23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Great Apes (Paperback)
Great Apes is the second Will Self book I have read recently in an attempt to familiarise myself with critically acclaimed modern fiction (the other was "How the Dead Live"). The book focuses on an alternate world which is deliberately identical to our world save that the society is characterised by intelligent chimps. The juxtaposition is the main source of Self's humour. The story is based around the character Simon Dykes who is an eminent artist who experiences a form of drug induced mental breakdown in which he believes that he's the only human within that society (albeit trapped within a chimps body).The story evolves from this episode and centres on attempts by the chimp society and particularly an alternative physchiatrist (and former TV personality)named Zak Busner to rehabilitate him.
Self creates a very detailed, and I found, somewhat disturbing image, of an evolved chimp society where despite their intelligence the fundamentals of chimp behaviour are layered into a cosmopolitan London landscape, i.e mass public sex chains, displays of swollen rear ends as a formal greeting, hierarchical dominance displays and so forth. This is intriguing at first however I soon became tired of the often unnecessarily lewd and sexually perverse material. It is incomparable with a true satire such as Swift's Gullivers Travels.
What strikes me about Self's writing is that he uses flowery prose and words that you have never heard of to flesh out his narrative. Most of which is unnecessary, surely the mark of a good author is to guide the reader through an enjoyable and comprehensible narrative! Self attempts to impose upon the reader how clever and verbose he is often by the range of vocabulary used! Read a Hemingway novel to see that the use of words is to colour the story and guide the reader through the narrative, not for the prose to be an end in itself i.e showboating..
The story fizzles out in the end and I was glad to finish as it was an ardous process whilst sometimes illuminating mainly tedious and smacks of Self's vanity rather than any useful commentary on the human condition.