Hive Monkey, by Gareth L. Powell

Series: Ack-Ack Macaque #2

Format: eARC (Kindle)

Publisher: Solaris

Published: 31st December 2013

Where I got it: NetGalley

My rating: 4/5

Mild spoiler warning for Book 1 following…

In order to hide from his unwanted fame as the Spitfire-pilot-monkey who emerged from a computer game to defeat the dangerous corporation who engineered him, the charismatic and dangerous Ack-Ack Macaque is working as a pilot on a world-circling nuclear powered Zeppelin. But when the cabin of one of his passengers is invaded by that 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!

The second book in Gareth L. Powell’s pulp-inspired series is every bit as sharp and energetic as the first, and very possibly even more gleefully crazy in terms of plot! I found the first book to be great fun, and this follow-up certainly doesn’t drop that ball. If anything, Powell punts it higher…

The pulp adventure roots of these books show clearly, and without the clever style with which the author writes them I doubt they’d be nearly so entertaining. Luckily, I enjoy me some good old-fashioned adventure; sometimes it’s just what the bookworm-doctor ordered, and this was definitely the case here. Gareth L. Powell takes a style of story-telling that you might rightly declare well out of style, even unbecoming of this modern age of SF/F, and gives it not only a great modern twist but breathes life into characters that could easily otherwise have been two-dimensional plot-drivers, cheesy gimmicks and nothing more. Instead we have, in Ack-Ack Macaque and Captain Victoria Valois especially, a pair of sympathetic characters whose humanity lends them emotional weight even while they themselves are questioning it. 

The key here is, I think, that even though they might rightly question their humanity on one level, on another they are unapologetic about who and what they are. They’re both proud, and both courageous enough to take on what faces them without a lot of hand-wringing and self-doubt. As paired protagonists go, I enjoy this pair immensely.

Then there’s K8, the hacker who helped to turn Ack-Ack Macaque loose from the clutches of Celeste in the first book. She’s Scottish and she’s pretty fierce. Of course I like her! She plays a more pivotal role in this book, and while I won’t give anything away about that here, it certainly serves to leave me more invested than ever in the fate of our hardy little bunch of heroes…

As for the bad guys in this round, I will admit that hive-mind style villains never fail to creep me out, and here they’re no exception. Of course I rooted for the monkey! As the rest of the supporting cast in this book go… I felt a little bit like they were underused, that I would have liked a bit more of them, but with central characters like the ones we have here, taking screen time away from them would have displeased me more, so my complaint is, all things considered, just a little one.

The plot barrels along at a non-stop pace, and while there are Scientific Ideas running wild throughout, they never slow things down. Indeed, I suspect that ‘slowing down’ was never on Powell’s agenda here… And while I must confess to a tiny bit of lingering eyebrow-raising over said plot, I still can’t deny that it all works. Marvellously, in fact. The original era of pulp-SF adventures may have passed me by, but this series has definitely impressed me. If nothing else, I can happily declare myself a fan of this author’s work. I’ll certainly be on the lookout for Book 3! 

2 thoughts on “Hive Monkey, by Gareth L. Powell

  1. I skimmed until the end because I didn’t want the spoiler. Normally I might not have minded but having read a post by Gareth Powell on SF Signal recently that I found interesting, I’m now wanting to give the first book in this series a try. And if I like it I’ll then one to try this one!

    It wasn’t a post without controversy. Here is the link if you are interested:

    1. I have actually read that, and really liked it. He makes some good points, even though I personally started with older sci-fi and liked it.

      You should absolutely read Gareth’s books! Good honest fun. 😀

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