Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L Powell
Book of the Month
In 1944, as waves of German ninjas parachute into Kent, Britain's best hopes for victory lie with a Spitfire pilot codenamed 'Ack-Ack Macaque'. The trouble is, Ack-Ack Macaque is a cynical, one-eyed, cigar-chomping monkey, and he's starting to doubt everything, including his own existence.
A century later, in a world where France and Great Britain merged in the late 1950s and nuclear-powered Zeppelins encircle the globe, ex-journalist Victoria Valois finds herself drawn into a deadly game of cat and mouse with the man who butchered her husband and stole her electronic soul. Meanwhile, in Paris, after taking part in an illegal break-in at a research laboratory, the heir to the British throne goes on the run. And all the while, the doomsday clock ticks towards Armageddon.
The Ack-Ack Macaque idea first featured as a short story in the magazine Interzone and has been turned into a full length book and published by Solaris this year. And it is amazing. It is hard to find a word that describes Ack-Ack Macaque. It’s one-of-[ac]kind! It’s fresh. Combines a lot cool idea and above all it has a monkey, a macaque, as protagonist (yes, “chimpanzees don’t have a tail” !). Ack-Ack Macaque closely resembles for me another book that I had the pleasure to read late last year namely Babylon Steel, I have really come to appreciate these types of books from Solaris, they are for me genre breaking, out of the box lifting the fantasy genre further. Solaris has made some fine deals with them.
As you can make up from the synopsis, Ack-Ack Macaque is story featuring a monkey. I first guessed that there would be an introduction/prologue about the 1944 part, but you are actually thrown right into 2059, where a lot of things have transpired compared the 1950’s. France and Great Britain have merged into one great nation and some other countries have also joined up to create a a commonwealth. Even though this story takes place in the future I still got the feeling that some elements were introduced and kept from the 1950’s. With a mid 20th century start and some nuclear powered zeppelins in it the book does not really feel like having a steampunk influence but rather more of science fiction elements used in it, all the elements that are used make Ack-Ack Macaque is just sheer brilliant.
Already in the introducing chapters you get to know one the the protagonists of the story. There are actually three that you follow. The first you get to now is Victoria Valois who seems on the first take normal. But just a few pages in you learn that she is rebuild and a lot of things that are not “standard”, special prosthesis's, gelware, souls that can be backed-up etc. this does not only count for her but for everyone in Ack-Ack Macaque. Victoria is in her quest for finding out what exactly happened to her husband Paul who got murdered. Another protagonist of the story is Merovech, heir to the throne of France and Great Britain. He is just 19 years old, having served in the Falklands war and is being tightly looked after by his mother. Merovech does have a girlfriend Julie who persuades him to help in breaking in a laboratory to retrieve something special. I was thinking from the beginning how these individual stories could possibly be related with each other and it by what happened to Victoria’s husband that you can figure out the importance of her involvement with Merovech. But it is by the last protagonist Ack-Ack Macaque that everything falls on it’s place. In my opinion you are in for quite a surprise when you see the connection of it all.
Now there are quite a few great protagonists that I have come across in my reading ventures over the years, but I never read about a monkey before and in this Ack-Ack Macaque (the monkey himself) is just amazing to read about. He is a military trained ace fighter pilot, wears the clothes accordingly including the goggles, chomps on a cigar every now and then accompanied with a daiquiri and to top this all off: Two silver Colts big enough to blow holes in the moon. His witty, one-eyed remarks are cool to read, his personality adds a lot of fresh style to the book itself. I found that Ack-Ack Macaque character and his part in the story were very unique and I frankly just expected him to be part of the military but how the author introduced him just shows a great feat of creativeness and originality. Normally I try to write a bit in my reviews of the storyline, how it progressed but I have to refrain myself from doing that for Ack-Ack Macaque because that would take away the experience and thrill you get from reading the book itself. The synopsis is just merely the tip of the iceberg of what is hidden within this book.
Ack-Ack Macaque shows just what is possible by combining new idea and creating a unique world and a set of characters, a monkey, who would have guessed! Gareth L. Powell will be an author to look out for.
There is some great news looking forward to, I just saw on the of Gareth L Powell that a sequel will be released January 2014 http://www.garethlpowell.com/hive-monkey/.
This Ack-Ack Macaque book review was written by Jasper de Joode
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