Hayduke Lives! What fun! I have been looking forward to this one – with some trepidation, yes, since lovers of The Monkey Wrench Gang tend to be disappointed; but also with good cheer, because even if it’s not the bible of eco-warriors that the other is, I have faith in Abbey and his sense of humor. And my instincts were more or less correct.
We follow a few different plots in this installment. One: George Washington Hayduke is, yes, alive and well, and trying to reconnect with his fellow monkey-wrenchers Bonnie, Doc, and Seldom Seen. Bonnie and Doc have married and have a second child on the way, and Seldom Seen is trying to (ha) lay low and play family man to all three of his wives; none wants to be pulled back into criminal activity, but each is eventually sympathetic to the cause (naturally). Two: A new, younger generation of eco-activists, including the nascent Earth First!, is organizing (sort of) to stop the latest earth-terrorizing mega machine, in this case the Arizona GEM (Giant Earth Mover). [And this is getting kind of meta, since EF! in real life came about after publication of The Monkey Wrench Gang, inspired by it. Abbey never refers to the first book or his own role, in this second book.] Three: An unnamed government organization is working with local Utahn Mormon yahoo J. Oral Hatch and (from book 1) Bishop Love to try to infiltrate and undermine EF!. Hatch and Love are both total boobs, in their own ways, and provide much of the comic relief of this book.
As in TMWG, Abbey portrays a bumbling but good-hearted, solid, self-deprecating love of Mother Earth, some action, and some laughs. What doesn’t carry over is plot: I could sort of feel that Abbey was riding the popularity of TMWG, playing around with the well-loved characters and theme, without crafting the same total package. The first was not only a good story, with a little more plot to it, but also a remarkable magic chemical confluence of characters; I think part of what we fell in love with was the odd foursome that made up the Gang, and the way they all clicked. Where the first book was already a little silly, farcical, juvenile, and heavy on the penis jokes (and don’t get me wrong, I loved it), this book is practically only those things. Enjoyable? Yes, absolutely. As important as Monkey Wrench? Not by a long shot. But I have no regrets that I (appropriately) spent part of my camping-out-in-New-Mexico vacation time reading this silly romp; it was worth every minute.