HIVE MONKEY By Gareth L. Powell – Reviewed

This review will likely start off like every review of Powell’s work I’ve written, saying how impressed I was with his first collection from the awesome and now hibernating/demised Elastic Press. It was filled to the brim with great stories and amazing ideas, and it was riveting. The books that followed sadly fell a little flat. That was until Powell hit his stride with his first monkey book, Ack-Ack Macaque. Although I don’t remember it in great detail, I remember it being an exciting steampunk thriller and I actually bought this second book in the series because it was so good. I rarely, if ever, buy books, as I get plenty for review, so that’s a pretty big recommendation.

This second book works perfectly well as a stand-alone novel, although it carries on from the first book and there is some history, it works well as backstory to in novel.

The skyliner that is home to the monkey who escaped from a game, and a brain-damaged captain and her holographic ex-husband, comes under threat when a man from a parallel universe is murdered. The investigation into the murder brings the skyliner crew into conflict with a hive-mind cult intent on take over the world. Can Ack-Ack, Victoria, Paul and K8 save the world again?

The plot doesn’t really capture the essence of the book, you miss out on the style and the characters that really raise this above your average SF steampunk thriller. Powell has created a really unique cigar-chomping spitfire pilot of a macaque who really brings the story to life, the other characters are mere background cast, this isn’t really an ensemble piece, despite Powell’s efforts.

And the world that Powell has created is filled with interesting ideas: a United Kingdom of France, Norway, UK and Northern Ireland; zeppelins; parallel universes; laser guns; Neanderthal assassins, and a whole lot more.

Great world, great character, great style, all put together with decent plot and some nice background characters. I will be back for more with the third book in the series soon, and recommend this for any fan of monkey fiction, and anyone who likes a bit of fun.

Great SF has never been so hairy.

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