Monday 29 December 2014

Interview with Gareth L Powell & Review of Macaque Attack

GARETH L. POWELL is an award-winning science fiction and fantasy author from Bristol. His third novel, Ack-Ack Macaque, co-won the 2013 BSFA Award for Best Novel.

You can find Gareth online here: and on Twitter as @garethlpowell and Ack Ack Macaque can be found on Twitter too @AckAckMacaque

I caught up with Gareth as I was sent a copy of Macaque Attack - the third and concluding part of the fantastic Macaque series. I previously interviewed him when the second book came out -

Macaque Attack

If someone hasn’t read any of the books yet what can you say that will tempt them to do so now the trilogy is complete?

GLP: People who have been following the trilogy already know that there’s a lot more to the books than just a talking monkey. The human characters are just as vital to the experience, and I tried to make them all believably flawed and interesting individuals. And, while there's all the action and adventure you could possibly wish for, the story also touches on some deeper issues, such as the way we change as we age; how we work through grief and loss; and what it means to be human in a world where consciousness can be copied and run on artificial synapses. It’s also about how a group of damaged loners can come together to form a family. The Guardian called it, “A mind-expanding cyber-thriller,” and I like to think there’s something in this trilogy for everybody, whether you’re looking for straightforward action, and interesting and unusual setting, or something a little more philosophical.

It’s been pretty much a year since I read the last one – can I just pick this one up and go or do I need to have a bit of a refresher?

GLP: The events in this book take place a couple of years after the end of Hive Monkey, but reference characters and events in both preceding volumes. So, it would probably be a good idea to look back at Ack-Ack Macaque and Hive Monkey before you dive into the new one. And if you want to get the most from the experience, I’d suggest you also read my earlier novel, The Recollection, too - as there are some surprises for fans of that book too.

Hive Monkey

Are you sad to be waving goodbye to the monkey – or will he be back? he’s already been in a short & a comic, what’s next a radio adaptation? 

GLP: It's been a bittersweet farewell. I’ve spent three years with these characters - Ack-Ackm Victoria, K8 and Merovech - and I’ve become fond of them. I’ve seen them change and grow over the course of three books, so I know I’m going to miss them. On the other hand, I have other stories I want to write, and new characters to explore. I’ve had a blast writing the monkey books, but it’s time to move on. Ack-Ack’s story has been told - at least, for the time being - and I’m very excited about the projects I’m working on now.

What did you learn about writing by writing a trilogy?

GLP: With a trilogy, you have to keep ramping up the tension. You can’t just write the same book three times. The characters have to change and grow, and the final novel has to do justice to them, wrapping up their character arcs and knotting up all the loose ends from the previous books, while simultaneously taking the story to a whole new level.

The Recollection

Would you write another trilogy? If not why not, if so why so?

GLP: The needs of the story determine its length, and some are naturally longer or shorter than others. If I find another tale that needs to play out over the course of three books, I’ll gladly write it!

Why do you think three books works well as a series?

GLP: I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s related to the classic three act structure. The first book introduces the players and their world; the second expands upon the first and introduces a twist; and then the third brings it all to a satisfying conclusion.

What’s next for you?

GLP: I’m working on a new science fiction novel.

Apparently you’re going to be wearing a monkey suit to the launch? Tell us why & what you feel about this?

GLP: When I posted the cover art for Macaque Attack on Twitter, I rashly promised that if the picture got over a thousand retweets, I would attend the launch dressed as a monkey. It did, and so I have to make good on my side of the wager. I have the costume all ready, and it should be fun. Hopefully people will be laughing with me as much as at me.

Ack-Ack Macaque

Talking of launches – where & when can people see you?

The following dates have been confirmed:

·         Thursday 15th January, 6:00 pm – Forbidden Planet Bristol Megastore
·         Friday 16th January, 6:00 pm – Forbidden Planet Cambridge Store
·         Saturday 17th January 1:00 pm – Forbidden Planet London Megastore
·         Wednesday 21st January, 6:00 pm – Forbidden Planet Southampton Megastore
·         Thursday 22nd January, 6:00 pm – Forbidden Planet Birmingham Store
·         Thursday 29th January, 6:30 pm – Waterstones Liverpool (Tickets £3/2)
I will be doing readings and signings at all the events. A life-sized cardboard cut-out of Ack-Ack Macaque will also be present at all the venues, for pictures and merriment.

I’ve already asked you the classic BRSBKBLOG “in one sentence what is your best piece of advice for new writers?” so I guess I should ask you what your second best piece of advice is? 

GLP: Read as many books as possible, both within and outside of your intended genre. See what’s been done before, and how it’s been done. Find out what turns you off as a reader and avoid including it in your books. Read everything, and keep writing away until you find your own voice.

Many thanks to Gareth for dropping by - the reviews for all three books are below.

Ack-Ack Macaque

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?

Hive Monkey

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!

Macaque Attack

If you've read this far you are hoping that Powell can pull off a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy with all the trademark explosions and monkey action. Well fear not, he does, with verve, with a few surprising twists and with all the humour and thought-provoking plot you've come to expect. Ack-Ack has been jumping dimensions, saving various uplifted simians and building a monkey army. Meanwhile on their earth Merovich gets a message from his mother. It's not long before there's a race against time to save the multiverse. Old characters grow, new characters are introduced (an ape called Cuddles - featured on the cover - is worth a mention) and there are shocks and revelations. As with the previous instalments the pages whizz by in a frenetic, white knuckled pace and upon turning the last page there is a real sense of completeness, even though you'll want more from the world, the characters and especially the monkey.

Overall - Satisfying and entertaining conclusion. Can't wait to see what Powell does next.

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