Audiobook Review: Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen

24 06 2013

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen

Read by Arte Johnson

Random House Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 25 Min

Genre: Florida Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Bad Monkey should have just left off the monkey part and kept the appropriate label… BAD BAD BAD! It’s a shame that Hiaasen’s latest is such a mess, and I found it entirely inappropriate for a time where we are actively discussing a culture that downplays sexual assault that he uses such an act for comedy and continually marginalizes the victim as justification for the attack.

Grade: D-

There was a phase, back in the 90’s, during college and a few years afterwards that I fell out of the habit of reading fiction. During this time, I was working long hours, often hitting a bar or something after finishing a shift, ran home, crashed and started it all over again. Then one day, while browsing through a Waldenbooks, I saw this hideous purplish cover with a cartoonish green alligator on a book called Tourist Season. Just reading the back blurb, I was hooked. I instantly fell in love with Carl Hiaasen’s writing, and with a strange genre that seemed to exist solely within the state boundaries of the Sunshine State. Hiaasen, Paul Levine, James W. Hall, Tim Dorsey and of course, John MacDonald really got me back into the reading thing. In fact, I have a reputation as a Speculative Fiction guy, but it was these types of Florida Thrillers that defined a big chunk of the 90’s for me. Hiaasen obtained, at that time, most favorite writer status in my mind. When we hit the oughts some of the shine wore off and I started transitioning back to my first love, horror but I still maintained an appreciation for Hiaasen even though the books didn’t impact me as much. What I always loved about Hiaasen was that he managed to create these characters that, on some level, lived outside the law, but kept the moral high ground. Their actions were extreme, eco-terrorism, menacing behavior towards douchebags and even murder, but there always seemed some level of righteousness to it. Then I began listening to Bad Monkey. Hell, I should have loved this, right? Monkeys! But I kept listening, and becoming angrier and angrier, just frustrated and I couldn’t really put my finger on why. Suddenly, about two thirds of the way through, it dawned on me why. Instead of a sort of rebel with a cause, Hiaasen’s latest characters is an egotistical, morally degenerate loser who is part of the establishment, and committed a morally reprehensible act that Hiaasen not only justifies, but uses it for levity. OK, stay with me people. This may get a bit bumpy. 

Andrew Yancey is upset. Suspended from his job as a Policeman and forced to work as a Restaurant Inspector, he will do anything to get the job he deserves back. So when a severed arm is discovered to be the only evidence left of a tragic death, Yancey smells opportunity. If he can prove the shady widow actually killed her husband, he will win the love and affection of the press, and most importantly his buddy the police chief and get his beloved job back serving and protecting the people of South Florida. I want to say first, I am not a very triggery person. There are a few things that often bother me in books enough to cause instant hatred, one is the sexual exploitation of children. Any attempt to lessen the horrendousness of these acts will cause me to toss any book aside. Yet, I tend to try to keep a relatively open mind to things, and have a decent affinity for scatological humor but when I finally realized what bothered me about Bad Monkey, beyond the rambling plot, unlikable characters, and cut and paste mystery, I was mad at myself for not realizing it sooner. You see, Andrew Yancey didn’t deserve to lose his job. All he did was sexually assault another man with a vacuum cleaner attachment. HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! Isn’t that hilarious? Sexually humiliating a man by what Yancey says was nothing more than a High Colonic. He does this, of course, in public, in front of tourists who captures it and post it to YOUTUBE! Comic Gold! I mean, why suspend this guy? Can’t people take a joke? Let’s face it, Yancey’s victim deserved to be sexually humiliated and violated. Why? Because the guy got upset when he discovered Yancey was having an extramarital affair with his wife. Yes. Yancey punished the man whose wife he was sleeping with by shoving a vacuum attachment somewhere not so nice. And I’m supposed to like this guy and feel bad that instead of being instantly fired, arrested and at the very least held accountable for his action, he is given another government job, one he doesn‘t like as much. Yeah, poor guy. To make things even worse, Hiaasen continues to point out all the victim’s sexual deviancy, for example, his penchant for autoerotic asphyxiation, because we all know that people who practice untraditional forms of self pleasure probably deserves to be sexually assaulted. I was truly angry about this, and I’m not someone who angers very easily. Honestly, if this was one brief incident, I probably would have let it go, but Hiaasen continues to harp on the act for comic relief and as a way to make you feel for Yancey. It had the opposite affect on me. Fact of the matter, I don’t think I would have liked Bad Monkey anyway. He uses “American Pie” style sexual humor, like kinky 50 Shades and mortuary sexplay, a masturbating monkey and other such nonsense as a replacement for his typical quirkiness. Yancey’s quest was basically a pointless exercise in narcissism, and he probably committed as much harm as the criminals he was chasing. He relies heavily on stereotypical Caribbean caricatures for his few interesting characters and the ending was a big fizzle of nothingness. In the end, it seemed the only character whose journey had a net positive result was the one I hated the most. Bad Monkey should have just left off the monkey part and kept the appropriate label… BAD BAD BAD! It’s a shame that Hiaasen’s latest is such a mess, and I found it entirely inappropriate for a time where we are actively discussing a culture that downplays sexual assault that he uses such an act for comedy and continually marginalizes the victim as justification for the attack.  

