The Laughing Monsters

Editorial reviews

The Laughing Monsters

For all its mystery and questioning, The Laughing Monster is ultimately a materialist document. You have to wonder if Johnson has finally lost faith in his Higher Power.

Johnson’s novel illustrates the danger of trying to write a thriller in the morally ambiguous, complex, post-Cold War world. It simply isn’t enough to have a white man running around some exotic backdrop, with a lot of technical spy jargon thrown in.

It’s so clumsily told — such a mishmash of allusions, filched plot points and hurried developments — that it’s never even convincing as a perverse buddy movie/on-the-road tale.

“The Laughing Monsters” addresses the vanishing present, a giddy trickle-down of global exploitation and hubris — the farcical exploits of cold dudes in a hard land.

Slate : Down and Out (November 04, 2014)

His books rarely have page-turning plots, but they all have momentum. The Laughing Monsters plods, however, and Nair’s isn’t a full-enough consciousness to make up for it. You should still read this book; Johnson remains capable of tiny life-giving descriptions.

The Laughing Monsters appears to be exploring what makes people belong anywhere, what sacrifices it takes to shed where they’re from, and how to go unnoticed in a place they might not be entirely welcome.

This story of disguised lives should still help Johnson’s progress out of the publishing shadows.