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The Monkey Wrench Gang

(Monkey Wrench Gang #1)

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  24,022 ratings  ·  1,597 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 Haydu
Paperback, 421 pages
Published December 12th 2006 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1975)
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Christina Not quite (I think anyways) - Edward Abbey was a guy who lived in the southwest desert and did advocate for the environment. However, Silent Spring by…moreNot quite (I think anyways) - Edward Abbey was a guy who lived in the southwest desert and did advocate for the environment. However, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson made waves because it was the first book to really showcase how we are destroying our earth with DDT. Now it seems like old news, but it was easily readable by the public, done by a woman who was teetering on the line of creative writer and scientist, and was published in an accessible way. Hopefully this helps (and also, the entire monkeywrenching handbook is accessible online).

Source: I'm currently in a 1970s America graduate seminar, and in order to understand the eco movement that is in Abbey, we read Carson first. (less)

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This tale of four "goldamn envirn-meddlers" is one of the least compelling stories I've ever read. 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. The parts I did stay awake for only served to piss me off. The hypocrisy of these eco-terrorists is laughable. They motor up and down the very highways they rage against, burning massive amounts of fossil fuels in the commission of their pro ...more
May 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jonathan Ashleigh
Nov 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: recent
I had a tough time getting through this book. Every character had basically the same personality and the story just rambles and rambles. People seem to love Edward Abbey for his out-there ideas, but they don’t do much for me at this time. ...more
Nov 21, 2014 rated it it was ok
pretty disappointed by this actually. like, the writing was good and I liked the style a lot, and I feel like I should have liked this (environmental vigilantes! exciting chase scenes!) but honestly I couldn't get past the racism and sexism. edward abbey is like the kind of anarchist white dudebro who would unironically say that fight club is their favorite movie.

I think I would have liked this a lot more too if the characters weren't all terrible (and racist). the only girl character was shitt
Elizabeth A
Apr 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio, 2019
Is this book problematic? Yes. Are there politically incorrect, racist, and sexist comments? Yes. Did I love every minute of it? Yes!

I sit here simultaneously smiling and shaking my head as I write this review. It all began after a decision was made to spend some time in the deserts of the Southwest, USA. What might be a good book for the trip? Edward Abbey's name kept popping up, and this book was also a seminal one for my partner, so up my TBR pile it migrated.

It's the story of four people, th
Mar 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 07, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well done. Abbey added so much humor to this book that had serious themes. This was an interesting gang to follow!!!
Apr 08, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Oct 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
May 07, 2009 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
A modern day classic and still capable of stirring up people on both sides of the issue. Provocative,descriptive,sarcastic, humorous, engrossing and angry are just a few of the words that come to mind when describing Edward Abbey's most well known book. I do not consider myself a radical or hardcore environmentalist. I'm too much a product of the modern era for that. I ,and those I love, have benefited from the modern world and "evil" technology (modern medicine, computers and so on). However I ...more
Jun 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Second time around.
First time I've read this since 1978 or 1979.

The good news? It holds up! Let's farp up some bulldozers next weekend!
Even better news: the brave cowboy, Jack Burns -last seen in The Brave Cowboy An Old Tale in a New Time by Edward Abbey -has a cameo with a slight return at the end.

But this is the story of George Hayduke and his pals Seldom Seen Smith, Bonnie Abbzugg, and Doc Sarvis and their attempt to reclaim the deserts of Utah and Arizona from the land reclamation ass-wipes Koch Bros., et al, Peabody Coal, Pacific, Gas, And Ele
Virginia Arthur
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 10, 2008 rated it liked it
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
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
May 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Katrina V.
Sep 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: general-fiction
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
Pat Loughery
Jan 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library
There are two ways to review this book.

One, as a novel. Edwards Abbey writes a blazing, funny, madcap zany story of a group of four anarchist friends, hell-bent to stop the development of the southwest wilderness by crushing dams, bridges, power plants and anything else they can. On the run from the local Mormon do-gooder Search&Rescue crew, the FBI, the National Park Service and anybody else they run into, the quartet is likeable, entertaining and extremely enjoyable.

The dialogue is massive. Di
Jul 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Erik Graff
Jan 14, 2022 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
I'd read Abbey's 'Desert Solitude', his book about living at the Arches on the Colorado, years ago at a friend's recommendation. Also, I'd admired Earth First, the radical environmentalist organization partly inspired by Abbey, long believing speciesism (favoring humans over other animals) ethically dubious. So, when two copies of his most famous novel appeared at Heirloom Books, I picked this one as something to read during slow times at the shop.

I was disappointed. Abbey writes well enough but
Sep 12, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Here's where my reading practice paid off: By avoiding the hype of what others say and have said about the author, I enjoyed his art in what I can only hope is how he originally had hoped it would hit his readers. Having read Desert Solitaire and a couple of brief interviews with the man, I was still shocked by the skillful quality of literature this book represents. It is not conventional in any way, in fact the four "protagonists" are all deeply flawed in many moral dimensions, including crimi ...more
Apr 13, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Sam Benson
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
I don't know...this book really is funny at times, and he has a very engrossing (if at times somewhat exhaustive) way of describing the southwest landscape; however, it's really just too long and rambling and boring for me. Plus, I wasn't quite sure what to do with the casual racism and sexism that's sprinkled throughout the book. I know Abbey was a satirist, so perhaps there is an element of satire involved in pointing out the racism of the white characters on both sides of the conflict (the de ...more
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is the third time I’ve read this book. The first being when I was about 12 or 13, the second, sometime in high school. As a middle aged man at this point, pushing 50, the nuances of the novel were different, but it still tripped some of those old triggers and gave me some insight about the course of my life.

So, to get it out of the way, in the social mores and attitudes portrayed in the novel are dated. It’s a little misogynist, a little bigoted, and the main character litters. I will give
Aug 01, 2020 rated it liked it
I like the idea of this book and I wanted to love it but I was bored. This book is 50% descriptions of the roads they drove on. “They took state route 160 past Comb Wash then right towards Blanding and the towering red rock mesas.” Seriously soooo much of that. And Abbey is racist. But three stars because I love Southern Utah so much and hate development.
Thomas Keulemans
Book review - The Monkey Wrench Gang - Edward Abbey

[this review contains spoilers]

Sometimes reading cannot go without writing. Like James Baldwin said in his wonderful 1962 speech in New York: “It is not your fault, it is not my fault, that I write. And I never would come before you in the position of a complainant for doing something that I must do..” That something that Baldwin speaks of is right here, right now, after reading this book, as it cannot go without a review of some sorts, as it ne
Sep 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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Edward Paul Abbey (1927–1989) was an American author and essayist noted for his advocacy of environmental issues, criticism of public land policies, and anarchist political views.

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

Other books in the series

Monkey Wrench Gang (2 books)
  • Hayduke Lives! (Monkey Wrench Gang, #2)

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