Book sales slump for infinite monkeys, as follow-up novel misses the mark
They were riding high on the runaway success of their debut novel, and with pre-sales through the roof, the hotly-awaited followup was touted to bust international records. But excitement has quickly turned to confusion, as fans were left puzzling over the new tome.
Everyone knows the famous theorem - take an infinite number of monkeys typing on an infinite number of typewriters and they will eventually write The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. But no one could have guessed that when they actually did it, it would go onto become an international bestseller and global literary sensation. While some slammed the book as derivative, people just couldn’t get enough of those monkeys.
“They knocked it out of the park, no-one was expecting that. We’re riding that high, for sure,” admitted the group’s publisher. “No-one expected that the realisation of a basic thought experiment on the nature of statistical mechanics would take the literary world by storm.”
It wasn’t long before attention turned to that difficult second album. Rumours swirled about what the group would be tackling next, everything from Chaucer to James Joyce, The Bible to War and Peace, even the composition of an original work was teased. But while publicists remained tight-lipped on details, they made sure to keep their superstar monkeys front and centre.
“It’s more of what fans have come to know and love. We’ve got a winning formula here,” they confirmed, arbitrarily. “And there’s a lot of intrigue, which adds to the appeal. Where do we keep the monkeys? What do they get up to when they’re not writing? Why did they persist in using typewriters, opposed to computers, when it’s obviously far less efficient and cost effective? It’s fun, and people like to speculate.”
But as buzz increased and anticipation reached fever pitch, all was not well. Sources close to the group now reveal that work had long since stalled on the project, as the monkeys now produced daily thousands upon thousands of pages of utterly unusable manuscript.
“They’ve tried everything to get them back on track,” said the source. “Incentivised them with bananas, played them soothing classical music, gently prompted them with electric shock collars. Nothing seems to get through.”
But with fans and critics alike clamouring for the next big bestseller, and the hype machine already in full swing, publishers had their hands tied to meet a preset release date. Red flags started to go up when it was announced the review embargo wouldn’t lift until the day of the launch itself, an almost unprecedented move for an event of this scale. Promoted as a measure to keep any potential spoilers out of the headlines, many saw it as a sign that confidence in the project was shaken.
There was also reportedly an incident where a troop of around twenty monkeys escaped the writing compound and cut a swathe through a nearby community. According to a statement, they were loose for several days before being rounded up by animal control. Charmingly, some of their antics had a whimsical literary edge, graffitiing coarse Shakespearean slogans on the sides of bus shelters, for instance, and trashing the historical biographies section at the local library. It’s believed they may have also lightly mauled a handful of people, including a family of four on a picnic, all of whom are expected to make a full recovery.
Even this didn’t seem to dampen expectations for the launch. And yet, despite the public show of positivity, it was hard to ignore a tension in the air as hundreds of fans lined up for their first look at the hotly awaited follow-up.
While initial reactions were optimistically mixed, this has rapidly given way to an overwhelmingly negative response, with fans left scratching their heads.
“It’s hard to know what to make of it,” admits avid fan Eric, who wished to remain anonymous. “There’s no way they could top The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, we all knew that. That was lightning in a bottle, sure. It’s early days, but this really feels like a misstep.”
“Large tracts of the text are legitimately incomprehensible,” another reader reports. “There’s one chapter which is literally just sixteen straight pages of ampersands. Which really shouldn't be as surprising as it is.”
“Terrible,” was the simple verdict of another. “I don’t know what this is.”
Despite an attempt to pre-empt the backlash, badging the new book as more ‘experimental’, the damage was done. Now the bubble has well and truly burst, and the blame game has begun in earnest.
“The writing's on the wall,” says a source close to the publisher. “And to be honest, that's part of the problem. If these fucking monkeys just wrote directly onto the paper using the typewriters we bought them, things would be a lot easier. But they’re just screaming at each other, scratching stuff into the furniture, and throwing their shit at the walls a whole lot. And there is a literal infinite number of these little bastards, now think about that for a minute. Get a real mental picture of how much shit we’re talking here.”
The challenges of managing an infinite number of highly territorial primates speak for themselves. But a lot of people overlook the logistical challenge involved with the typewriters.
“These infinite typewriters weren't cheap,” the publisher admits in an exclusive, candid interview. “We did purchase them at a discount because we were buying in bulk, and they were discontinued. But they weren't free.”
“We did them a good deal,” said the typewriter supplier, a little defensively if we’re honest. “It was a really tough order. We’re a boutique business that sources typewriters. That’s all we do. It’s fairly niche work. Most of our orders are for one typewriter, two typewriters tops. On one other occasion we had an order for ten typewriters for a shoal of fish starting a creative writing clinic. An infinite number of typewriters is no small ask and don't ask me how we managed it, but we did!”
But it seems all the good will in the world won’t save this once beloved literary supergroup.
“I mean, they’re monkeys,” says Dr Carpenter, renowned primatologist. “I don’t know what anyone was expecting here.”
A spokesmonkey was approached, but declined to comment. Or perhaps they did comment. It's hard to tell.