BY SEAN CLARK
Author: Neil Hagerty
1997, Drag City
Filed Under: Sci-Fi.
This is the only book I’ve ever read that contains woman-on-chimpanzee fellatio. And that’s not even close to the weirdest part of this gonzo, nearly impossible to categorize book. It’s a very confusing work, so pardon me if I don’t convey it as well as you’d want.
The hero, Victory Chimp, is a genetically engineered, talking chimpanzee–who is also an accomplished chemist and interstellar hero. This makes sense because this book often reads like an acidhead drew up a comic book, then dictated it back to himself.
Victory Chimp found himself sitting inside, as the red ash burned his fur. He sat in the smoke, riding a goat, while an epileptic eye dropped a tear on his head.
Victory Chimp and his friend/lover/something Occula are in an epic time-traveling struggle to save the world from the evil Chon. Most of the time. There is no plot to speak of–a few episodes fit together, like the final segment where the characters are suddenly professional wrestlers–it’s a wandering affair. Not meandering though, this is rapid-fire, REM-dream kind of stuff. I had a hard time caring enough to keep up. But, to be fair, Hunter S. Thompson and William S. Burroughs (I wonder if Hagerty’s middle name begins with S?) elicit the same reaction from me.
Hagerty is fair with the pen. His words and phrases flow nicely, despite it being occasionally tough to see where they are flowing to. He gets a little over-the-top with the big words once in a while, but it’s easy to forgive and to give him a pitiful benefit of the doubt–like you would your stoner friend trying to sound intelligent at a cocktail party (and coming up short).
Now, I experienced this book through the audiobook rerelease of this novel–the paperback was originally released by the same publisher. I’m pretty sure if it weren’t for that I wouldn’t have finished this. Like Nick Cave’s The Death of Bunny Monro, this rerelease is an excellent example of how music can really add to the experience of certain books. Howling Hex, the band that created this, does a great job of capturing the essence of the book. It’s brimming with dirty layers of music woven together and sometimes piled upon each other, voices fade in and out, sound effects clatter into beats, and there’s some legitimately good songs on here. I’ve left a copy of Victory Chimp in my car, and I’ll almost certainly listen to it again, but probably not for Hagerty’s contribution.
Still, as a book Victory Chimp will definitely appeal to a certain set of readers. Fans of Burroughs and his ilk should read it without much hesitation. It is a well-done and smart book. So if you’re up for something different; really into space/time-orbital travel, wrestling, LSD, ape sex; or you just want to get stoned and read something wacky: here you go.
Similar Reads: The Death of Bunny Monro (Cave), Slow Fade (Wurlitzer), The Squirrel Machine (Rickheit), It Feels So Good When I Stop (Pernice)
[This review is of the audiobook version performed by The Howling Hex and produced by Drag City. A review was requested and a review copy provided.]