Friday 8 November 2013

This week I have also been talking to Gareth L Powell about his book Hive Monkey, the new sequel to Ack-Ack Macaque.

My review of Ack-Ack Macaque as a reminder is here:

Alternative history SF

I was lucky enough to snag an ARC of Gareth L. Powell’s latest book. The novel hits the beaches in January 2013 from Solaris. Imagine what the world would be like if the UK, France and Norway amalgamated in the 50’s and spin that forwards 50 years into the future. This is what Gareth Powell has done with this story that is an “xpunk” (taking the best from Cyber AND steam) novel. There are aircraft carrier sized nuclear powered Zeppelin cities that are neutral territory. There are soul catchers that allow people to record a backup of their personalities. There are immersive alt reality games. There is “gelware” that can replace brain tissue if you accidently bash your head in a helicopter accident. There is the prince of Wales who gets involved with a girl with purple hair who is an AI rights activist. And there is a foul mouthed, one eyed, cigar chomping monkey with a pair of revolvers, a flying jacket and a bad attitude.

"Do you know what you have to do?" Ack-Ack Macaque grinned, exposing his teeth "Same as I always do, right?" He snapped the reloaded Colt back together and spun the barrel. "Blow shit up, and hurt people"

Throw in Nazi ninjas, a dastardly plot, a woman journo with a dead husband in her head, a looming nuclear conflict and a rocket to Mars and you have a full on entertaining adventure yarn. Ack-Ack Macaque started life as a short story (albeit one very different from the novel) included at the end of the novel that was published in Interzone.

Overall – It has Monkeys. Monkeys flying planes. Monkeys shooting Nazis. Nazis who are also ninjas. Need I say more?

I picked up a copy of Hive Monkey at wfc2013, Gareth was a little surprised it was on sale as the official launch is January 2014.


Tell me about the world of Hive Monkey – how is it different to our own?


GLP: Hive Monkey, like its predecessor Ack-Ack Macaque, takes place in a world that diverged from ours during the Suez Crisis. In our world, when the French prime minister proposed a political merger between Britain and France, Anthony Eden turned him down; but in my fictional universe, he said yes, because France and the UK had just secured a military victory in Suez (which they failed to do in our world). This means that in the world of Hive Monkey, European power rests in a commonwealth based around London and Paris, rather than a federation based around Paris and Berlin.

Also, there are huge nuclear-powered Zeppelins.
What are the challenges in writing a sequel as opposed to writing a standalone and how did you tackle them?

GLP: On the whole, writing a sequel was fun. It was fun to keep writing about characters for whom I’d developed a fondness. The main challenge I found was in deciding how much explanation to put into the book, for readers who may not have read the first one. Hopefully, I got the balance right...

Was the monkey always going to appear in a series?

GLP: The monkey started off as a character in a short story in Interzone. Then he got his own novel. Now it’s a trilogy. Who knows where he might go next...

If you could be a character from the book who would it be and why?

GLP: In some ways, I guess all the characters contain aspects of my personality, in so far as they came from my imagination. Given the choice, though, I guess I’d have to choose the monkey. I mean, who wouldn’t? He’s pretty much free to do and say whatever he wants. He doesn’t give a shit, and he gets to blow things up. He is absolutely the Mr Hyde to my Dr Jekyll.

What are you working on right now? (apart from this interview of course!)

GLP: I’m currently working on the third book in the Macaque Trilogy. It’s called Macaque Attack, and it’s out in January 2015.

Do you have a set writing process, if so what is it?

GLP: I write while the kids are at school, and sometimes in the evening, after they’ve gone to bed. I don’t have a specific number of words I aim to get done each day; I just try to ensure that the words I write are good ones. I’d rather write 500 good words than 2000 mediocre ones.

What are you most proud of about the book?

GLP: This is the first novel-length sequel I’ve written, and I think it holds up very well against the first book. In fact, I think it’s even better. It takes the characters and themes from Ack-Ack Macaque and cranks the whole thing up a couple of gears.

This is very much an SF book, is there anything that draws you to this genre over any other?

GLP: I’ve always been a fan of SF, since before I could even read. So it makes sense that I write in the genre now. After all, if you write what you love, and you have fun doing it, that affection and enjoyment come across to the reader.

In one sentence what is your best piece of advice for new writers?

GLP: Write first, edit later. 

My review:

Hive Monkey Gareth L Powell


In Ack-Ack Macaque Gareth L Powell introduced us to the cigar chomping, Spitfire flying, foul talking uplifted Monkey who escaped from an artificial reality game to help save the world. In this sequel he is back, bigger, badder and with more explosions. Like a movie franchise the first book sets up the world and the tone and the second raises the stakes and cranks up the action. In this, the middle of a trilogy, we are introduced to a new enemy , the Gestalt, a hive mind hell bent on assimilating Ack-Ack’s world. With his friends from the first book – Victoria Valois and her dead husband Paul (who in this one has been upgraded to hologram status), the hacker K8, a cameo from Merovich who is now King, and introducing a new character William Cole, a SF writer, Ack-Ack sets out to save the world again. From about the halfway point this is all action and Powell does well to keep the wheels spinning, and like most action films you don’t want to stop and ask questions as the pages fly by. If you like the first book you’ll love this second one.

Overall - As with the first book there is a cinematic feel and I could totally see this as an anime film. It feel it’s too long to wait for the third book!

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