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Mark acquired his super-powers on the day he was bitten by a radioactive baboon.
His grandfather had taken him to a petting zoo near Mark's home town of London (the other one, in Canada) and the ten-year old had been delighted to discover that there were monkeys. The only thing that would have made him happier was the presence of pirates, but the pirate petting zoo had been forced out of business earlier that year because of all the hook-related litigation.
Shortly after his mauling by the red-assed, Old World monkey, Mark began to exhibit his new super-powers. First mimicry, then copious hair growth, and finally, the storytelling. All three powers drove his family crazy.
Despite these gifts, he survived the 70s and 80s. (In fact, he is still pleasantly surprised that he was not vaporized in the mid-80s, though he never took the threat of global thermonuclear war personally, despite his encounter with the irradiated primate.)
Since then Mark has explored many storytelling media; the theatre, radio, print, and of course, the web. He's had several plays produced, more than two dozen short stories published, and he has written two novels: THE AMADEUS NET (ENC Press, 2005), and MARVELLOUS HAIRY (Crossing Chaos Enigmatic Ink, 2009).
His own tale is currently set in his hometown of London, Ontario (Canada). He shares a home in Old South with and two Siberian maniacs (cats). He also works as a freelance writer and web consultant, and he teaches at The University of Western Ontario, in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies.
on May 30, 2011 :
The copy on the back of Marvellous Hairy bills it as a novel about a man who is turning into a monkey. However, it goes far beyond that. The story revolves around a giant, evil corporation nicknamed Gargantuan Enterprises, the people who want to bring it down, and before you know it, there are ghosts, kidnapping, lizards, sex, and drugs thrown in for good measure.
Let me make a confession: I don't find monkeys inherently funny. Their similarity to humans is amusing, sure, but it's been overdone. Given the premise of Marvellous Hairy, I was a bit worried that its humour would rely on the "anything is funny if you mention the word monkey alongside it" school of thought. Luckily, its absurdity is only partially monkey-based, and it delivers some genuine funny. Many scenes had me smirking as hard as I have at any Douglas Adams novel (yeah, just smirking; it takes a lot for me to physically LOL at text).
A lot of the books I've reviewed recently, they've been trashily entertaining (see: Charlaine Harris), or had great ideas despite mediocre writing (see: Cory Doctorow). But Rayner is actually a damn good writer. Every paragraph is packed with clever wordplay and subtle allusions. E.g., "He had long greasy black hair that clung to his head like an octopus humping his skull" (ok ok, maybe not always subtle).
Not all is warm and fuzzy. The novel could have used some edits; the language can be wordy, the plot takes a while to get going, and a certain subplot doesn't feel like it fully connects with the rest of the story. Also, the quasi-omnipotent first-person narrative is jarring, especially when it needs to be explained, though it does add to the surreal bizarreness of the whole thing.
That is where Marvellous Hairy shines: it is such a bizarre barrel of words that you can't help but have fun reading it. Mark Rayner recently tweeted that his next novel may be even sillier, and if that's the case, I can't wait to get my paws on whatever he comes up with.
(reviewed within a week of purchase)
on May 11, 2011 :
A lot of funny, quirky characters in search of a Shakespearean play in a highbrow romp of a sci-fi story. There's an evil megacorp and a devolving humanoid author as well as many minor dramatic players who find themselves caught up in a midsummer night's kidnapping plot. Very witty narration and a lot of action and amusing banter make this a quick read from about a quarter of the way through to the end.
Many of the characters are taken directly from Midsummer Night's Dream. Robin Goodfellow (Puck) becomes Rob Goodman whose good friend Helena works at the megacorp which is doing evil experiments on their other friend Nick Motbot (Really? Bottom just mixed up? What kind of name is that?) who slowly begins turning into a monkey instead of an ass.
The fairies are all here: Peaceblossom is "Blossom," Mustardseed is "Seedy" Besterdson the drug dealer and Mrs. Moth and Starveling are themselves (and what else could they be?). Peter, Francis and Tom of "The Mechanicals" theatre group are mechanical engineers. Poor Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of the fairies, are here turned into a weather satellite and laptop computer respectively. Sad, really.
I consider the last three quarters of this book to be five star worthy. But then there's that confusing, scattershot mindf**k of the first quarter. Perhaps it's a necessary dissociation from our world which has to occur to really prepare you for the book's alternate reality. The story opens at a wedding at a rather breakneck pace where madness and monkeys rule the day and we don't know why or who to care about or what's going on.
Despite the really intimate first person narration, we don't really know anything about Rob Goodman or how he relates to the story until several chapters in, despite the fact that he seems omniscient somehow and narrates events in which he took no part. I still don't really get what the crazed wedding scene had to do with the rest of the plot. Maybe it was like a bad dream and I should think but that and all will be mended. Maybe it was just to get us thinking about the destructive power of monkeys, I don't know.
