I read The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey. The book is 421 pages, and was published by Lippincott Williams &Wilkins in 1975. It is a fictional story about a group of four people who meet, and all want the same thing. To stop development on America’s southwest. Edward Abbey’s purpose in writing this book was to raise awareness about what is happening to, quite literally, our back yard. This book takes place in the southern Utah and Arizona, and is told in 3rd person, but not following any one specific character. It switches which character you are following throughout the story.
The main characters are George Hayduke, Bonnie Abbzug, Doc Sarvis, and “Seldom Seen” Smith. The book starts off with a chapter dedicated to introducing each of the main characters. After all the characters are introduced, they all end up meeting each other on a rafting expedition down the Colorado River. They start talking about their hate of the Glen Canyon dam, and the development on the Colorado River, and they end up forming a plan to do everything they can to stop it. The gang’s first act is to try to stop, or at least slow, the construction of a new paved road. They pull all the survey stakes, and paralyze all the big machinery.
The next big event took place at the Hite airstrip, Lake Powell, which was undergoing construction. Smith teaches Hayduke to operate a tractor, specifically a bull dozer, and Hayduke uses it to push another construction machine into the lake, followed by the dozer itself. This leads to the first encounter Bishop J. Dudley Love who is in charge of the San Juan County Search and Rescue team. Love and his team pursue Hayduke and Smith up a ragged trail. Hayduke uses a pry bar to push boulders onto the road to block Love and his team, and a large boulder ends up landing on Love’s Blazer, destroying it.
The next major event in the story is when the team blows up a train bridge, taking a coal train with it. Later in the story Love and his team corner Rudolf the Red, A. K. A Hayduke on a hundred foot cliff, and when they get to the top, Hayduke, and his keep are gone. Hayduke used the winch on his Jeep to lower himself and his Truck off the overhanging cliff. Towards the end of the book, Forest rangers arrest a sleepy “Seldom Seen” Smith because he stole some camper’s hamburger, and they thought he was Rudolf the Red. Next chapter, Hayduke was on a 500 foot cliff, over a huge flood happening in the iver below, and Love, as well as a bunch of police had him pinned down. Hayduke hid out in a crevice for over 6 hours while Love and his men waited for him to surrender, or shoot. Eventually they see what they think is Rudolf the Red emerging from the crevice with a rifle and they all open fire. What they believe to be Rudolf is literally pushed of the edge with the bullets and never found. In the last chapter, the rest of the gang is playing a poker game when Doc Sarvis gets an unexpected visit from Hayduke, who somehow survived, and wants to finish their initial job, destroying Glen Canyon dam.
I believe that Abbey did achieve his purpose with this writing. The book has so much emotion, and detail about the beauty of this place that it’s hard to think that he didn’t. The book was very interesting, as well as powerful. It was a difficult read at times, but it kept me interested and wanting to read. A weakness of this book is that back grounds to some of the events were not explained fully. Some strengths are that it’s a very interesting and moving reading and it always had a lot of detail. I read this book about four years ago, and started reading it again shortly before we were assigned with finding a book to read on our own.
I started to re-read it because I remembered how addicted I got to it the first time I read it, and I have not found another book like that yet. I would highly recommend others to read this book because it’s a great book, it is an interesting read throughout the entire novel, its action packed, and the writing has so much detail in it. To get the most out of this book, you need to be able to focus while reading, and make connections the things that happened previously in the book. If you don’t, you may get confused, or just not find it nearly as good of a book.