The Monkey Wrench Gang
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The Monkey Wrench Gang

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  11,098 ratings  ·  802 reviews
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 Hayd...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published December 12th 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published 1975)
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Silent Spring by Rachel CarsonA Sand County Almanac with Other Essays on Conservation from ... by Aldo LeopoldThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanThe Lorax by Dr. SeussDesert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
Best Environmental Books
11th out of 398 books — 495 voters
The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le GuinAnarchism and Other Essays by Emma GoldmanV for Vendetta by Alan MooreChomsky On Anarchism by Noam ChomskyHomage to Catalonia by George Orwell
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6th out of 198 books — 153 voters


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Community Reviews

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Abby
May 22, 2007 Abby rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: environmentalists, disillusioned activists
Shelves: fiction
Yes, it's an iconic work of anarchy and environmentalism, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth the read. This book is hilarious. Like most other American nature writers, Abbey was a bit of a self-important pig (I can't stand Farley Mowat, though maybe he's Canadian); unlike most other American nature writers, he has a sense of humor about it.

The characters are grizzled and absurd, their actions are grandiose and delusional, and I felt a strong sense of solidarity and sympathy the whole way that...more
Mykle
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.

This book has all of that on display in droves, but also it highlights some of his weaknesses: smart-assey movie dialogue, rampant sexism and a love of bad puns. His four protagonis...more
Ryan
Giving this book 5 stars would probably put me on some sort of a list, but let's be honest: I'm already on that list. If you're at all concerned about the environment, this is a pretty good book to read. It was the inspiration for Earth First! (The exclamation point is part of the name of the organization, the real end of the sentence follows this parenthetical). But the great part about this book is that it isn't a boring didactic screed. Instead, it's a hilarious comedy/adventure novel. To giv...more
Kate
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. For this reason, I recently reread this novel. I was interest...more
meredith
I blame reading this book at an inappropriately young age (9 or 10?) for the violent gag reflex that occurs whenever I smell patchouli, as well as the involuntary "NOOOOOOO" that I surprise myself with every time a ratty college do-gooder accosts me with a clipboard and a jaunty, "do you have a minute for the environment?"

Also, the surfeit of clunky, unshaven, back-of-the-VW-with-a-dog-looking-on-from-the-front-seat sex that occurs every second or third chapter couldn't have been good for my ove...more
Nate
Amazon.com
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. On...more
Jason
OK I'll try not to say what other reviewers have said. First of all, I loved the drama, the ideas, the characters, but I didn't buy the ending at all so I deducted a star. The other star was deducted because of the at times clunky writing and I think the character's histories merited further discussion.

First what I liked: The plot is riveting, to the point of agonizing. You just want them to call it quits and save themselves! It can get a little bogged down in technical descriptions. Stylistica...more
Nadine
Jul 27, 2007 Nadine rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: lovers of our few remaining natural treasures
Shelves: environment
Edward Abbey was my dad's favorite author. We once stayed at a place near Moab, Utah called Pack Creek Ranch. Our cabin butted up against Abbey's former shack, where he did his writing. Somehow it has taken me 10 years to pick up one of his books, and I'm so glad I did. The Monkey Wrench Gang makes even the most law abiding citizen (such as myself, haha) want to pour sand into the gas tank of a bulldozer. The book revolves around a plot to blow up Glen Canyon Dam, the travesty that drowned the c...more
Stacy
When I was about 12 years old, my dad took my sister and me camping in Southeast Utah. We took my dad's Ford truck with four wheel drive to Canyonlands National Park and went on various roads, back roads, dirt roads, and roads that were barely roads at all. We bumped around the slick rock of Ernies Country, and went up a narrow and twisty dirt road with a sheer cliff on one side. It terrified my sister and I so that we buckled into the middle seat together and sang hymns the whole way down. We c...more
Katrina V.
The summer after I graduated from college I spent a lot of time out west, roaming the country between Salt Lake City, Utah and the beautiful park land nearby; Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, and a personal childhood favorite of mine, Goblin Valley, where the shadows cast by the rocks in the twilight evoke ghoulish figures creeping up on you from all sides. I love these landscapes, so different from the Connecticut hills I grew up in – the colors, smells, and emotions of the American West are somethin...more
Alison
I grew up in the mountains of Western North Carolina in a small city notable for its hippies and weirdos and just a hop, skip and jump away from a university where Edward Abbey taught English and raged against machines for a minute or two. My dad was pretty environmentally motivated. And I'm pretty sure "The Monkey Wrench Gang" made its way into dinner conversation several times in my youth. This may have been why I never read it as a teenager* like the rest of my friends did.