One piece of help the book offers is a list of characters or "Dramatis Personae" in the opening pages to which the reader can refer if confused, as I was. Unfortunately, I read this book on my e-reader and discovered a limitation of the medium: it's not easy to flick back and forth from a map or list in one part of the book to another. I know it can be done and maybe that kind of facility will come with time, but it was a limiting factor for my enjoyment of the book (not the author's fault) in the beginning. Also, I'll just mention copy editing is a problem in a lot of books these days, whether professionally or independently published. Nuff said.
Once I got into it, however, all quibbles aside, this book really moved and was funny and absorbing and a great read overall. I look forward to reading some of Rayner's other books.
(reviewed long after purchase)
on April 28, 2011 :
An embarrassing number of months ago, a writer named Mark A. Rayner, with whom I associate on Twitter, sent me an autographed copy of his novel Marvellous Hairy. I was excited to read it as Mark's "tweets" are always entertaining. Then, of course, schoolwork started to pile up and I became unable to read a single thing that wasn't about Modern Human Genetics. So, on my recent trip to Michigan I finally opened `er up, not at all knowing what to expect. At that point, all I really knew about it was that it was listed as "Literary Fiction- Fabulist Satire," divided into five fractals (groups of chapters, I later learned), and that a main character somehow begins to devolve into a monkey (strong selling points, all).
It took under a page for me to realize I had been a fool not to read this sooner. Ghosts, greedy CEOs, drug dealers, wacky novelists, attractive women, lascivious scientists, primates, lizards (apologies if I forgot anybody)- how could I not love this book? The characters alone make this book a worthwhile read. Rayner accomplishes something that not enough writers do: Each character has his or her own distinct voice. Each person in the book could communicate the exact same piece of information, but each would do it with their own personal vocabulary of phrases. I love it. Why every writer doesn't do this, I will never know. The characters, as a result, are all believable as people.
And Rayner seamlessly intertwines the lives of his very believable characters through the use of his narrator, Rob. Each "fractal," contains several chapters, which visit different characters as they live out their part of the story. Rob explains all, even though he is only directly involved in parts of the story. His relative omniscience is a result of his being contacted by ghosts, who fill him in on events he isn't present for- a clever move if you ask me.
There is a lot clever about this book. There is a lot hilarious about this book, too. The opening scene, a chaos-drenched wedding, will slay you. It also provides a stylistic "thesis statement" of sorts. As soon as you read about what Nick and Dr. Tundra do (hint: Monkeys. Lizards.), you completely understand what kind of a book you are getting yourself into.
Look, I could go on and on about all the things I love about this novel, but I'm not going to do that. Instead, I'm just going to recommend you buy the thing. You won't regret it, I promise.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on April 25, 2011 :
If you're a fan of Canadian humor, monkeys, lizards, sex, monkey sex, lizard sex, Shakespeare, satire, crime fiction, eccentric characters, ensemble comedies, or all of the above (as I am) then "Marvellous Hairy" is a book for you-oo-oo-oo!
Here's just a few things this book offers:
An evil corporation run by a megalomaniac bent on taking over the world - a starving writer who deals drugs and lets lecherous scientists shoot him full of a serum that is designed to de-evolve human DNA - a sexy vixen who may have slept her way to the top but is nonetheless smarter than every man in the company - a physician, who is also a minister, who is also a regular user of LSD, who is also well connected in the world of underground animal trading - vengeful ghosts - dunderheaded kidnappers - a savvy PR rep - a lesbian heiress - a beautiful drug store cashier - and a witty, charming narrator with a connection to the spirit world, a burning desire to protect his friends and score the girl of his dreams, and no inhibitions whatsoever when it comes to flaunting his goods to elderly neighbors.
Mr. Rayner dances the tight rope between serious topics such as corporate greed and silly topics such as a monkey's love for everything banana. I highly recommend this book.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on April 23, 2011 :
Marvellous Hairy is an odd book. Starts out odd, moves to a little bit odder, retains some of that oddness throughout the middle and ends happily ever after, a little oddly. Wonderfully odd. Bizarre even. Think Christopher Moore, think Chuck Palahniuk- although not quite as disgusting as Palahniuk. No I take that the back. In the opening scene, monkey's throw poop at an otherwise normal conservative wedding and a body part eating komodo dragon is released into the audience. So parts are disgusting enough to rate a 5 on the P-scale of grossness.
A little Background- Nick Motbot, a aspiring novelist, isn't quite making it. So to beef up his otherwise dwindling bank account he volunteers as a human lab rat. One too many times. When he starts to regress his friends, well one friend in particular, Rob Goodman, start to get just a tiny bit concerned. For about a minute and a half, Rob Goodman works for Gargantuan Industries, on his last day he figures out someone is messing with his friend's DNA.
