Macaque Attack! (Ack-Ack Macaque) - Gareth L. Powell

Macaque Attack is rather like an episode of Doctor Who, if the Doctor happened to have regenerated into a foul-mouthed, cigar-smoking monkey and the audience level was upgraded from “general” to “mature.” It’s definitely channeling a certain amount of Russell T. Davies. Cybermen? Check. Invasions from other planets? Check. Jumping between parallel worlds and meeting one’s alternate selves? Checkity check check check. I just kept waiting for the daleks to show up.


But instead of slimy little aliens exterminating everything, we have the monkeys. Ack-Ack Macaque and his primate posse are all human-engineered hyperintelligent Haplorhini, altered in labs by mad scientists until they had human intelligence. The monkeys are a worthy substitute for daleks, combining hilarity with extreme destructiveness. As Ack-Ack puts it:

“I’m happy as long as I get to wreck stuff and hurt people.”

Considering that the rest of the cast includes a bionic woman and the electronic projection of her dead husband, a techie girl still recovering from a mind-meld with the Gestalt, a talking computer, a mad scientist, a seriously evil megalomaniac, you know you’re definitely in for a ride. Add in a series of alternate universes-- including one where England and France joined together into a single kingdom and zepplins are the main form of transportation-- and it can’t help but be an entertaining read.


Even so, however, I don’t know how well it works as a standalone rather than the culmination of a series. Being me, I picked up the third book at random. While it wasn’t so hard to figure out what was going on,  I sometimes had difficulty understanding where newly-introduced perspective characters fit into the continuing story.  I wasn’t sufficiently invested in the characters or familiar with their conflicts. There were too many risks, too many reveals, too many threats, too many explosions, too many impending apocalypses for any of it to be particularly suspenseful.

The most problematic aspect of jumping in was the Kat subplot. I couldn’t figure out where it fit in, couldn’t figure out if she was a previous character or a new one, and really couldn’t understand when or where that scene was supposed to happen. The twist just didn’t do it for me. Maybe it’s because I didn’t read the previous books, but I wasn’t sufficiently invested in the characters or world to feel the punch, making the twist seem rather cheap. I especially disliked the twist regarding Ack-Ack: the fact that he’s a human soul somehow diminishes his character. He’s not an intelligent, lucky monkey; he was human all along, and all of his adventures were effectively predetermined.

(show spoiler)

Despite an attempt to wander into the profound, it never really made it out of a TV-show-level superficiality. All the same, even though I wasn't particularly invested in the characters or conflicts, it was an enjoyable read, a hectic, humorous read with a few interesting twists. Given my experiences with jumping into the series, I’d definitely suggest starting with the first book rather than the third, but if cyberpunk cigar-smoking monkeys, alternate universes, virtual worlds, and evil cyborgs sound like an interesting read, then you may want to take a look.


~~I received this ebook through Netgalley from the publisher, Solaris, in exchange for my honest review.~~