Jim Bennett such a great review of The Apes of Eden that we must congratulate him and wish him good luck on his new book of poetry.
A review by Larry Gray
Read January 27, 2014
Book Review Disclaimer
The Apes of Eden – The Journey Begins by Jon P. Gunn is a fascinating read. I got caught up in the book and had a hard time putting it down.
Jon P Gunn wrote the book in “rhymed iambi pentameter thus falling into the category called heroic couplets. Each line has 10 syllables and the pairs of lines rhyme.” This follows the style of Geoffrey Chaucer and many of the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare. For me this made for a great read.
The author developed a story around spiritual restlessness using apes as his main characters as they travel through human history looking for God. He did a great job of taking a very deep, philosophical subject and creating a fictional look at it. The story was easy to follow and very well written. I really like the way Jon P. Gunn developed his characters and made them real and easy to identify with.
I really enjoyed reading The Apes of Eden – The Journey Begins by Jon P. Gunn and I recommend it to all readers.
[Please note: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.]
Here is the back cover description:
Can one literary work be an epic poem, a tutorial on philosophies from Mesopotamia to the present and a laugh-out-loud compendium of satirical humor? Welcome to The Apes of Eden – The Journey Begins.
Alternate reality? Epic myth? or sheer entertainment?
by Jim Bennett, Kindle Book Reviews, Jim’s Blog
This is an amazing and truly unique work. It is, if you like, an alternate history of an alternate Earth. As in much science fiction, our hero can conveniently understand every being he overhears; as in some modern plays, there are anachronisms; as in Shakespeare, everything is in iambic pentameter – and rhyming couplets to boot.
You will not be bored. It is also a good story, well told. As always, look up any word you’re not absolutely sure of. This author has a wide range of knowledge and sprinkles neat, obscure, and entirely appropriate words in what passes for a simple narrative. The versification is more like Robert Service’s narratives, telling a tale well. The repetitive rhyme scheme is so cleverly done that you will enjoy some of the harder rhymes.
Gunn has provided us with a classic mythological journey in the Joseph Campbell sense. In this world, humanity is not the dominant species. The apes are. They set out on a quest from Eden in search of God. The evolution of humanity has taken a different course. This is not our world, but much of our world’s philosophy is known here.
As an example of the whimsy in this unique volume, here the ‘author’ explains why a creator must exist: “Consider trees: Were trees one foot in height,/ how could we build our nests up high at night?/ Or fingernails: exactly where they ought /to grow. Without them, how could fleas be caught? /There’s no place on us where a flea can go /that can’t be scratched with finger or with toe; /so even we were planned, in each detail, /to be ourselves, from brain to fingernail. /This couldn’t all be chance. Please understand /this world did not ‘just happen’–it was planned ! This proves– /(He paused to puzzle through his scroll) /–that all these things are under God’s control!”
If you’re looking for raw humour, try this: “… When he sought /suggestions from the magic Scroll he’d brought, /he found that tribal wags, with peerless wit, /had rolled Repugnant Matter up in it. /We’d known he had a flair for words. Now he /displayed a talent for profanity.”
If you’re looking for the tiny carps, they are few. There might be one or two close rhymes (everything else is perfect.) There might be a typo or two. In a work of this size, these are ridiculously small carps. Back to the book, where the undaunted apes continue their quest: “Our leader called the Tribe in council, then/ (or what was left of it). He spoke again /of Pithecanic Destiny and such. /Our current woes, he said, were nothing much.”
There is an alternate version of heaven, expounded by a devil: “”I can’t describe the sense of uselessness /you’d feel, if you’d attained Eternal Bliss. /You sing the praise of God, but when you’re through /there’s simply no constructive work to do.”
There are strange moral questions too, as in this: “My expertise in teaching Virtue should /not be construed to mean I must be Good. /We Teachers only practice what we preach /when teaching student teachers how to teach!”
As for theology, Gunn has a mermaid priestess utter these words: “A god comes into being at the whim /of those with genuine belief in him /so there’s a mutual dependency /between believers and their deity.” Buy this book and read the rest of this passage slowly when you get to it; it’s a lot of fun and questions belief while also supporting it.
