Thursday, 16 May 2013

The Daddy Review - "Ack Ack Macaque" by Gareth L. Powell (Solaris Books)

Everyone loves the Monkey. Including me!
We're fashionably late to this party. Had it not been for a tiddly bit of coverage on BoingBoing (a website that is systematically costing us a small fortune through book recommendations) we might well have completely missed Gareth L. Powell's fantastic novel but a lot of you are already wise and well informed. So we'll leave it at 'better late than never' and kick off our review.

In the future, as humanity sweats under the yellowing polluted skies of a world eerily familiar yet jarringly different, the masses are addicted to online videogames. Fighting imaginary alternative versions of World War II where Nazi Ninjas face off against the might of the Royal Air Force. Games have evolved to the point where you have but one life to live, one shot at gaming stardom and once you're dead you're dead.

Only, the titular hero of this novel can't seemingly die. Ack Ack Macaque, simian fighting ace and the scourge of the Third Reich, is a kick-ass flight-jacketed cigar chomping character who draws the gaming public in. Unbeknownst to the masses though, Ack Ack Macaque definitely isn't quite what he seems.

The story intersperses this alternative universe where Britain and France are reigned supreme by the Royal Family, and the Queen rules with a fist of steel, with young Prince Merovich's struggle to find out what happened to his father. There is also an insidious plot to murder high-ranking members of the elite to transfer their wetware consciousnesses into robot bodies.

Powell masters thumb-plucking the threads of his story until they thrum with a bass hum that will reverberate long after you've finished the book. In Ack Ack Macaque you have a character that cinematically leaps from the page to grip you by the throat until you pay attention, and a supporting cast who by no means play second fiddle.

I like any novel that defies to you try and pigeonhole or categorise it by constantly and energetically leaping from calm comfort and familiarity into regions of pure mania and that's exactly what Ack Ack Macaque does. Just when you've made up your mind that it's a damming description of videogame addiction or a huge dig at the way the media (both social and traditional) are their own worst enemy, it throws a curve ball and shows you a brief glimpse of something distinctly darker at its heart.

Good vs Evil done proper - with one hell of a hero, and some seriously original twists, I really can't wait to read "Hive Monkey" next.

Bonus challenge. If you can visualise Ack Ack Macaque without thinking of the fellah below, you're a better being than I am!

Surely a shoe-in for the role of Ack Ack Macaque if it ever gets the movie treatment?