ACK-ACK MACAQUE By Gareth L. Powell – Reviewed

Published with the kind permission of Morpheus Tales.

Powell’s first collection The Last Reef (available as an ebook from Anarchy Books (www.anarchy-books.com) was exceptional. A book filled with intelligent SF, bristling with ideas and clever stories. I was looking forward to reading Powell’s first novel The Recollection, a clever SF story based on some of the stories in that first collection. It wasn’t as good as I was expecting. Most of the brilliant ideas in the book came from the stories in The Last Reef. I’d expected more.

I wasn’t looking forward to reading this one. It sounded a bit… well, stupid. Also, I’d just finished reading the excellent Sandman Slim, a book filled with character, with attitude, with energy. Not something I would have expected from the “quiet” fiction of Powell.

Boy was I wrong!

Powell seems to be having a great deal of fun with this book, and fortunately the reader is right there alongside him all the way.

Britain and France merged in the 1950s. Nuclear powered airships travel around the world. Britain refuses to give back Hong Kong and is on the brink of war with China. The King is recovering from an assassination attempt. Victoria returns to London to deal with the murder of her husband, only to find the policeman who escorted her to the flat dead on the foot of the stairs and his murderer looking up at her, then heading straight for him, his knife poised to kill her too…

A Macaque is battling against Nazi forces during the Second World War…

This is powerful, action-packed stuff. The tension starts to rise from very early on, and as the twisted tale of treason, conspiracy and murder is revealed the tension continues to rise. The characters are unique, their voices clearly individual, and the monkey adding a level of attitude and humour that really jumps off the page. The one-eyed, pistol carrying, cigar chomping fighter pilot macaque is brilliantly refreshing in his no nonsense attitude, and animalistic simplicity amongst the complex plotting and treachery.

The tension rises throughout the book, creating an edge of the seat expectation that could only be satisfied with a powerful climax, so how about fighting and explosions, and crashing and… (I don’t want to give away too much!) but Powel delivers by the bucketload.

Powerful, intelligent, filled with ideas, clever touches and brilliant characters.

Powell has hit his stride, and produced a steampunk SF novel that delivers. I don’t know if Powell is planning a sequel, but when you have a character this good, he deserves another book. I can’t think of a story that could possibly live up to this one, but I hope Powell can!

Monkey magic.

www.solarisbooks.com

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