Sunday, September 18, 2011

Review: The Monkey Wrench Gang

The Monkey Wrench Gang
The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

As an artifact of its age, reflecting social mores and values at the time, this book is interesting. However, as an interesting story with engaging characters, I was unimpressed.

This book is given as a strong recommendation for a character to read in one of Carl Hiaasen's YA books, and so I took that as a signal that it must've informed young Carl's writing. That may well be true; a lot of the same themes and sort of scenarios crop up. However, this book lacked a clear narrative. I was not riveted. I didn't particularly care what happened to these four, and thought perhaps it was an anti-hero story where the bad guys (the title Gang) get their comeuppance in the end.

I did enjoy the ending, but I'm not sure it was worth the slog to get there.

The points of view are spread between all four characters, but I never felt like I was in any of their heads. I didn't understand any of their motivations, and I disliked them all equally. I tried to like Bonnie, but her choices perplexed me. She seemed to exist merely to confuse the boys.

Worse, the story kept switching tenses on me. It would move to present tense for a paragraph or two, then switch back to past, apparently at random. It wasn't to put us in the moment for exciting scenes, either; most of the present-tense passages were of people waking up, making coffee, preparing dinner, waiting out the daylight.

There are some intriguing moments within the narrative of this book, and the many different ways they got away in chase scenes was amusing. But, overall, I was unimpressed, and will just re-read some Carl Hiaasen the next time I want to read about pro-environmental antics.

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  1. Abbey's better when he's not trying to write fiction. He's much better at ranting than his characters are.

  2. Ah. Maybe I'll look into some of his nonfiction, then.