Sunday, April 3, 2011

Monster, 1959 by David Maine

Part Of Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

The United States government has been testing the long-term effects of high-level radiation on a few select islands in the South Pacific. Their efforts have produced killer plants, mole people, and a forty-foot creature named K. Covered in fur and feathers, gifted with unusable butterfly wings and the mental capacity of a goldfish, K. is an evolutionary experiment gone very awry. Although he has no real understanding of his world, he knows when he's hungry, and he knows to follow the drumbeats that lead him, every time, to the tree where a woman is offered to him as a sacrifice by the natives.

When a group of American hunters stumble across the island, it's bound to get interesting, especially when the natives offer up the guide's beautiful wife to K. Not to be outdone, the Americans manage to capture him. Back in the States, they start a traveling show. The main attraction: K.

I finished this book weeks ago and I haven't bothered to write a review of it up to this point because I'm still a little conflicted over it.  For the most part this is a book that examines the "King Kong" storyline through the eyes of the monster.  The problem is, this monster has absolutely no coherent thoughts in his head.  He doesn't have an idea of "self", he doesn't really remember things much past when they happen, and he really doesn't understand why things happen to him.  So you really aren't able to get his take on things, instead you get told what he would think, if he could. 

The basic storyline from "King Kong" is there.  Monster falls for sacrifice, her rescuers capture monster, monster is brought to the United States for entertainment purposes, monster escape with woman, and things end badly for everyone involved.  The storyline is used to explore the United States and in some small part the rest of the world during the 1950s.  Obviously it's not the positive attributes of the 50s that are being harpooned by the author.  Instead he uses this opportunity to explore race, violence, science gone to the extreme, and too some extent war during what really was a turbulent time in U.S. history.  This is where I thought the book really didn't work for me.  It was almost too heavy handed at times, the comparisons were a little too much of a stretch at times.  I understood where the author wanted my brain to go, my brain just didn't want to take the trip.

One thought I did find interesting was the idea of "King Kong" being racist.  K. and King Kong both have sacrifices to them on a regular basis, always of native women.  You can read that, and if you read the book or see the movie, as dark skinned women.  It's only when a white, blond woman is sacrificed that the monsters react in a different way.  Suddenly they are finding themselves engaged in a way that has never happened before.  There is something about the white skin that makes them react differently than the darker skin.  It's an idea that I never really thought of before, but the author convinced me that there is some merit there.  I've seen "King Kong" a few times but it's been quite a long time since my last viewing.  Now that I have this idea in my head, I'm not sure I'm really ever going to be able to watch the movie without that running around my brain.

While overall I found this book to be an interesting read, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to bother with a second read.  The entertainment value was almost overwhelmed by the message the author tried to put out there.  Normally, if it's done well, I love a political science message written into the story.  This just wasn't one of those books that meshed the story with the politics well enough for me to enjoy.


Michelle Stockard Miller said...

Another sacrifice of story to get across a message. My last experience (you read my opinion) was quite disheartening. I think I'll skip this one. Good informative review though.

bermudaonion said...

Thanks for your thoughts on this one - I don't think I'll read it.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

I racist King Kong? Huh. Not my type of read but it was fun reading your thoughts on it. :)

Staci said...

Sounds like too much thinking for me in regards to the political tie-ins with the book. Thanks for reading it for me though!!

Anonymous said...

"It's only when a white, blond woman is sacrificed that the monsters react in a different way." - I never thought of it that way! I can definitely see that as being racist.

I think King Kong had a slightly more developed brain than a goldfish's :)