Ack-Ack Macaque: In which our reviewer finds herself in an adventure

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsAck-Ack Macaque by Gareth L Powell speculative fiction book reviewsAck-Ack Macaque by Gareth L Powell

“Let me get this straight. You’re a World War II fighter pilot,” I say to Ack-Ack, the one-eyed, cigar-chomping macaque as he leads me through the corridor of the airship.

“Right.”

“But it’s 2059.”

“What’s your question?” He glares, a daiquiri glass clenched in his left paw.

“How do you fit in, exactly?”

He spins to face me. “I’m the main character, aren’t I? Ack-Ack Macaque, that’s the book’s name. See? ‘By Gareth L Powell’ and everything.”

“No offense, but I’m not sure you are the main character. You’re certainly the title character, but you aren’t even the first one we meet.”

A woman with a sultry, French accented voice interrupts us. “Move it along, Monkey-Man. No time for exposition.” She looks at me. “I’m Victoria Valois, the first character you met.”

I nod. “I guessed that, from your lack of hair.”

The spunky journalist/freedom fighter puts a hand on her hip. “Hey, it’s a plot point, not a fashion statement.”

I nod again. “Sure, ‘cause the creepy assassin pulled that thing out of your head, the computer or neural net or — ”

“Soul-catcher. We just call them soul-catchers, sunshine. It’s not rocket science.” She stalks down the corridor ahead of us.

“No, but there’s rocket science in it. And genetics, and robotics…”

A door I hadn’t noticed flies open. “Bwahahaha! I am the creepy assassin, the uber-villain!”

“Take off, poser,” Victoria says, slamming the door in the man’s smiling face.  “We have to meet Merovich,” she tells me.

“Merovich, Prince of Wales, right. And he’s going to inherit, um, walk me through this again?”

“England and France are one country. The King of England is in a coma after an assassination attempt. Merovich’s mother is the CEO of a tech company that’s building a ship to go to Mars,” says Ack-Ack.

“Try to keep up.” Victoria lengthens her stride and I do have to hurry to keep up. “Did you read none of the clever Internet-style updates throughout the book?”

“Of course I did. Merovich is part of an Artificial Intelligence liberation movement,” I say, panting as we climb a set of rungs up to the next level.

I poke my head over the edge and see a young man sitting beside a young woman with purple hair. “Everything I ever believed is a lie,” he moans. “I don’t know why I — oh, hullo. Merovich, Prince of Wales, liberator of AIs and action hero, at your service. We must hurry.”

“Why?”

Ack-ack answers. “The plot lines are converging and we have to be there when they do.”

I follow the bald woman, the primate, the prince and the purple-haired woman to another set of rungs in the bulkhead of the massive airship. Suddenly Victoria disappears with a choked-off cry. Ack-Ack throws himself forward and grabs her wrist as she falls down a hole.

“Oh, no!” the purple-haired woman cries. “A Sudden Reversal of Fortune! I’m Julie, love interest of Prince Merovich, by the way. I have a troubled past.”

“I didn’t see that coming,” I say. “The Sudden Reversal, I mean. And sorry about the troubled past.”

She shrugs. “I’m over it.”

Ack-Ack snarls. “You! Break the glass on that case there!”

“What case?” I look around. “Oh, this case?” I break the glass in the box marked Plot Twist and toss the thickly twined rope inside down to Victoria, who pulls herself up.

“Good thing that was there,” I say, following the others up the ladder.

We come out on top of the airship. I pause, taking a moment to admire the view, here in 2059 in an alternate universe. From up here, with only a few vague or foggy places, the landscape looks crisp and clear.

A well-dressed man approaches up with a weapon in his hand. “I must insist that you stop. I am the uber-villain.”

“Are not,” Victoria says.

Rather than rebut, he grabs her by the neck and threatens her with the weapon. “Am too! I will recount our evil plan step-by-step, and deliver nasty sexual innuendos while I’m doing it. Just watch me!”

“I beg your pardon,” Merovich says, drawing himself up to a princely height, “but you really aren’t, you know. You’re merely the uber-villain’s second-in-command.”

“I am too the uber-villain! Bwahahaha! Let’s see your so-called uber-villain top that!”

“Ah, I had not fully appreciated the excellence of your bwahahaha-ing,” Merovich says, bowing slightly. “Perhaps I was mistaken —“

The macaque leaps onto the back on the man and pulls the plug. The man deflates to a puddle, looking despondent. We hurry on.

“I’ve never been to a plot convergence before,” says Julie. “I hope there’s a glitter ball.”

“Is there even an uber-villain?” I ask the macaque.

“Oh, hell, yeah. An uber-villain, an evil scheme, a world in danger, secrets revealed — we’ve got the whole banana here, mate.”

“You don’t think it’s a little strange, though? You don’t think you’re a little strange? I mean —” I gesture to the airship, the bald journalist, and the eye-patched fighter-pilot monkey himself.

“Sure, it’s strange. But it’s fun,” he says. “Now come on. Those plotlines won’t converge by themselves.” He slugs back the last of his daiquiri and lopes away across the listing airship as the sky around us lights up with tracer lines, because we are suddenly surrounded by hostile gunships. I stop. I shrug. And I go with it, because the Monkey-Man is right. It is fun.

Publication Date: December 16, 2012. In 1944, as waves of German ninjas parachute into Kent, Britain’s best hopes for victory lie with a Spitfire pilot codenamed ‘Ack-Ack Macaque.’ The trouble is, Ack-Ack Macaque is a cynical, one-eyed, cigar-chomping monkey, and he’s starting to doubt everything, including his own existence. A century later, in a world where France and Great Britain merged in the late 1950s and nuclear-powered Zeppelins circle the globe, ex-journalist Victoria Valois finds herself drawn into a deadly game of cat and mouse with the man who butchered her husband and stole her electronic soul. Meanwhile, in Paris, after taking part in an illegal break-in at a research laboratory, the heir to the British throne goes on the run. And all the while, the doomsday clock ticks towards Armageddon.

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MARION DEEDS, with us since March 2011, is retired from a 35-year career with county government, where she met enough interesting characters and heard enough zany stories to inspire at least two trilogies’ worth of fantasy fiction. Currently she spends part of her time working at a local used bookstore. She is an aspiring writer herself and, in the 1990s, had short fiction published in small magazines like Night Terrors, Aberrations, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within. On her blog Deeds & Words, she reviews many types of books and follows developments in food policy and other topics.

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5 comments

  1. That was really entertaining, Marion, and it makes me want to read the book. I hope it’s as good as YOUR story!

  2. I enjoyed your story much more than I enjoyed the book. I found it a very flimsy plot resting on questionable science and poor Ack Ack Macaque was just a plot, er, monkey.

  3. April… I, too, felt that Ack Ack got short-changed by the story. I will let you know if that’s true in the sequel, where he plays a larger role (and Merovich and Julie are a much smaller part of the picture). I found this story quite predictable but I enjoyed it.

  4. April, and you should copyright “Plot Monkey!” That is just too good.

  5. Love this review!!

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