In the final third of the book, Gunn gives us a version of Satan’s temptation. Again, this is lightly done, cleverly disguising the careful thought and provocative content in a deceptively simple narrative. For example, the satanic figure claims, ‘my cause is just.’ You will laugh, and then be startled by what you are laughing at. The book ends with an epic battle between the apes and the underlord’s horde. No spoilers here; again, buy the book and just read and enjoy it.
Why five stars?
My personal guidelines, when doing an ‘official’ KBR review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer. Usually assigning the star count is the hardest part of a review, but in this case, it was the easiest. Gunn easily rates five stars. Trying to give you an appreciation for this work was the hard part, and I hope to have done an acceptable job. Extremely recommended.
Jim Bennett, Kindle Book Review Team member.
(Note: this reviewer received a free copy of this book for an independent review. He is not associated with the author or Amazon.)
Jim Bennett is married and lives in Toronto. Jim has taught “Poetry Techniques for Prose Writers” in Sheridan College. B.Sc. and M.Sc. in pure mathematics from UofT. Then I decided to learn how to be a human being. Married, worked at IBM and CIBC and some really interesting contracts. Three kids, four grandkids. Poetry began in my head in high school, and except for about three crippling years at UofT (M.P.C. was not a picnic)
by Sheila Dobbie, host of Notes from the Pond
I must make a confession. I am a literary snob. That is the unfortunate by-product of possessing a degree in English and journalism and having approximately 40 years of writing and editing in my past.
I first discovered this about myself right after college when I tried to read the latest Jackie Collins novel everyone was raving about. I could barely make it to the end without gagging. After years of studying the masters of American and world literature such as: Nathanial Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Eugene O’Neil, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, John Steinbeck, Herman Melville, Henry David Thoreau, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Chaucer, etc., etc., etc., I found I was spoiled.
After struggling to read several contemporary novels for the purpose of conversation, I finally gave up and have since devoted my time to mostly nonfiction and journalistic writings. (Yes, I did read all three of the Shades of Grey novels—Yuck!) However, something came to my attention recently that really grabbed my interest.
My agent asked me to review a newly released work of art called The Apes of Eden. It is an epic poem written in iambic pentameter examining the development of man, religion, and the quest for God. This sounds intimidating but don’t let this description deter you.
It is obvious the author, Jon P. Gunn, had fun writing, playing with ideas and words, and occasionally teasing the reader along the way. We see this on the title page which says: The Apes of Eden, The Journey Begins, as told by Literate Louis, the Scribe of the Tribe.
Literate Louie tells us in the very beginning:
My present goal is briefly to describe
the mighty deeds of Eden’s famous Tribe
from high antiquity to modern times
in lucid, readable Heroic Rhymes
that nearly any member of our band
with brains between his ears, can understand…
As they say, “this isn’t everybody’s cup of tea” and the author, via Literate Louis, knows this as he goes on to say:
of reader savors Art, the other, tripe.
There is no tepid “Middle Way” to go.
Like death, or pregnancy, it’s Yes or No—
However Literate Louie knows there will be a market for his work as he says:
I don’t expect my work to go to waste.
We have, among us, apes of cultured taste:
the Literate Elite. I write for those.
Let lowbrows read some Scribbler’s dreary prose.
As the reader continues through the history of the Apes of Eden, many classical pieces of literature and scenes from the Bible will spring to mind. We see scenes reminiscent of Greek mythology, Dante’s Inferno, Milton’s Paradise Lost and others. Chapter titles such as Genesis, Exodus, The Fall, and David and the Cyclops give us a clue as to the influences upon the author.
Through the epic poem the author, Gunn, explores classic themes such as creationism versus evolution, pride before the fall, the validity of past historical and religious events, and the relationship between man (or in this case, Ape) and God.
we’ve always been as we exist today;
we neither dropped from Heaven nor arose
“by evolution” from our racial foes.
That open-ended past I can’t conceive,
nor do I know which theories to believe….
he’d met someone, he said, who’d thought it odd
that we, the Higher Apes, had not found God.