This is my first time listening to Arte Johnson performing a solo narration of an entire book, and ummmm… No. It just didn’t work for me. I’ve loved some of his work in shorter burst before, but here, the entire thing was just too slow, too dependent on stereotypical accents and just utterly unengaging. His accents and vocalizations didn’t seem consistent, particularly in his portrayal of the Puerto Rican Coroner whose accent fluctuated from slightly Hispanic to straight from Havana, despite saying she grew up in New Jersey.   I constantly struggled with the narrator/content continuum in this book. Would I have liked the book more if I the narration was better, maybe a narrator I really enjoy like Oliver Wyman or Peter Berkrot? Would I have liked the narration more if I didn’t find the entire story unfocused, and pretty much offensive? I’m not sure. I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to Johnson. Maybe this just wasn’t the right fit for him, or maybe he was struggling with the book in the same way I was. Overall, Bad Monkey was just an unpleasant listening experience, one which I am not sure why I continued listening other than the fact that is was from one of my formerly favorite authors. Maybe I can now block out the experience.

Thanks to Random House Audio for providing me a copy of this title for review.

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6 responses

24 06 2013
Carl V. Anderson

Yep, I can understand why this one was not a hit with you. Your points are so well taken, this is not the climate for that kind of humor…and that is a good thing. I wish there never had been a climate for that kind of humor. Or not even humor so much as that kind of marginalization of sexual assault. I remember when I watched the foreign film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and thinking the sexual assault and vengeance for that assault were both so unnecessary. Or at least the graphic depiction was unnecessary. Was I supposed to be happy that the victim got her revenge in that manner? What does that say about me, about society, that people no doubt felt like cheering when she got her payback? I think books that deal with assault for a reason are understandable. I don’t want to suggest that fiction be sanitized from anything unpleasant. But it is unlikely to be hyperbole to say that 95% or better of mentions of sexual assault in fiction are at least just means of driving the story forward and at worst come off as titillation. Few books that I read that include that do anything with it that could be interpreted as healing or as starting a much-needed dialogue.

24 06 2013
Darlene's Book Nook (@DarleneBookNook)

I’m sorry that a (formerly) favourite author let you down. It sucks when that happens! Based on your review, it doesn’t sound like this is my cup of tea either so I’ll be steering clear of this one. Thanks for being honest!

24 06 2013
BarkLessWagMore (@FMMFC)

Oh my, thank you for the warning!!

25 06 2013
wolfshowl

Wowwww. Just. Wow. Thanks for suffering so we don’t have to, I suppose.

25 06 2013
kim

I totally agree. I am 3/4 way through the audiobook. I don’t care for the story, and the narration….the accents of the two Norwegian house hunters sounded like hillbilly hispanic rather than anything remotely European. The monkey plays such a small part that I am surprised it even merits entering its existence into the title of the book. I have listened to quite a few of Hiaasen’s other novels and like them quite well. This was a real disappointment.

25 06 2013
Judy (Love2Listen)

Thanks for the warning. Taking this one off my TBR list.

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