Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Review: The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey

"I hate that Dam," Smith said. "That dam flooded the most beautiful canyon in the world." 
"We know," Hayduke said, "We feel the same way you do. But let's think of easier things first. I'd like to knock down some of them power lines they're stringing across the desert. And those new tin bridges up by Hite. And the goddamned road-building they're doing all over canyon country. We could put in a good year just taking the fucking goddamned bulldozers apart."
"Hear, hear," the doctor said. "And don't forget the billboards. And the strip mines. And the pipelines. And the new railroad from Black Mesa to Page. And the coal-burning power plants. And the copper smelters. And the uranium mines. And the nuclear power plants. And the computer centers. And the land and cattle companies. And the wildlife poisoners. And the people who throw beer cans along the highways."
"I throw beer cans along the fucking highways," Hayduke said. "Why the fuck shouldn't I throw fucking beer cans along the fucking highways?"

It starts with a chance meeting of four very different people, with one thing in common - all are angry at the way in which the landscape of the American Southwest is being destroyed to make way for new developments. Together they form the Monkey Wrench Gang, conspiring to destroy machinery, blow up bridges and dams, and ultimately stop the natural landscape from being taken over by Big Business. These are not your stereotypical environmental activists and their protests are rarely peaceful.

 This book is exciting, darkly funny and often very sad. The writing style is quite unusual and can be difficult to get into at first, as Abbey uses long complicated sentences, lots of word play and poetic description. Personally I really loved the writing but I know it isn't to everybody's taste. In between their adventures, plans and escapes you get to know the story behind each character; what the protest means to them on a personal level, their histories, goals and dreams. This way you sympathise strongly with each member of the gang, and I found myself unable to stop reading, especially in the last final chapters, as I was so desperate to find out what would happen to them all.

I give this book 4/5, and would recommend it to anyone with a love of the American Southwest and a bit of an anarchist streak!

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