Monday, December 2, 2013

The Monkey Wrench Gang

by Edward Abbey
first published 1975

As you may have noticed I'm on a search for fiction to the theme of environmental activism. The Monkey Wrench Gang is something that fits the description well. Wikipedia tells me that this is a widely known book and as of 2012 there's even a film adaptation being planned. I couldn't get through this book however without a lot of flick-reading. It was fun but it didn't really rock my world. 

The story follows a group of four renegades as they systematically destroy things all over the American Southwest (which means the Colorado river, Utah, Arizona, etc). The gang consists of Seldom Seen Smith, George Hayduke, Doc Sarvis and Bonnie Abbzug - all of them talented, exceptional people who remarkably have almost identical opinions about what needs to be done. Basically they want to blow shit up, particularly dams and power plants. They also have an inexplicable love of corny jokes and bad puns.

The first two-thirds of the book passes with just about no conflict or drama whatsoever. It's a gratuitous destructive romp with no sense that the gang is really at risk. The drama improves in the final third when the agents of law and order finally start hunting down the saboteurs. 

The biggest win of this book is the amazing descriptions of the landscape. Clearly the author knows the place intimately and is describing real places that he has watched being built up and over. 

I would have liked to get hold of the Robert Crumb edition but the copy I read was pretty plain actually. Seems like Abbey did a lot of writing so I'm interested in reading some more when I get the chance. (But next up I think I'm going to get back to the mission statement and review something unknown and undervalued).

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