May we all have friends as caring (and as entertainingly bizarre) as Nick. You just get this feeling as you read through the book, author Mark Raynor had to have based these character on real people and real situations. It's naturally funny and flowing in such a way that can only be based on a smidgen of real experiences. Not that people devolving into monkeys part or ghosts part or the kidnapping a major CEO part. But ya' know everything else.
I'd really like to see Rayner get a professional publishing house behind him. He deserves a great editor and quite frankly this book belongs either in hardcover or those oversized paper-back versions. It's so damned funny and entertaining..you want to keep going until you turn the last page.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on April 22, 2011 :
A hilarious satire that I couldn't put down. You'll never look at our monkey brethren the same way again. I laughed myself into a coughing fit with more than one passage!
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on April 21, 2011 :
Marvellous Hairy is a new wave of Fabulist Satire set in the near future, centred around the research being carried out in a frightening behemoth of a corporation called Gargen (or Gargantuan) Enterprises. Gargen specialises, secretly, in the reconstruction of human DNA. It is headed by the insipid megalomaniac Ted Shute. So begins a glorious adventure of corporate greed, drugs, lascivious sex and the unleashing of one’s inner monkey.
To say this book is simply funny would be to gloss over it's delicious decadence, this book is anarchy with a sweet tooth. The writing is savagely funny like a laughing hyena on acid. You laugh but sometimes it’s uncomfortable to watch… There are obvious parallels to be drawn with the writing of Douglas Adams but only if Adams stories were more horny, drug-crazed and surrealistic. Rayner is ruder, madder and badder than his predecessors.
One of the main themes of Marvellous Hairy is corporate greed and what it does to the everyday folk. Human subjects are dispensable for profit and power. On one level it’s just a regular everyday satire of modern commerce, but after the first page you soon realise it’s so much more interesting than that. Really poignant issues arise also, like the individuals’ attempts to reconcile human self-awareness with their animal nature.
From the opening scene of what I can only describe as the wedding from Hell (to which you wish you’d been personally invited) you immediately get an idea of what’s in store.
Peopled by the most fabulous cast of miscreants and heroes, who incidentally I want to read more of, this novel is brilliantly paced. In fact it never lets loose. The action sequences towards the end are timed to precision and it boasts a tight structure. It even contains a helpful cast of characters at the beginning, like they are the players in a Shakespearean play - genius!
Marvellous Hairy is a funny, engaging novel about serious issues but it is never in danger of becoming didactic or angry - Rayner manages to walk this line with skill and with, I would imagine, a smile on his face.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on April 21, 2011 :
I was somewhat hoping I wouldn’t enjoy this book so that I could entitle the review Marvellous? Hardly! but, alas, it turned out to be a very enjoyable romp through the madcappery of an all too familiar fictitious setting, so, much to my chagrin, I had to think up a whole new review title. Thank you, Mark A. Rayner, for robbing me of that pithy idea. It was going to be really clever.
As most of us have, from time to time, you’ve likely asked yourself the question: What would happen if Carl Hiassen, William Shakespeare, and Kurt Vonnegut got together for a little mead ‘n snuff party, and a story idea emerged from their wondrous and thoroughly pickled collective minds? Well, I’m delighted to let you know that we can now move on to other such ponderables, as Mr. Rayner has provided the answer to that age old question with his new novel Marvellous Hairy.
Rayner opens his story with such an insane commotion that you immediately (and wisely) pause for a moment to fasten your mental seatbelt, steadfast in the knowledge that, for better or worse, you’ve just accepted a ride from a deranged driver – and one who is likely under the influence of more than one illicit substance. I felt it was a quite considerate gesture to let us prepare ourselves up front in this manner, before we hit the freeway in high gear. Respect.
Hairy is narrated in first person quasi-omniscient style (yes, you read that correctly) by the central character — a mostly normal sort of chap named Rob (that is, more normal than his eclectic group of friends and dubious associates). Rob’s ability to ubiquitously relate the story is explained within the pages, and I found this approach to be not only clever and unique but completely reasonable in an unreasonable sort of way.
The story involves, on one level, a bizarre allegorical battle between the separate reptilian, simian, and human parts of the Triune brain, and how we must somehow cope and flourish, not just within our own consciousness but within society as well, while all 3 types are in control of our thoughts and actions at different times, at different levels, and in different circumstances.
It’s also quite a traditional (I really didn’t expect to be using that word in this review) tale of megalomania, the dangers of rampant, unchecked science, the bonds of love and friendship, monkey sex, and the nature of military cacti.
I think that my being any more specific may do the reader a disservice so I’ll leave it there – suffice it to say that Rayner proves to be a masterful story weaver with a gifted imagination and a remarkable wit. If that’s not enough, a deep social conscience lies beneath it all. Those qualities combined provide for an exciting, hilarious and ultimately fulfilling reading experience. Just don’t forget to fasten your seatbelt.
You’ve been warned.
(reviewed the day of purchase)