Sam, Bonzi, Lola, Mbongo, Jelani, and Makena are no ordinary apes. These bonobos, like others of their species, are capable of reason and carrying on deep relationships—but unlike most bonobos, they also know American Sign Language.
Isabel Duncan, a scientist at the Great Ape Language Lab, doesn’t understand people, but animals she gets—especially the bonobos. Isabel feels more comfortable in their world than she’s ever felt among humans...until she meets John Thigpen, a very married reporter who braves the ever-present animal rights protesters outside the lab to see what’s really going on inside.
When an explosion rocks the lab, severely injuring Isabel and “liberating” the apes, John’s human interest piece turns into the story of a lifetime, one he’ll risk his career and his marriage to follow.
Then a reality TV show featuring the missing apes debuts under mysterious circumstances, and it immediately becomes the biggest—and unlikeliest—phenomenon in the history of modern media. Millions of fans are glued to their screens watching the apes order greasy take-out, have generous amounts of sex, and sign for Isabel to come get them. Now, to save her family of apes from this parody of human life, Isabel must connect with her own kind, including John, a green-haired vegan, and a retired porn star with her own agenda.
Ape House delivers great entertainment, but it also opens the animal world to us in ways few novels have done, securing Sara Gruen’s place as a master storyteller who allows us to see ourselves as we never have before.
©2010 Sara Gruen (P)2010 Random House
"While the set-up may sound improbable, Gruen’s characters – both human and ape – are finely drawn and ultimately believable. Gruen’s research into the use of American Sign Language as a means of communicating with the bonobos informs her story (and the reader) without weighing it down. This is a satisfying, entertaining page-turner of a novel." (San Francisco Book Review)
I like the premise of this novel: a group of apes become the ultimate reality TV stars and captivate their audience. The "ape house" interludes are the most interesting parts of the book. It became clear very quickly, however, that the characters were paper thin. The female scientist was saintly; the male scientist was cartoonishly evil. Also, the narration of this book drove me absolutely crazy. I almost quit listening an hour into the novel because the narrator inexplicably gives the young woman character an exaggerated "valley girl" accent. It was beyond distracting - it was annoying and not indicated by the text at all.
I truly enjoyed Water for Elephants and so I was anxious to read this book, also written by Sara Gruen. And she didn't disappoint. I like her characters very much, and am glad there were no relationship cliches to have to forgive. The research was great and the story refreshingly different. What will be next from her??
I agree with many of the other low reviews, this book doesn't hold a candle to "Water for Elephants", almost seems like it was from another author. The characters cut from cardboard, the narrative predictable and trite - I could listen with "one ear" and still follow it because I knew where we were going. Gruen relies heavily on characters cut from cloth that's familiar to the reader and props them up with insipid dialogue. The story is interesting in a Michael Crichton-esque way, but doesn't even have his writing ability behind it (and that's saying something).
Having listened to and loving Sara Gruen's "Water for Elephants" I was excited to listen to "Ape House". Alas, it was just OK for me. I was not drawn in to the story as I was in WfE. The ending left me feeling like there should have been more to it. If you haven't listened to Water for Elephants you might like this one more than I did.
A good narrator can make a bad book more interesting. Bad narration can make an iffy book unbearable. This one falls into the latter category.
I kept listening because I was intrigued by the ape story and wanted to see it through to the end. I was never pulled in by the human story and was annoyed by all female (human and ape) dialogue. The narrator must feel that all women sound pouty or bored whenever they speak.
I was very anxious to listen to Ape House after Water for Elephants, one of my favorite books. To me, Water for Elephants had a near classic style that was enhanced by the author's attention to character development and detail of the period. Not so with Ape House, which is set in today's world. Ape House reads like the script from an ABC Mini-Series, a genre that I personally dislike.
The characters are near cartoon-like in their predictability and lack of depth. It has them all, seemingly borrowed from recent paperbacks: a greedy and corrupt scientist; a good-hearted, protective female lead scientist with a wisecracking assistant; a journalist striving for the truth in the face of insurmountable obstacles; the hard but kind, warm-hearted Russian prostitute; but most of all the almost human group of apes who are exploited by the cruel, ambitious, pornographer. And it all ends with everyone getting what he deserves, good and bad.
I know the author can do better, and would encourage her to redirect her efforts into books that don't seem to pander to the lowest type of readership. Maybe this will be popular, and may become a movie or mini-series and make Sara a lot of money. I hope with all that money she can again concentrate on more quality work that I know she can do.
The book is great fun. The reader was serviceable but detracted from the story. His tone of voice is more suitable for a fairy tale or young adult book. The story carried me through. Wonderful description of animals. Some funny and pointed commentary on contemporary culture.
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