Who wants to be considered such a clod
he has to hedge when asked: Have you found God?
Let’s find the Deity!” our prophet cried,
and swung excitedly from side to side.
(Remember—these are apes)
The apes begin their journey out of Eden, past a gate guarded by a being with a flaming sword and continue lost and without direction through desert and mountain and many strange adventures. They go on and on in their quest for a Deity until the end of the book. Throughout this quest we are reminded of Moses guiding his people to the Promised Land and other legendary figures.
If I have a criticism of the book it is that it just ends. It ends without any conclusion or a neat summary package. They say in art you must know the rules in order to break them and I feel this is exactly what the author is doing. It is his wink at the reader as if to say, “That’s life.” I understand this is the first of a trilogy so we can look forward to more in the future.
Every work of art has new discoveries to be found each time it is revisited. I found this true of The Apes of Eden. I have now read it about four times and each time I gleaned new information or a new insight. If you are hungry for a good read rather than the junk food and fluff that is fed to us in the commercial markets then look for The Apes of Eden by Jon P. Gunn at Amazon.com. It will be as satisfying as a good steak.
This is a must read for the “Literate Elite;” it is a classic in the making. So, I urge you to be among the first to read this gem and help spread the word. This is a treasure just waiting to be discovered.
I met my friend Sheila as a fortunate happenstance the morning after the Great Storm of 2012 that passed through Columbus that summer. As her literary agent and website manager, I have encouraged her to finish her book to complete closure after the death of her husband and father very close together. Peach Cobbler for Breakfast, Surviving a Life-altering Experience, will be published early in 2014. Visit her blog at Notes from the Pond –Ed.
“Apes of Eden” is elegantly crafted, whimsical, and witty. I enjoyed reading it and I know you will too.
THE APOCALYPSE OF CASTOR
It may be true that more of Earth is dry
and barren now than in the years gone by.
These ancient documents I’m sorting through
for history worth passing on to you
refer quite frequently to seas and lakes
or mountain forests cloaked with trees and brakes.
The fact that I myself have never seen
that sort of vegetation, doesn’t mean
such wooded highlands never did exist.
The Swamp, for instance, thick with fetid mist
and crocodiles and water snakes and all,
which many senior tribesmen still recall,
may be, a generation hence, dismissed
as dreamery by some mythologist.
“Our gaffers tell some good ones,” they will say
when present witnesses have passed away;
though many of us saw this, in our youth.
We shouldn’t hastily dismiss the truth
of anything the Tribal Archives say.
I try to meet mythology halfway.
The Beavers, in their artificial bogs,
who build their wigwams out of mud and logs,
had little use for apes; yet our first clue
that anyone outside our number knew
that God exists, was furnished by a sage
of Beaverkind, in that forgotten age.
Crude ogham symbols, gnawed on sticks, comprise
their tribal books–yet some of them were wise.
A brave of Eden, scouting to survey
a mountain valley, looking for a way
across a stream–some ford the Tribe could take–
surprised a beaver, near his homemade lake.
Our tribesman, moving stealthily between
the beaver and the water, wasn’t seen
until, confronting him with spear in hand
he challenged him, presenting his demand:
. “I’m not exactly hunting,” he declared,
“so maybe there’s a chance that you’ll be spared,
if you possess the common curtesy
to satisfy my curiosity.”
The beaver answered, in a level voice:
“I guess I haven’t got a lot of choice.”
Our tribesman asked him first which ford was best
and afterward described our tribal Quest:
“For centuries,” he said, “we’ve searched for God–
an enterprise which some consider odd.
Can you, or maybe someone else you know,
explain to me exactly where to go?”
He wasn’t pleased to hear the beaver say,
“Your tribe could waste a lot of time that way.”
“And would you call us fools for doing so?”
the ape demanded, javelin poised to throw.
“I’d better warn you, those who waste their breath
disputing our beliefs, get put to death!”
The beaver yawned, and nonchalantly said,
“I knew a wizard, once (now long since dead),
who had some ancient legends to relate.
