull in the whiteness. A photograph of a smiling politician hangs on the wall above the table. Occasionally the woman glances up at the photo, or at the door that is the room's only exit, but mostly she stares at her hands, and waits.

The door opens. A man in a white coat steps in, bringing more props: a file folder and a handheld tape recorder.

"Hello," he says. "Jane Charlotte?"

"Present," she says.

"I'm Dr. Vale." He shuts the door and comes over to the table. "I'm here to interview you, if that's all right." When she shrugs, he asks: "Do you know where you are?"

"Unless they moved the room . . ." Then: "Las Vegas, Clark County Detention Center. The nut wing."

"And do you know why you're here?"

"I'm in jail because I killed someoneI wasn't supposed to," she says, matter-of-factly. "As for why I'm in this room, with you, I guess that has something to do with what I told the detectives who arrested me."

"Yes." He gestures at the empty chair. "May I sit down?"

Another shrug. He sits. Holding the tape recorder to his lips, he recites: "June 5th, 2002, approximately nine forty-five a.m. This is Dr. Richard Vale, speaking with subject Jane Charlotte, of . . . What's your current home address?"

"I'm kind of between homes right now."

". . . of no fixed address." He sets the tape recorder, still running, on the table, and opens the folder. "So . . . You told the arresting detectives that you work for a secret crime-fighting organization called Bad Monkeys."

"No," she says.


"We don't fight crime, we fight evil. There's a difference. And Bad Monkeys is the name of my division. The organization as a whole doesn't have a name, at least not that I ever heard. It's just 'the organization.'"

"And what does 'Bad Monkeys' mean?"

"It's a nickname," she says. "All the divisions have them. The official names are too long and complicated to use on anything but letterhead, so people come up with shorthand versions. Like the administrative branch, officially they're 'The Department for Optimal Utilization of Resources and Personnel,' but everyone just calls them Cost-Benefits. And the intel-gathering group, that's 'The Department of Ubiquitous Intermittent Surveillance,' but in conversation they're just Panopticon. And then there's my division, 'The Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons . . .'"

"Irredeemable persons." The doctor smiles. "Bad monkeys."


"Shouldn't it be Bad Apes, though?" When she doesn't respond, he starts to explain: "Human beings are more closely related to great apes than—"

"You're channeling Phil," she says.


"My little brother. Philip. He's a nitpicker, too." She shrugs. "Yeah, I suppose technically, it should be apes instead of monkeys. And technically"—she lifts her arms and gives her bracelets a shake—"these should be called wristcuffs. But they're not."

"So in your job with Bad Monkeys," the doctor asks, "what is it you do? Punish evil people?"

"No. Usually we just kill them."

"Killing's not a punishment?"

"It is if you do it to pay someone back. But the organization's not about that. We're just trying to make the world a better place."

"By killing evil men."

"Not all of them. Just the ones Cost-Benefits decides will do a lot more harm than good if they go on breathing."

"Does it bother you to kill people?"

"Not usually. It's not like being a police officer. I mean cops, they have to deal with all kinds of people, and sometimes, upholding the law, they've got to come down on folks who really aren't all that bad. I can see where that would give you a crisis of conscience. But the guys we go after in Bad Monkeys aren't the sort you have mixed feelings about."

"And the man you were arrested for killing, Mr.—"

"Dixon," she says. "He wasn't a bad monkey."


"He was a prick. I didn't like him. But he wasn't evil."

"Then why did you kill him?"

She shakes her head. "I can't just tell you that. Even if I thought you'd believe me, it wouldn't make sense unless I told you everything else first. But that's too long a story."

"I don't have anywhere else I have to be this morning."

"No, I mean it's a long story. This morning I could maybe give you the prologue; to get through the whole thing would take days."

"You do understand you're going to be in here for a while."

"Of course," she says. "I'm a murderer. But that's no reason why you should have to waste your time."

"Do you want to tell the story?"

"I suppose there's a part of me that does. I mean, I didn't have to mention Bad Monkeys to the cops."

"Well if you're willing to talk, I'm willing to listen."

"You're just going to think I'm crazy. You probably already do."

"I'll try to keep an open mind."

"That won't help."

"Why don't we just start, and see how it goes?" the doctor suggests. "Tell me how you first got involved with the organization. How long have you worked for them?"

"About eight months. I was recruited last year after the World Trade towers went down. But that's not really the beginning. The first time I crossed paths with them was back when I was a teenager."

"What happened?"

"I stumbled into a Bad Monkeys op. That's how a lot of people get recruited: they're in the wrong place at the wrong time, they get caught up in an operation, and even though they don't really understand what's happening, they show enough potential that the organization takes notice. Then later—maybe days, maybe decades—there's a job opening, and New Blood pays them a visit."


Excerpted from Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff Copyright © 2007 by Matt Ruff. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Matt Ruff is the author of The Mirage, Bad Monkeys, Set This House in Order, Fool on the Hill, and Sewer, Gas & Electric. He lives in Seattle.

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Bad Monkeys 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 57 reviews.
Adaptoid More than 1 year ago
The only problem with this novel is that it ends too quickly. I wanted the story to continue on and on. The story is exciting and the characters were terrific. Highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not a bad way to spend a weekend.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading Set this House in order, was looking forward to Matt Ruff's new book. The book was a good read, but was not as captivating as his previous novel. The book does offer lots of twists, that you have to stay focused when reading. If you have never read a Matt Ruff novel, read Set this House in Order first.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book although the ending was weaker then I expected. Still a fun read with great characters.
catburglar More than 1 year ago
An interesting fantasy novel; full of fantastic powers, evil, misbehavior and confusion. A little disturbing, though.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wish I could appropriately summarize this book to convince you to read it. No words could give this book justice. Just when you think you understand what is going on, this book sends you through a loophole. It's one fantastic mindblowing page turning novel which leaves you wondering if this is all Nods doing. All I can say is read the book, if for no other reason than just plain curiosity.
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Hardman More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was outstanding.  The fantastic weapons, the elements of the secret societies, and the wild action made for a great read.  One of the few books that I read straight through in one day.  Would love to see this as movie series with Matrix-like effect.s
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Entertaining surprising fun
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I did not expect to like this book as much as I did.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting concept and easy to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read in less than a day and enjoyed it thoroughly. Enough detail to keep it fast paced, but understood. Character development was handled appropriately for the type of story and didnt belabor points. Well done for what it is; a good day off from reality that will give you something to think about.
DJ_S More than 1 year ago
I had actually bought this before and loved it so much i lent it to my best friend, needless to say, he never returned it. Anyway, i bought it again hoping to read it because of its amazing story that kept me guessing and enjoying the ride for the whole time. Matt Ruff delivers a very thrilling and intelligent story, there aren't that many like this nowadays. Can't wait to read it and share it with my boyfriend so he can see what is was that made me so happy to finally have it in my hands again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Truly enjoyed this odd little book. So now I have to go in search of sequels and other titles by this author.
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