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PB, 341 pages, Solaris


Ack-Ack Macaque first burst into the public consciousness via the pages of Interzone, where the story of a virtual monkey becoming self-aware and running wild in meatspace was voted the readers favourite of 2007.  Since then, Powell has written cracking universe-hopping space-action-opera The Recollection, but confesses the monkey had always been lurking on his back, straining to be unleashed again.

In the novel, only the title character has crossed over, a Nazi-shooting Spitfire-flying cigar-chomping fast-talking primate battling German Zeppelins and Ninja storm-troopers in the skies over WWII battered southern England in 1944.  Meanwhile, in 2059, a united England and France are poised at the brink of nuclear war with China, a serial killer is stealing people’s brains, city-state airships criss-cross the channel, and the heir to the Anglo-French throne has mysteriously vanished.  Parachuted into this mix are Victoria Valois, former journalist, now half human, half she-doesn’t-know-what, teenage hacker K8, and the legendary Ack-Ack Macaque himself, who divides his time between doubting his own existence, and, in his own words, “blowing shit up.”

If this seems like too much plot to cram into 340 pages, I haven’t mentioned the sinister medical facility, the Mars Probe, the dead guy living in Victoria’s head….  Powell chucks everything but the kitchen sink into this one. And then the monkey rips out the kitchen sink, lobs that in as well, tosses a grenade into the whole shebang and lights a cigar off the smoking embers.  With his toes.  The plot fizzes and spits and screams along like an out-of control firework bouncing joyously across the stratosphere.  It’s tremendous fun, from explosive start to equally explosive finish.  Probably the best primate-starring alternative history novel you will read all year.

Solaris have already confirmed a sequel, “Hive Monkey”, for release in 2014, and have included the original short from Interzone as bonus material in the back of the book.

2013 will be the Year of the Monkey.  Watch out!