Review: Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff

In his fourth published book, Matt Ruff gives us a science fiction thriller that takes you on a mind-bending journey through twisting alternate realities. You’ll find yourself questioning what is real and what is not, as the lines between good and evil are blurred.

The story centres around Jane Charlotte as she is questioned by a psychotherapist in the ‘nut wing’ of a Las Vegas county jail, regarding a recent murder. Through a series of sessions between patient and doctor, we learn Jane is a member of ‘The Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons’, whose job it is to dispose of bad people, known as ‘bad monkeys’. Jane tells us of her troubled past with her mother, losing her younger brother and her journey from an unruly child to a badass baddie killing machine. Jane’s weapon of choice is her NC gun (NC = natural causes), killing people with either a heart attack or a stroke – cleverly hiding the fact a murder took place. But as the sessions go on holes appear in Jane’s story, and the reader learns things are not as they seem.

I really enjoyed Ruff’s writing style and the way he expertly unfolds the layers of reality, taking the reader on an extraordinary journey with so many twists and turns it is impossible to guess the final plot twist. The detail he has carefully injected into every scene results in a cinematic experience that begs for a movie adaption, and Wikipedia tells me the movie rights were bought in 2016!
I did find that a connection to the characters was lost given that the entire story is explained solely through an unreliable and paranoid Jane, but I suspect this was purposeful to keep the reader guessing. Either way, the intriguing plot and clever symbolism between childhood imagination and the features of Jane’s employment serve as enough of a distraction to keep the reader hanging on until the very end.

Rating: I give this book a 3.5 out of 5. The plot had me at hello and it was a pleasure to spend some time in Ruff’s mind-altering world – however I would have liked to be able to see more depth in some of the characters. 


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