There’s one I think you might appreciate.
Perhaps you’ll spare my life some moments more
to let me share this entertaining lore.
He told me he in turn had known a sage
who said he’d heard, at quite an early age,
from some historian his father met
–who’d gotten it from older sources yet–
this myth, to which our forebears once inclined:
“In long-forgotten ages out of mind
this Middle World was planned and built by God,
with sky and water, woods and brush and sod,
according to a well-intended plan
to make a home for Sentient Life. Then Man
was designated Guardian of Life
to moderate our ecologic strife
and intervene when some disruptive force
in Nature veered it from its normal course.
“But men devised a wholly different plan
than God envisioned, when the world began.
In human beings’ arrogant opinion
God had given them complete dominion
over all the land they could subdue
and everything that swam, or crept, or flew.
They also felt they had a valid deed
to ‘every tree with fruit which yieldeth seed.’
‘Replenish all the Earth; subdue the place;’
their Scripture told them. ‘Multiply thy race.
The fear of human beings, and the dread
shall be on every other creature’s head,
with everything which creepeth on the land
or swims the sea, delivered to thine hand.’
“In other words, they totally declined
responsibilities which God assigned,
and brashly took possession of the place
by dispossessing every other race.
Unkillable, few humans ever died.
Their greedy populations multiplied.
At first in scattered settlements, but then
in swelling multitudes, the tribes of men
appropriated forests, plains and hills,
remolding all the world to suit their wills.
Our forests toppled, not just bit by bit,
but acres every day, to make them fit
for ranches, towns and roads. They drained the bogs
and marshes, killing off the fish and frogs
and robbing waterfowl of needed space
to nest and raise their young. The human race
became unchallenged tyrants of the Earth
in every land throughout its length and girth;
and those adapting to their harsh behests,
who lived among them, were considered ‘pests.’
“Man saw creation as a gift to him,
to use according to his carefree whim,
so every patch of wilderness became
a challenge–something to subdue and tame.
The rivers could be used for dumping waste.
The ‘unproductive’ woodlands were replaced
with acres of prefabricated shacks,
or factories with richly-smoking stacks,
or sprawling highway mazes, nicely banked
for breakneck speed. Such roads were always flanked
with billboards, placed to shield the travelers’ eyes
from natural landscapes humans so despise.
The scenery that humans liked to see
was that reflecting ‘Human Industry.’
Until the vegetation was removed,
and concrete poured, they called it ‘unimproved.’
One thing a human being couldn’t stand
was unexploited, unproductive land.
He viewed each bush, or herb, or uncut tree
as ‘wilderness’–his hated enemy,
to be remolded to his own desire
with axe and plow, or steam and steel and fire.
Where water flowed, he rushed to fill it in
with cardboard, broken glass and rusty tin.
Unblemished bark of trees, and unmarred cliffs
were beautified with carved or painted glyphs.
Old beer cans and graffiti seemed to grace
the least-developed, most-unlikely, place.
Where dwindling tracts of old-growth timber stood,
the humans saw them as a source of wood.
The ground it occupied, until replaced
with streets and parking lots, had ‘gone to waste.’
To speed development of woods and plains,
they drenched such areas with acid rains.
The poison vapors from refineries
despatched unsightly flowers, grass and trees.
To staunch the flow of rivers, dams were built.
Dry channels filled with trash, dead fish, and silt.
The seas were beautified, with little toil,
by filming them with tankerloads of oil.
Pelagic life then decorated each
delightful, oily, carcass-littered beach.
The sky–that huge, oppressive pall of blue–
presented problems, but was conquered too:
the megatons of coal the humans burned
spewed forth its acrid overcasts, and turned
the azure hue to one which men preferred:
a yellow-gray unmarred by any bird.
The world was one enormous garbage can
for jetsam from the Industries of Man,
whose fondest aspiration was to make
a lifeless cesspool out of every lake,
a gravel pit or mine of every hill,
a sewer of every river, rank with swill.
They couldn’t stand the world the way things were
–or so their labors gave us to infer.
