In order to get the most from this novel you need only do one thing. If you can happily accept the premise a monkey can fly a fighter plane during World War II and that it is the most natural thing in the world you'll be on to a winner. Yes, yes I know it sounds entirely absurd (it is) but you know what? It totally works. Powell revels in the madness of it all and has crafted a cracking science-fiction adventure around the idea.
The character of Ack-Ack Macaque himself is just so much damn fun. Think a sardonic, simian Biggles with a penchant for bad rum and good banana daiquiris and you'll be about half way there. He enjoys his cigars, swears more than my wife (you'll have to trust me on this one, she swears a lot) and has a marvellously bolshie attitude. His default solution to almost every situation is varying degrees of violence. Larger than life and proud of it he is more than just a character, he is a force of nature.
"You know what we need, Merovech?"
A hairy palm slapped the wood hard enough to raise dust.
"Booze! And lots of it!"
Meanwhile the other main lead, Victoria Valois, manages to hold her own against the one-monkey war machine that is Ack-Ack Macaque. She's intelligent, inquisitive and absolutely determined to uncover the details of the conspiracy that left her ex-husband dead. Victoria's history gives Powell the opportunity to include some really cool technology in the story.
Now how do these two finally end up in the same place? Well, that would be telling and I'm not going to do that. Take it from me the discovery, in this instance, is half the fun.
You're bound to feel a certain amount of deranged joy when you realise that all bets are off. In this novel, anything can potentially happen and most likely probably will. In the space of the first hundred pages alone Powell manages to throw a couple of major curve-balls into the plot that I'll admit I didn't see coming. I thought I had things sussed pretty quickly and was overjoyed when I realised that I was almost entirely wrong. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I had very high expectations before I started reading Ack-Ack Macaque (what can I say, some of us have stayed closer to the old evolutionary tree than others), but nothing could have prepared me for the novel I read. Any book that makes me grin like a buffoon whenever I cracked it open is a definite winner. Full of great characters, fast moving plot and lashings of first-rate action, I can't recommend this highly enough. I didn't just like this I loved it.
"If bullets wouldn't work, he'd have to do it the traditional way, with an old school monkey knife fight."
The novel also includes a couple of nice extras that offer a little insight into the inception of the character of Ack-Ack Macaque. The first short story that the character appeared in is reprinted and I rather like the idea that the monkey has always been hanging around somewhere just waiting to be discovered.
There had better be sequel to this or I will be unleashing my own army of flying monkeys to sort the publishers out. I'll take no pleasure in it, but I'll do it! I promise you!