Hive Monkey by Gareth Powell
Hive Monkey is a sequel to the rather wonderful Ack-Ack Macque. In order to avoid spoilers I demand you go and read that first. It’s ok I’ll wait….Your done already? Good show. Onwards!
With a barrel-full of trouble and a chamber-full of attitude, charismatic but dangerous former Spitfire pilot Ack-Ack has gone into hiding working as a pilot on a world-circling nuclear-powered Zeppelin.
But when the cabin of one of his passengers is invaded by the passenger’s own dying doppelganger, our hirsute hero finds himself thrust into another race to save the world this time from an aggressive hive mind, time-hopping saboteurs, and an army of homicidal Neanderthal assassins!
I’ve made no secret about that fact that I adored the first novel featuring Ack-Ack Macaque. Hell, I chose the primate pilot as my outstanding character of 2013. I’ve been waiting, almost patiently, for months now and finally book two has arrived.
Straight off the bat, Gareth Powell has upped the ante in this second adventure. A new religion/cult, the sinister Gestalt, has appeared and are growing in power. They are more than a little keen to induct a certain monkey into their ever-growing ranks. Add to that a mysterious murder, more than a few chases, and a good sized dollop of trans-dimensional espionage and you can imagine things start to get proper busy.
At the heart of all this unbridled chaos sits our brazen hero, Ack-Ack Macaque, the monkey flying-ace. Still rude, still crude and still dangerous to know. A sentient macaque monkey with a sardonic attitude and a penchant for booze and brawling, he manages to be the perfect antidote to all the square-jawed action heroes that you’re used to. There is something marvellously enticing about any character that just does whatever the hell they want and damn the consequences. Mr Macaque’s devil-may-care boldness is so dashed refreshing.
Things have moved on since the close of book one. The relationship between Victoria Valois, now captain of airship Tershkova, and Ack-Ack has evolved from when we last meet them. Both are unique in the world and they find a kindred spirit in one another. K8, the cheeky Scottish hacker also returns, still looking out for her simian guvnor. Paul, Victoria’s ex-husband, also lends a virtual hand or two. Essentially, we’re talking about the world’s weirdest dysfunctional family here but it all sort of works.
The reality that Ack-Ack Macaque inhabits is mind-bogglingly realised, similar enough to our own to be recognisable but also just slightly different enough to remain tantalising. I love the idea of the huge monolithic Zeppelins travelling the globe. Given the opportunity I think I’d love to travel somewhere on the Tershkova. The subtle differences in world history, the United Kingdom merging with France for example, are also a nice little touch. This sort of carefully thought-out world building enhances the background of the story and gives the narrative a sense of legitimacy.
I’m sure you have probably all been wondering, how does one create an anthropomorphic primate fighter pilot? Surely we’ve all wanted to befriend our very own flying monkey at one point or another? (I’ll assume you’ve all answered yes to this question). I’ve done a little investigative research and I think that I’ve hit upon something close to the answer. Distill and blend together the flying ability of James “Biggles” Bligglesworth, the rougish charm of Sir Harry Paget Flashman and the legendary drinking ability of Oliver Reed. Apply the resulting essence liberally to a macaque monkey and raise the result to full awareness. Ta-da! Your very own Ack-Ack Macqaue*
This second book ends with things veering off into truly unexpected territory. Nothing like a wild tangent appearing out of the wide blue yonder to keep a reader on their toes. No spoilers of course. Suffice to say, things have just gotten very, very interesting for our favourite monkey fly-boy and his compatriots. Book three, Macaque Attack, just can’t arrive soon enough. I genuinely can’t wait. This book, and this series, is just such sheer unadulterated fun. Gareth Powell’s first-class writing entertains on every single page. You’d be a bally fool to miss out.
A final thought – I’d love to see this series adapted for the big screen. Handled correctly, this could just be so much bloody fun. Fast paced action with an eclectic bunch of truly memorable characters and lashings of derring-do. Who wouldn’t want to see that? HELLO, ARE YOU LISTENING HOLLYWOOD? YOU NEED TO BE MAKING THIS NOW! Excuse the outburst, I may just have to wander off for a bit and ponder who would make it into my dream cast. The biggest question is who should play our eponymous hero?
Hive Monkey is published by Solaris Books and is available on 2nd January 2014.
*Disclaimer – I’m not going to be held responsible if he blows anything up mind you. He’s your responsibility. Treat him well and I’m sure it’ll be fine. He probably won’t bite you in the face, probably.