Monday, June 22, 2009

Book of the Summer

I know it's early, but I think that Monkey See by Walt Maguire, is going to be the book of the summer for me. Taking jabs at political and social issues, while never letting the laughs stop, this science-fiction novel has everything I, or any other reader, could want. Genetic experiments on primates who will one day rise up and crush humanity: check. Heart-tugging moments of baby monkey cuteness: check. A twisted and intricate plot that jumps around repeatedly while still making sense: check. And as a bonus, a do-it-yourself guide to making your own monster. 

Monkey See starts by introducing us to Ed the Talking Monkey. A science experiment gone awry—the scientist, Dr. Cogitomni, was actually trying to create a cure for asthma—Ed the Talking Monkey finds himself in an unique situation. Unable to communicate with unenhanced primates, he is stuck trying to figure out where in this new world he actually belongs. Is it with the humans who don't understand or really like him or with other enhanced primates who alternately try to befriend and look down upon Ed the Talking Monkey for his friendships with humans?

Constantly feeling like the odd man out, Ed the Talking Monkey’s life changes when he meets Gigi, Dr. Cogitomni’s latest experiment. A young spider monkey, Gigi winds up in Dr. Cogitomni’s lab where she undergoes weeks of experimentation. The two hit it off, once Gigi has undergone enough genetic manipulation to actually understand and speak English. She’s a fifteen foot spiked monster and Ed the Talking Monkey works as a janitor in Dr. Cogitomni’s lab, but none of those matters to these two. Alas, their love is destined to die because Gigi is not only Dr. Cogitomni's newest experiment, but she's also his secret weapon in his evil plan to rule the world.

Spliced throughout the whole twisted story of Ed the Talking Monkey's journey and Gigi's metamorphosis are two other intricate plots. The first is a step-by-step guide to creating your own monster—so you, too, can rule the world—which includes a detailed plan on what to do afterward, and clever, witty lines to spout off when confronted by other scientists, your monster, and the cops.

The second plot deals with the upcoming monkey uprising. Genetically enhanced by Dr. Cogitomni and his fellow scientist, these primates have decided that they’re tired of being treated like second-class citizens. They’ve plotted out how to best take over and enslave humanity and are planning on staging a coup. Several members of this plot are trying to convince Ed the Talking Monkey that he should join their side, and it isn’t easy for Ed the Talking Monkey to turn them down. And there is a small sub-plot in this plot, showing what life for humans will be like under the new monkey overlords.

Monkey See is a very well-written novel and I highly recommend that you read it now, before the monkeys can get you.

PS: Let me know if you too catch the Cylon reference.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Winner, what I am

Yay me!  Not only did I win one of the book giveaways at, but it's by one of my favorite authors!

I didn't even realize who the author was when I entered the giveaway, but when the book, Silver Falls by Anne Stuart arrived today, I felt that I knew that name.  Flipping through the other work section, I realized that she's the author of the Ice series, which I love.  My favorite is Black Ice, probably because it was the first one I read.

So yay, yay me.  I am on a roll with the awesome books lately.  Tore through Mean Martin Manning, reread Snow Crash, and now Silver Falls.

OH!  Completely forgot.  I received the new paperback edition of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society in the mail two days ago through my old book club.  

Yay me!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Mean Martin Manning

Last week I just finished a fantastic, hysterically funny book, called "Mean Martin Manning."  Author Scott Stein has crafted a very real and relatable world in his novel about a man who just wants to be left alone to live his life the way he wants.
Martin Manning hasn’t left his apartment or had contact with another human being in thirty years. He’s happy eating his sandwiches, wearing his bathrobe, and watching TV. Martin is going to go on like this forever, alone, the proverbial immovable object.

Along comes Caseworker Alice Pitney, knocking on doors without apology. She’s an irresistible force starting a self-improvement program in Martin’s building, and won’t take no for an answer. If it takes a trial of absurd proportions and a ludicrous treatment program to make Martin into the man he could be and should have been, that’s just fine with Pitney.

Can Martin Manning stand up to Pitney, her thugs, Judge Sarnauer, and a host of others hell-bent on telling him what to do? He can. But to win this epic battle of wills, he’ll need to call on a lifetime of stubbornness and downright meanness, a patience rarely seen, and more than a little luck.

Mean Martin Manning sets its satirical sights on all manner of defenseless prey, including nanny state busybodies, sensitivity training, dog lovers, television talk shows, haircut licenses, aggressive doctors, political correctness, bloviating academics, demanding judges, and little tyrants everywhere. But not all is cynicism and bile. There’s also ample adoration for the joyous wonders of linoleum, preservatives, cold cuts, mayonnaise, frog figurines, bowel regularity, freedom, and sweet, sweet justice.

I wasn't quite sure if I was going to like this novel, but once I got into the story, the plot grabbed me and didn't let go. Martin, for all of his mean ways, is so relatable to anyone who lives in this day and age. Desiring to be left alone to enjoy his frogs and processed meats, all of that changes the day Alice Pitney knocks on Martin's front door. It seems several new laws have been passed while Martin has been shunning all human contact, allowing the state to decide what's 'best' for everyone. In Martin's case, Alice decides that what's best for him is no more processed meats, no more television, or clocks, or even the right to decide when the lights should be turned off.

Martin isn't taking this lightly though, and he's absolutely determined not to cave into Alice's demands. His creative ways of getting out of group-bonding events and other acts of sabotage left me laughing, but what really made me smile was what happened after Martin struck out on his own. His acts of revenge, and the final few paragraphs of the novel, had me smiling the whole time I was reading. I won't spoil the ending for you, but I will say that I should have seen it coming.

It's not all light-hearted reading though; there are a lot of serious issues inside this novel, several of which I've discussed previously with both "$everance" and "Junk." Zagorski and Martin both plan out acts of sabotage against the people in charge, although Zagorski is only fighting for his severance check; Martin is fighting for the right to wear a bathrobe if he wants to.

And just like in "Junk," there's a whole war on food going on, although this time it's not so much a general banning of things, but more of a centralized discrimination against the people that the state has decided can't make their own choices anymore. It's scary when you think that one day, someone in 'power' could decide that you no longer have the right to make your own choices anymore, that you aren't capable of deciding what foods to eat. "Junk" takes it farther, but still for Martin it's a fairly traumatic turning point.

If you're in the mood for a funny, sarcastic, well-plotted book with a side of social issues, I highly recommend "Mean Martin Manning."