I remember when a b...more
Brian R. Mcdonald
One of my three favorite books of all time, or at least one of the three that I tend to push on any of my friends who read. It is first and foremost a flat out fun book to read. Though I had little in common with the characters, and wasn't necessarily predisposed toward their political views [I probably share most of their viewpoints and values, but their issues aren't necessarily my priorities:], I liked and identified with them all and became immensely caught up in the plot. In addiion to bein...more
Elaine
Apr 13, 2010 Elaine rated it 1 of 5 stars Recommends it for: dirty hippies that are rebels to be rebels
Recommended to Elaine by: bookclub
We are reading this in my book club. So far I want to punch myself in the face. Hard. As hard as I possible can. Cartoon-like storyboard, self-important hippies that drive cars that use gas and miss the irony of that act, sexist men, hippies that talk about saving the environment as a "I care about stuff more than you, look at me I am such 'rebel' and everyone who disagrees is the Man" masturbation technique, annoying tense shifts, hippies, 7th grade creative writing descriptions of scenery, and...more
LeeAnn Heringer
I put this on my reading list because it's ground zero of the Earth First! environmentalist movement, the vandalism as civil disobedience. And I am not an Earth Firster, tree spiker, SUV dealership destructor, rescuer of bunnies from cosmetic labs, kind of girl. But how who doesn't not love virgin stands of redwoods and the wide, wide, endless sky of the American west and the watersheds of the Colorado? There was no doubt that this author loved the American west, knew the plateaus and cliffs, th...more
Erica
Kind of disappointing after reading Abbey's 'Desert Solitaire' (a nice piece of nature writing) This book was recommended to me by several friends who are avid cyclists and environmentalists. I thought i would enjoy the tale of these four 'eco-avengers' blowing up bridges and sabotaging construction sites. Instead I was bored by the writing and upset by Abbey's unabashed sexism and racism.
Kelly
Lovable and brave, if occasionally sloppy. The politics win out, even if some of the descriptions meander. I was very glad to see Loa mentioned. Thanks again, Jeremy (and Amy).
Patrick Gibson
Mar 10, 2009 Patrick Gibson rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: people who don't take it all seriously
Anarchy is my middle name. Not really. It’s Thumper—like the bunny. Okay, maybe its Boring like what my friends call me. Well, at least they don’t call me late to blow up a damn.

As anarchy reined supreme in the 70’s a diverse fictional quartet of colorful characters set out to impede the effluence of industrialization spreading across the southwestern desert. Starting with the burning of billboards and working up to bulldozers and power towers, their ultimate goal is to destroy Lake Powell Damn...more
Amatullah Richard
I haven meant to read this book since going to university. I adored Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire. Since Abbey worked as a park ranger in southern Utah (I did as well though in a different decade), his descriptions of these areas is rich, accurate and as beautiful as the wild terrain. Abbey is an unabashed radical preservationist. In this book of fiction, Abbey seems to live vicariously through the characters, an assortment of misfits, who begin to commit sabotage, destroy, and secretly fight...more
Mick
Overall, a halfway decent read, but wouldn't call it "deep" in any way. The situations and story kept my interest, and I love national parks and the American West, so the places all had a familiar ring to me. But in order to enjoy all this you're gonna need to get passed the one-dimensional characters. Sorry, but these aren't actual people that you or I would give two shits about. Each one merely represents an idea or viewpoint. Edward Abbey wrote much like this earlier in Desert Solitaire, but...more
Eugene Miya
This book is a must read, as noted by others, to understand a bit more the Earth First! environmental wing. It also needs to be read followed by Hayduke Lives! (the less than serious sequel with the martini in the end). A California utopian consistent equivalent is Ernest Callenbach's Ecotopia and
Ecotopia Emerging less the rage.

Monkey Wrench, and I regard it to a certain degree as a cartoon like others, is also a somewhat serious comment about/for anarchy. It is a period book and some reference...more
Jessica
Sep 12, 2007 Jessica rated it 2 of 5 stars Recommends it for: readers who like action/adventure, and those who normally read non-fiction
Shelves: readit
Genteel Doc Sarvis, solid and faithful (though patently unfaithful in marriage) Seldom Seen Smith, wild George Hayduke and breathtakingly pretty if directionless Bonnie Abbzug make an unlikely band of eco-activists/bandits with questionable motives in this book perhaps loosely based on an actual group of bandits running around blowing up things they thought ecologically unsound in the 1970s.

Despite lots of action-packed sequences, this book really took me forever to get through. I started it in...more
Virginia Arthur
This book is a great American Classic. It is impossible to fully describe its influence.

I love reading the comments about Abbey. He just pissed off everybody. This was when the so-called "environmental" movement in this country had balls and snark. Now, it's pot-lucks and social events, getting anything done as an afterthought. It's "being professional"=lobotomy.

