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Publisher's Summary

A Chinese Lord of the Rings and one of the all-time great fantasy novels - which Neil Gaiman has said "is in the DNA of 1.5 billion people" - now in a thrilling new translation

A shape-shifting trickster on a kung-fu quest for eternal life, Monkey King is one of the most memorable superheroes in world literature. High-spirited and omni-talented, he amasses dazzling weapons and skills on his journey to immortality: a gold-hooped staff that can grow as tall as the sky and shrink to the size of a needle; the ability to travel 108,000 miles in a single somersault. A master of subterfuge, he can transform himself into whomever or whatever he chooses and turn each of his body's 84,000 hairs into an army of clones. But his penchant for mischief repeatedly gets him into trouble, and when he raids Heaven's Orchard of Immortal Peaches and gorges himself on the elixirs of the gods, the Buddha pins him beneath a mountain, freeing him only 500 years later for a chance to redeem himself: He is to protect the pious monk Tripitaka on his 14-year journey to India in search of precious Buddhist sutras that will bring enlightenment to the Chinese empire.

Joined by two other fallen immortals - Pigsy, a rice-loving pig able to fly with its ears, and Sandy, a depressive man-eating river-sand monster - Monkey King undergoes 81 trials, doing battle with Red Boy, Princess Jade-Face, the Monstress Dowager, and all manner of dragons, ogres, wizards, and femmes fatales, navigating the perils of Fire-Cloud Cave, the River of Flowing Sand, the Water-Crystal Palace, and Casserole Mountain, and being serially captured, lacquered, sautéed, steamed, and liquefied, but always hatching an ingenious plan to get himself and his fellow pilgrims out of their latest jam.

Monkey King: Journey to the West is at once a rollicking adventure, a comic satire of Chinese bureaucracy, and a spring of spiritual insight. With this new translation, the irrepressible rogue hero of one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature has the potential to vault, with his signature cloud-somersault and unerring sense for fun, into the hearts of millions of Americans.

©2021 Julia Lovell, translation (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

A Fortune Best Book of the Year 

“A breezy, action-packed narrative.... Rich with imaginative world-building that evokes the best Pixar films.... The book is also quite funny.... With this new readable version of Monkey King, Western readers will also have plenty of fun.” (San Francisco Chronicle

“A fun, accessible book that will attract readers to a text that may otherwise seem obscure and imposing.... The jokes hit every register, from slapstick and toilet humor to dryly delivered drolleries.... The literary analog for the gonzo humor is Rabelais and the fight scenes are the stuff of superhero comics. But the comparison that kept coming to mind is with the irreverent, twinkling humor of Looney Tunes cartoons, with Monkey King a cross between Bugs Bunny and the Tasmanian Devil.... A rollicking work of high buffoonery.” (The Wall Street Journal

“Exhibit[s] a rollicking exuberance.... [It] has long been - and will continue to be - a rewarding and enjoyable reading experience for many people.” (The Washington Post

What listeners say about Monkey King

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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Performance

I was unable to continue listening to the particular reader, and chose to read the book in ebook “print “

9 people found this helpful

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Great peak into Chinese culture and mythology

I thoroughly enjoyed this audio book!

The characters are well voiced and written. My favorites were the Jade Emperor and Monkey.

This story gives a good glimpse at foundational work for other stories and a slight insight into Chinese culture.

The obvious correlation I saw was the connection between Monkey and Goku from Dragon Ball! a little dumb, way too strong for his own good, and always looking to test his strength in a good fight... not to mention getting into trouble about food!!!

There are a plethora of philosophical lessons in the story but they are not presented as morals, just genuine parts of character development and I wish more writers would lean that direction.

If you are a fan of kung fu movies or anime (Japanese or Chinese), you'd be a dummy to not pick this up.

5 people found this helpful

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Good Story so so narration

I love the story, and while the narrator speaks clearly. Some of the voices he does for the various characters sound like nails on a chalkboard to me. It would not be so bad as most characters don't hang around very long, but the voice he uses for Monkey who is around from beginning to end makes the entire story nearly unlistenable.

4 people found this helpful

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Classic goodness

classic Journey to the West. I grew up on Monkey, so i loved it. The intro is worth the listen too.

4 people found this helpful

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speed it up and its great

I was hesitant to get this bc of the narration complaints with the monkey king's voice. Speed it up to 1.5 and it actually fits him so well! 1.5 doesn't make the words hard to comprehend either.

3 people found this helpful

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A fun set of stories brought down by the narrator

As others have said, Robert Wu isn't the best to listen to. He doesn't have many voices for the myriad of characters in this story, and the voices he does have are consistently flat in expression. It sounds like a weekend soccer Dad reading you bed time stories.

2 people found this helpful

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awful narration, wonderful story

amazing story with a narrator that ruins the whole thing. he doesn't do justice to this complex, classic epic. I beg the publisher to re issue this with a new one.

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Great narration

I think there is a lot of people who had problems with Monkey's voice but I personally loved all of the narration. There is no monotony and you can easily identify who is saying what.

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Written as if a comic book

I could see this adaptation being turned into a comic book, as that's the author's main job, but it fell very short for a title that is considered one of the four most important classic pieces of Chinese literature.

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Annoying Intonation

Other reviewers have complained that the reader has too few voices for the wide range and large number of characters. That is probably inevitable. My complaint is rather that nearly all characters are given an intonation that in my dialect characterizes snotty, taunting, middle school bullies. I found myself disliking even the good guys. The pronunciation of Chinese names is usually a bit labored too, although rarely actually erroneous. (“Yuan” should rhyme with “when,” not with “wan,” for example, despite the spelling.) The translation also occasionally jars with anachronistic modernisms.

All that said, this is a well abridged and spiritedly read presentation, generally amusing to listen to, and conveying a good sense of the full work and its lasting appeal.

It may be generous to give the story itself a full five stars, for its repetitive and very episodic plot line is not well suited to modern tastes, but this is characteristic of nearly all the great novels of imperial China, which were constantly being both pasted together from preexisting material and raided to extract material for actors and storytellers. A book this old and in a literary tradition this different from modern English literature deserves some leeway in our evaluation.

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