It is also a love story, an etiquette manual for talking apes, parenting help for said primates, and a demented “how-to” guide for the aspiring evil scientist.
You’ll notice I used the words “evil scientist”, not “mad scientist”, because really, you can’t explain anything to mad scientists. They spend most of their time frothing at the mouth or terrorizing the village after drinking/injecting/inserting/stepping into/ or otherwise using the newly minted insane formula/device they have created to solve the problem of “what should I do this afternoon after I’ve finished eating bugs?”
Evil scientists, on the other hand, have a plan.
So it is with Dr. Harold Cogitomni, who is hatching a diabolical (evil) plan, to turn a Spider Monkey (Gigi), into a 60-foot, poison-breathing (to be clear, breath that is poisonous to others), crystal-spike-tailed behemoth capable of crushing houses and tanks. (Always a useful ability in a behemoth, or even your run-of-the-mill leviathan.)
The only force working against the unluckly-in-love Cogitomni is Ed the Talking Monkey. Now, it should be noted that Ed is actually a Bonobo, and therefore, an ape, not a monkey. Much is made of this distinction between ape and monkey, but I think it’s fair to say we can all agree that we’re primates. Let’s face it, whether you’re a gigantic Spider Monkey compelled by an evil scientist to destroy Congress, an angry chimp with your own spear-wielding army (General Chekchek in MONKEY SEE) or a human novel reader finding yourself unhinged by an instruction manual on how best to taunt your evil scientific creation into raining terror on other puny humans, we all still have to face the question: “what should I have for lunch?” (Unless you’re the Spider Monkey, in which case the answer is irradiated bananas.)
Is this the craziest book I’ve ever read? Well, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find it challenging at times, but I’ve read much more wacky, less plot-oriented stuff — John Hodgman’s THE AREAS OF MY EXPERTISE, for example, which I also enjoyed. What I liked about MONKEY SEE is the voice of the writer Walt Maguire, which is conversational and sardonic at times, pointed and humorous at others. Don’t be fooled by the easy tone and off-the-wall plot, though. Like other ENC Press books, MONKEY SEE is assuredly about something, and it will make you think.
At the heart of this novel is the question of technology. Just because we can do something doesn’t necessarily mean we should do something. Now, this is taken to extremes in the case of Gigi the Spider Monkey, who eventually becomes Giga-Spide (the aforementioned 60-foot behemoth), but it brings the issue into focus. At times I’m afraid that we don’t question this enough. It seems as though every new advance is de facto something that we must adopt. It’s just not true — talk to the Amish.
I don’t think this book will be for everyone, which is not surprising, given ENC’s credo, to be: “the intelligent alternative to fiction publishers who target the broadest possible audience.” It is a jarring and entertaining read — especially if you are in love with the idea of talking monkeys — and who knows, you might even discover why apes get so testy if you call them a monkey.
Personally, I don’t care (just think about how cool it would be if your significant other called you a “love monkey”) but boy, does it enrage General Kang.
At the very least, it will make you think about science (evil, and otherwise), how we should be treating our primate cousins, and laugh along the way.
Available from ENC Press. You can also get it as an e-book on Scribd. (In the interests of full disclosure, I should probably mention that ENC is the publisher of my first book, THE AMADEUS NET.) You can check out an excerpt at the ENC site.