Ed walked the land and knew the land. He knew the critters like they were his friends. He read the sky. He was about our AMERICAN LAND...more
Sean
I finally read this iconic novel and I was surprised at how damned funny and inspiring it is.

It's not to be taken too seriously and it demands tremendous suspension of disbelief. But Abbey's erudition and clever wordplay are extraordinary. So is his ability to convey – and inspire – a conservationist ethic that completely sidesteps the sort of whiney, preachy, schmaltzy, vapid, anti-individualistic and ultimately ineffective schlock-talk that cripples too many modern-day "environmentalists."

In...more
Heather
For anyone considering reading this book - be forwarned. the language is rough. very rough. However, it is too well-written and too though-provoking to ignore. I picked this book for a Sustainable Science book club coure I'm teaching this semester. I trust that we will have some very interesting debate and discussion surrounding the themes, characters and times involved in the book and I can't wait for class.
Lanceonlanai
May 11, 2009 Lanceonlanai rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Lanceonlanai by: Hayduke
This book will teach and inspire you to to save the earth while driving your oil burning, bailing wire held-together, gas guzzling, V8 pickup truck across the desert southwest. Also included are detailed instructions on measuring the distance between towns by the beer cans you empty and throw out the window along the way. This is one of the most unforgettable books you will read. Stunning descriptions of the American desert southwest as well as hilarious characters and situations. Human imperfec...more
Shiloh
I loved the revolutionary aspect of this book when I was in college and the wordy, madcap goofiness was no bother. On second reading I had trouble following the story and cared less for the characters except Seldom Seen, the others were dated. However, this is still a book I think needs to be read by anyone who cares about the romance of the West, because it's part of an ongoing narrative. Also, the topic of conservation vs. accessibility is as relevant as ever.
Michelle Ritchie-haddow
Thanks to Cam Sloan for recommending this important work in the environmental activist 'must read' category. I had never heard of Edward Abbey before, somehow, and have never read any of his writings.

Great story, some very beautifully written passages describing the canyon country, and very thought provoking perspectives on the industrial damage being done to our country. I would recommend this book, not because it is enjoyable, but because so much came from it.

Interestingly, the concern for t...more
Jeb
Abbey's humor is incredibly descriptive. Instead of telling a joke, he weaves an impossibly amusing story. The Monkey Wrench Gang isn't my favorite Abbey book, (Desert Solitaire) but, it's certainly the most approachable.
Jenna
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. But, there were some times that I really had to force myself to read it. I definitely had trouble getting into it at first. It was recommended by a friend, and not something I think I would typically have picked off a shelf. Once I started getting more into the characters, particularly Hayduke, I was a lot more excited to read it.

It made me curious about geodesic dome homes and the Glen Canyon Dam, and definitely encouraged some wikipedia time. I feel like...more
Dan
I'll aim this review at those who are like me, very sympathetic to the ideas of direct action that this novel is so famous for, but not sure whether it's worth the read. I was told about it in high school and instantly assumed it was one of those cautionary tales, like Requiem for a Dream. Basically I assumed they'd all be young and idealist, and end up in prison and repentant. Abbey is the real deal, I think. Though I enjoyed the introduction to the book (not by Abbey) at least as much as the a...more
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where to read 1 53 Dec 16, 2007 08:28PM  
  • Grizzly Years: In Search of the American Wilderness
  • Encounters With the Archdruid
  • Endgame, Vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization
  • The Secret Knowledge of Water
  • Everett Ruess: A Vagabond for Beauty/ Wilderness Journals Combination Edition
  • Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water
  • Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place
  • A Sand County Almanac with Other Essays on Conservation from Round River
  • My First Summer in the Sierra
  • The End of Nature
  • The River Why
  • Desert Notes/River Notes
  • The Land of Little Rain
  • Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild
  • The Man Who Walked Through Time: The Story of the First Trip Afoot Through the Grand Canyon
  • Two in the Far North
  • Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World
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Abbey attended college in New Mexico, and then worked as a park ranger and fire lookout for the National Park Service in the Southwest. It was during this time that he developed the relationship with the area's environment that influenced his writing. During his service, he was in close proximity to the ruins of ancient Native American cultures and saw the expansion and destruction of modern civil...more
More about Edward Abbey...
Desert Solitaire The Fool's Progress Hayduke Lives! The Journey Home: Some Words in Defense of the American West Down the River

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“Somewhere in the depths of solitude, beyond wilderness and freedom, lay the trap of madness.” 25 likes
“Poor Hayduke: won all his arguments but lost his immortal soul.” 6 likes
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