The Monkey Wrench Gang

The Monkey Wrench Gang

Ed Abbey called The Monkey Wrench Gang, his 1975 novel, a "comic extravaganza." Some readers have remarked that the book is more a comic book than a real novel, and it's true that reading this incendiary call to protect the American wilderness requires more than a little of the old willing suspension of disbelief.The story centers on Vietnam veteran George Washington Hayduke III, who returns to the desert to find his beloved canyons and rivers threatened by industrial development.

As they do, his characters voice Abbey's concerns about wilderness preservation ("Hell of a place to lose a cow," Smith thinks to himself while roaming through the canyonlands of southern Utah.

"Hell of a place to lose your heart.

It's comic, yes, and required reading for anyone who has come to love the desert.

Reviews of the The Monkey Wrench Gang

I put off picking up the book until just before bedtime, and that one or two paragraphs I managed to read sure did wonders for lulling me into unconsciousness. (After all, Billy Joe did shoot a man while robbing his castle.) I probably should have read this one when I was reading Another Roadside Attraction.

There is a wider array of characters than normally stereotyped as environmentalists -- in fact, there are no tree-hugging hippies in this book -- and that's what makes it so rich.

In recent times, Al Gore has credited Rachel Carson (The Silent Spring) for introducing environmental concerns into his nascent consciousness, but it is a work of fiction not fact, Edward Abbey's "Monkey Wrench Gang", published first in 1975, which is regarded as having inspired a new generation of angry young environmental activists to the practice of extreme sabotage, sometimes called terrorism, for the sake of protecting the earth. Having been thoroughly entertained by this page turner's quirky characters and hilarious, daring escapades - the reader is left with heightened awareness of the serious moral questions concerning the nature of our relationship with wilderness and our personal responsibility and culpability.

To give my favorite example: One character starts using the alias Rudolph the Red during what would now probably be called a "direct action" campaign against various mining and logging interests.

This novel has all the same elements that make Edward Abbey's non-fiction so compelling: the depth of his knowledge and emotions about the desert landscapes of Utah and Colorado, his poetic descriptions of same, and his eloquent condemnation of the loss of this wilderness for the sake of city-dwelling, industrial man.

When I was about 12 years old, my dad took my sister and me camping in Southeast Utah. And so it was with a fond recollection of my times in Northern Arizona Southeast Utah I read The Monkey Wrench Gang, a book about the beauty of this unforgiving dessert and the environmental anarchists that love it. Along the way they have various adventures while trying to evade the authorities. I'd recommend this book to any person familiar with Southeast Utah.

I think I would have liked this a lot more too if the characters weren't all terrible (and racist).

Yes. Are there politically incorrect, racist, and sexist comments? It's the story of four people, three men and one women, who are not entirely pleased with changes made in the name of "progress" in particular, and have total disgust for bureaucracies in general. This book is really a call to action to protect the environment in general, and deserts in particular. That Abbey loved and cared about the deserts, and tried to get others to do the same is of little doubt.

Abbey attended college in New Mexico and then worked as a park ranger and fire lookout for the National Park Service in the Southwest.