“To human beings, all the ‘lower’ breeds
existed to fulfill their ‘owners’ needs.
We beavers weren’t the only ones whose hide
became an ornament to human pride;
nor was our exploitation half as bad
as others’; beaver hats were just a fad.
For many, mankind’s interest didn’t pall
till species were extinct beyond recall.
Some birds were harvested for plumes. Some died
from eating hand-me-down insecticide.
Those species serving none of men’s behests
were locked in zoos, or massacred as pests.
The animals they’d captured and enslaved
were all the choosy humans wanted saved.
They penned the ungulates in captive herds
to breed for meat. They clipped the wings of birds
and caged them under artificial light
to dupe them into feeding day and night,
producing tender viands men preferred.
They genocided every beast or bird
that was by nature difficult to tame,
or poached on settled lands, in quest of game.
“Admittedly, all species have to eat.
Are wolves unethical, who slay for meat?
But humans killed from simple lust for blood,
and left their victims rotting in the mud.
Not many species managed to adapt,
and those who found themselves disliked, were trapped
in isolated plots of wilderness
whose acreage every year grew less and less,
and where fun-loving sportsmen roved at will
on well-paved roads, in search of things to kill.”
THE APOCALYPSE OF CASTOR (concluded)
“We beavers are a patient race. We’d learned
to wait till Balance naturally returned–
the classic Laissez-faire hypothesis,
which always worked in olden times. But this
held good no longer. Eighty centuries
of mankind’s unabashed atrocities
at last convinced us we would have to take
some urgent steps, correcting God’s mistake.
“Our wisest wizards came from far and near,
assembling on a hill, not far from here.
They spent a week or more in deep debate,
for their Responsibility was great.
They had an awesome Moral Choice to make:
to “wait and see”–or drastic measures take.
However they decided, they would be
maligned and hated for eternity
by God, by Nature, or by humankind–
no easy burden on a sentient mind.
They studied every issue hard and long.
In interfering, were they right or wrong?
“The fires of Industry were burning high.
Sulfuric acid vapors filled a sky
distinctly altered from its former hue
to yellow-gray, without a hint of blue.
The few remaining trees were stark and bare,
bereft of leaves by acid-laden air.
The barren hills were scored with deep ravines
where ores were rooted out by Man’s machines.
The seas were thick with oil and choked with waste.
The Earth was dying. There was need for haste,
the wizards all agreed. They could not wait.
In one more year, they’d be a year too late.
“For seven nights they watched the wheeling stars
till Saturn stood in quadrature with Mars.
Below the wizards’ hill a pit of slime
had processed garbage since the dawn of time–
a fit material for imagery
to represent depraved humanity.
A crumbling stonehenge lay in heaps nearby.
The Moon was on the cusp of Gemini,
and entering its most malefic phase.
The sky with evil omens was ablaze:
The Star of Sudden Changes, Uranus,
was in the Human Sign, Aquarius,
and would, a fortnight hence, afflict the Sun.
“Our wizards all agreed what must be done,
and saw they had to finish their design
before the Moon arrived in Saturn’s Sign.
They gathered gruesome objects to enrich
the Symbolism of the slimy pitch–
the teeth and entrails of poisoned rats,
the legs of roaches and the fangs of bats,
the eyes and tongues of vultures who had died
from eating carrion killed by pesticide.
The brain and heart and kidneys of a Sloth,
whose species men destroyed, enriched the Broth.
However they abhorred their ghoulish work,
this race with death was one they couldn’t shirk;
and as they worked the wizards chanted low
a Spell recalled from countless years ago
when raw, primeval Chaos used to range
the world, before the Age of Cyclic Change.
The words were harsh and horrible to hear,
inspiring even wolverines with fear.
“The beaver wizards labored thirteen days
to trap the mutagenic lunar rays.
They dredged up mounds of pitch, and then began
to mold them into effigies of Man.
One dozen images, there had to be,
depicting humankind in travesty.
On each of these, a potent Ogham rune
directed emanations from the Moon,
to harness and control its fickle rays
in slow, and relatively-harmless, ways–
for beavers do not act from mere revenge.
