So if you took Twelve Monkeys, add The Time Traveler’s Wife but subtract the time-travel, multiply by 1984, factor in Strange Days and divide by Fight Club, you get Chimpanzee. (Wow, that required some intense concentration. Had I had a PhD it would have been easier – maybe I do, and it was repossessed.)
Honestly, I fell into this novel with gusto. The prose is tight, so tight sometimes you wish he’s just let loose with some florid flourish, but Bradley’s prose is straight-edge, sharp as a tack. The narrator has a PhD in cognitive science and philosophy (or something…) so a lot of the work is steeped in this first-person’s clever-dick POV, but it’s not showing off: it’s central to the plot.
Well, sort of.
The world is crumbling, this sort of failed-capitalist leading to failed-socialist nightmare dystopia, errday errthang is falling to pieces, people are having their educations repossessed like some clockwork orange therapy, and anyone defaulting on their loans becomes a slave to the state. There is a revolution fomenting, a black market currency rising, censorship is the order of the day, everyone is afraid of taxes and government intervention and there is no spoon and the cake is a lie.
There is not much action either, but there is this love story. That’s one of the things that kept me going, the love story is close to the bone, tempered by the greyness of time and hardship, a sort of realism, a sort of deromanticising which is romantic in itself. (The flashbacks grow gap-toothed, memories collapse, crumbling the foundations of a love story, à la Eternal Sunshine – truly poignant)
The plot is dense, moves along smoothly, the prose is so clever and yet nebulous (imagine a philosopher painting the world as his mind falls apart) I found myself getting into it just because I like the sound of the guy’s voice.
The thing about The Time Traveler’s Wife, Fight Club, Strange Days and 12 Monkeys, is that the ending was always so spectacular you were left kind of breathless, gasping like a fish out of water. The ending to Chimp is a little flat in comparison, specially given the scale of the conclusion, the actual events, all seem muted by the character’s distant POV. That clinical distance is an interesting device, and creates this space for commentary, humour, and poignant moments, but also takes us away from the action a little.
I am a sucker for action, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker, this is a strong novel with rich characters who I wanted to understand, wanted to see unfold. Highly recommend, I’ll be keeping an eye out for Bradley’s work in the future.