MACAQUE ATTACK by GARETH L POWELL
PB, 347 pages, Solaris
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS VERY MILD SPOILERS FOR ALL THREE BOOKS IN THE TRILOGY.
Victoria let herself smile. “He likes blowing things up.” She felt a strange kind of pride. “It’s kind of what he does.”
We’re coming to the end of the Macaque trilogy now, and our titular misanthropic hero monkey has saved the world from both nuclear annihilation (Ack Ack Macaque) and assimilation by a hive mind from another dimension (Hive Monkey). You’d think it would be time for him to put his feet up, bite the end off a cigar and knock back a well deserved tot of rum (or seven). But life just isn’t that simple for the escapee from a computer game and his crew. Damaged journalist Victoria is struggling to deal with letting go of her decaying hologram husband Paul, while teenage hacker K8, given over to the gestalt mind and then separated from them, has lost her own personality and is longing to return to the comfort of the collective.
Ack-Ack has gathered his own army of rescued monkeys, saving them from their gruesome fates on a myriad of worlds as his airship, the Sun Wukong, hops from dimension to dimension. He must face down not only dissent within his own ranks, but the threat of invasion from another timeline, while an asteroid, hurled from the surface of Mars, makes its deadly and seemingly unstoppable way towards the earth. The way these events are linked becomes apparent in a surprise twist about halfway through the novel, one that will have GLP fans gasping and celebrating in equal measure.
There’s much to enjoy here, on a number of levels. If you just want to see monkeys blow up giant tanks or shoot shit, then yes, there’s no shortage of that, and it’s all tremendous fun. But if you also want a book that touches on loneliness, on the fear of death and the difficulty of letting go of the past, while at the same time blowing shit up all around you, then Macaque Attack comes highly recommended. The whole Macaque Trilogy is a lot smarter, and deeper, than a casual glance might suggest, and so is Ack Ack Macaque himself. He might be battered and war-weary, he might lists his interests as smoking, drinking and making things explode, but there’s a warm heart and the beginnings of a conscience beneath that furry chest. The grumpy old monkey really does love his troupe, even if he doesn’t like to show it.
I’m not ashamed to say I loved these books, and the more I read them the more I enjoy them. Re-reading rewards you with all kinds of clever cultural references and in-jokes you may have missed the first time around. The whole trilogy will, I hope, become a future classic. If it doesn’t, there’s no justice and I may have to send the monkeys round to sort things out…