“They dragged the loathsome icons to the ‘henge
to place among the ruins, in a row.
The sickled Moon emerged from Scorpio.
The time remaining just sufficed for us.
As Luna traversed Sagittarius,
the wizards drew the Trifid Heptagon
–the ghastly Pentacle of Babylon–
and sang an ancient sorcery, so old
its age would never be believed, if told,
and so horrendous in its potency
that some who heard them lost their sanity.
The Moon turned black, conjoined the setting Sun
and entered Capricorn.
“The task was done.
A blast of lightning ripped the murky sky
from Ursa Major clear to Gemini.
An angry roar of thunder shook the world.
From sundered mountains, flaming rocks were hurled.
Our chanting wizards cringed in guilty fear,
and wished they’d never chosen their career.
The very bedrock, outraged by their spell,
gave violent shudders, felt as far as Hell;
and out across the Middle World a horde
of unseen, liberated Demons poured:
the minions of the Spell, who would enforce
far-reaching changes in the future’s course.
Then all subsided, in a pall of death.
For forty minutes, no one heard a breath.
“Ostensibly, the world remained unchanged–
except that certain Stars were rearranged.
The Star of Sudden Changes had regressed,
and was conjoined with Venus, in the west.
The once-familiar astrologic signs
were twisted into nameless new designs.
The baneful Pleiades had shifted east
so Pluto’s latent rays had been released
by quincunx aspect with them. Mercury
was combust, having shifted one degree.
“Astronomers among the human race
were baffled: How could stars be out of place
according to their telescopes and books?
“The beavers were exchanging knowing looks
in conscience-stricken silence. Very few
of Earth’s inhabitants knew what they knew,
or bore the monstrous burden in their hearts
that meddling with the Universe imparts.
They’d acted slowly and with great restraint,
but knew they bore a lifelong moral taint.
“Though still the chimneys smoked, and boilers burned,
and slag-heaps sprawled, and Wheels of Progress turned,
the Spell was woven. Humankind was cursed.
The wizards, burdened with regrets, dispersed.
“One year thereafter, every time the Moon
grew full enough to activate a rune,
it made some supernatural form replace
another twelfth of all the human race.
They suddenly awoke to find themselves
transformed to pixies, goblins, sprites or elves,
with all the special attributes of mind
and outward shapes peculiar to each kind.
As elves and dryads, they forsook their homes
and looked for wooded country. Trolls and gnomes
bored into hillsides. Towns of humankind
deprived of their inhabitants, declined
to hamlets in the midst of ghost towns, then
to ruins, then to wilderness again.
With passing years, the skies began to clear
as rainfall rinsed the filthy atmosphere.
Resurgent Nature slowly spread again
across the asphalt deserts built by men.
“And thus,” the beaver said, “our timely aid
repaired the tragic blunder God had made
in giving humans regency of Earth–
a role in which they showed their real worth.
The human race, divided into twelve
went separate ways to fly or swim or delve
in air, and earth, and water; and enjoy
the world they once had labored to destroy.
And, legend says, our wizards’ mighty curse
went on for years creating forms diverse
to which those twelve new shapes of humankind
were further subdivided and refined.
I’m sure there must be more than twelve today–
some half a hundred at the least, I’d say;
yet every type believes itself to be
the True Original Humanity.
“With Man dispersed, we other sentient forms
of life resumed our old instinctive norms,
on plain or mountain safely to reside,
no longer under threat of genocide.
That’s why the world’s the way it is today
with creatures living every natural way,
instead of making each minority
conform to mankind’s harsh priority–
and humankind itself transmuted to
the supernatural beings known to you,
confined to native forest, field and fen,
from which we’ll never let them rise again!
“But, as I said, I heard this long ago.
You say I’ve called you fools? That isn’t so;
for though this tale’s recorded in our lore,
Not even fools believe it any more.”
And while the ape debated what to do,
the beaver, with a splash, was out of view.
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Here is a preview of the audio book that will be availalbe soon for The Apes of Eden by Jon P. Gunn
Prologue and Invocation