My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Note: I received a free copy of Confessions of a ChimpManZee in exchange for an honest review.
Arthur Godschalk, an undergraduate student, innocent in the ways of the world and of women, finds part-time work at a lab that has contracted with the government to do experimental development of an army of killer chimpanzees. Becoming intimately involved with the family that owns the lab, as well as with several other women who work there, Arthur finds himself in a precarious position when he wakes up after an accident to find his fate is totally in the hands the person who hates him most in the world, his mother-in-law.
Leading his new chimp army from California to Africa, Arthur struggles to survive his new situation as he discovers secrets about himself, as well as the search for meaning that has driven all hominids for a million years–the quest of Life itself.
As Arthur’s mentor says, DNA is the wheel, and Life is the turning. This story tells how sex and evolution combine to make for one hell of an adventure.
Confessions of a ChimpManZee is a unique book. It’s broken into three major sections: Arthur’s life as a human, Arthur’s life in the body of a chimpanzee who translates between humans and chimpanzees, and Arthur’s life leading a group of chimpanzees in the wild. One of the reasons I was interested in reading it is that it sounded like it was about more than just a guy living in the body of a chimpanzee, and I was right. It’s about the nature of life, of humanity, and of the differences (if any) between people and animals.
Arthur, despite being self-described as unattractive, has a lot–a lot–of sex. For awhile, I was wondering if this was the author’s Mary Sue (What’s a male Mary Sue? Captain Kirk? Haha, a little gender humor there for you). But no, this is the point of the book–the human drive to procreate, the call of DNA, the need to sow one’s seed widely, and how little difference there really is between humans and chimpanzees.
The book made me think, which, as you probably already know, I love. Most of the biology and genetics lessons were rehashes of my introductory courses in college, but they were told in an endearing way. Arthur’s mentor, Dr. Axel, loved to talk … and talk … and talk … But it fit the story and didn’t seem too much like an info dump, even when it became one, since the guy loved the sound of his voice so much that it seemed real. (Hey, we all know that guy.) The narrator’s voice was what brought me into the story right away; I loved the conversational way that Arthur told his story.
The biggest frustration I had with this book was that it seemed unpolished. Proofreading errors abounded: Missing quotation marks, possessives in the place of plurals, and misplaced commas. One of the things that slowed down my reading and made the book feel like a slog at times was the dialogue. The author used some contractions in speech, but not enough. I have plenty of pet peeves, and that’s one of them, so take that commentary as you will.
I also got frustrated at time with the manner of storytelling, which would probably fall into the “developmental edit” category. I’m working on developmental edits on my book right now, so maybe this is my hammer and everything is a nail, so you’ll have to forgive me on that one. The way Arthur tells him story is to the reader from a point in the future, which is fine. But that point is undefined–we never get to it, or if we do, it’s not revealed as “now”–and some of what he says is misleading or unclear. For instance, he mentions a character that accuses him of murder. That sidebar mention brings to mind jail time, possibly, or another major plot point. Yet when the story comes to that point, it’s one small detail amidst a number of large, more important plot points. Don’t get me wrong: I liked the way Arthur told the story. It just needed, as I mentioned earlier, polish.
If you like books that make you think and don’t mind the ridiculousness of an overly amorous twenty-something man (whose antics made the story all the more entertaining), I would recommend Confessions of a ChimpManZee.