Friday, February 19, 2010

Book Review: Marvellous Hairy, by Mark A. Rayner

The copy on the back of Marvellous Hairy bills it as a novel about a man who is turning into a monkey. However, it goes far beyond that. The story revolves around a giant, evil corporation nicknamed Gargantuan Enterprises, the people who want to bring it down, and before you know it, there are ghosts, kidnapping, lizards, sex, and drugs thrown in for good measure.

Let me make a confession: I don't find monkeys inherently funny. Their similarity to humans is amusing, sure, but it's been overdone. Given the premise of Marvellous Hairy, I was a bit worried that its humour would rely on the "anything is funny if you mention the word monkey alongside it" school of thought. Luckily, its absurdity is only partially monkey-based, and it delivers some genuine funny. Many scenes had me smirking as hard as I have at any Douglas Adams novel (yeah, just smirking; it takes a lot for me to physically LOL at text).

A lot of the books I've reviewed recently, they've been trashily entertaining (see: Charlaine Harris), or had great ideas despite mediocre writing (see: Cory Doctorow). But Rayner is actually a damn good writer. Every paragraph is packed with clever wordplay and subtle allusions. E.g., "He had long greasy black hair that clung to his head like an octopus humping his skull" (ok ok, maybe not always subtle).

Not all is warm and fuzzy. The novel could have used some edits; the language can be wordy, the plot takes a while to get going, and a certain subplot doesn't feel like it fully connects with the rest of the story. Also, the quasi-omnipotent first-person narrative is jarring, especially when it needs to be explained, though it does add to the surreal bizarreness of the whole thing.

That is where Marvellous Hairy shines: it is such a bizarre barrel of words that you can't help but have fun reading it. Mark (full disclosure: I can go all first-name-basis because we've met IRL) recently tweeted that his next novel may be even sillier, and if that's the case, I can't wait to get my paws on whatever he comes up with.

7 comments:

Jardo said...

WHAT YOU HAVE PAWS?

Hey Lady! said...

Hmmm I should mention along with my Pediophobia I also have a slight fear of monkeys (again, humanoid creatures). BUT if you do enjoy good writing and monkeys I recommend Dean Koontz's "Fear Nothing" an interesting title as it helped foster my fear of monkeys...

Anonymous said...
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Mark said...

Thanks for the review Mike!

BTW, we caught most of the typos (I hope) in the new edition.

Kevin said...

I still have yet to open my copy as I have a ton of other books on the go, but I can't wait until I actually start reading it.

Calvin said...

Have you read The Amadeus Net by Rayner? I liked it even better than Hairy. http://bit.ly/dC71wI

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