Guest Post: “Thinking Like A Monkey” by Gareth L. Powell

PowellGarethL-AuthorPicOne of the largest challenges I faced while writing my ‘Macaque’ trilogy (Ack-Ack Macaque, Hive Monkey and Macaque Attack – all published by Solaris Books) was in writing chapters and scenes from the point of view of my main character.

Ack-Ack Macaque really is a monkey. He’s not a guy in a rubber suit. So, I felt duty bound to make him act like one. I had to imagine how a monkey (even a monkey whose intelligence has been boosted to human-like levels by artificial implants) would react in given situations and interact with the other characters in the book.

For instance, early in the first book, he warns somebody he’s just met not to smile at him, as, to a monkey, baring one’s teeth can be a challenge, as can sustained eye contact.

“Don’t take it personally,” he says. “It’s a primate thing.”

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Similarly, he can run faster on all fours, and use his feet almost as well as his hands. And he has a habit of grooming himself during conversations – and eating whatever he finds in his fur – that unnerves and disgusts the humans around him.

When faced with hostility, Ack-Ack’s first response is to meet the confrontation head-on. In the monkey world, fights tend to consist of screaming and leaping, biting and scratching. Strategy exists, but it tends to be a lot blunter than most human generals would pride themselves on displaying. This often gets him into worse trouble, but it was very refreshing to write a character who was ready to wade into battle without a moment’s thought.

As humans, we seem to have a fascination with monkeys and apes, from the chimps’ tea parties in London Zoo to the PG Tips advertisements; from King Kong to the Journey To The West. There’s something about these creatures that are so like us, yet so different. In my series, Ack-Ack Macaque crosses the boundary between animal and human, and finds he no longer belongs in either camp.

After spending the past three years in his company, I’ve become very fond of Ack-Ack. He’s the sort of person we wish we could be – smart, tough and unlikely to give a shot about the consequences of his actions. He’s the Hyde to our Jekyll, a monster from the collective Id. He’s the irate child in all of us, lashing out at an unfair world. And, at the same time, he’s on a journey. In the first book, he’s disorientated and adrift, trying to adjust to a strange new world while seeking vengeance on those who made him. He is Frankenstein’s monster let loose. But by the second book, he’s begun to mature; he’s started to let people into his life the series is very much about the process of growing up and becoming an adult, which means learning to care for those around you, allowing yourself to be vulnerable to them, and wearing your scars less as prizes and more as cautionary reminders.

Although he’s a half-blind monkey, I hope that seeing the world through Ack-Ack’s solitary eye gives us a better view of what it is that makes us human beings.

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Macaque Attack by Gareth L. Powell is published by Solaris Books in January 2015. You can check out an excerpt here. Here’s the synopsis:

The Spitfire pilot monkey Ack-Ack Macaque faces a world on the brink in this adventure, the conclusion to his astonishing, award-winning trilogy.

In the thrilling conclusion of the Macaque Trilogy, the dangerous but charismatic Ack-Ack Macaque finds himself leading a dimension-hopping army of angry monkeys, facing an invading horde of implacable killer androids, and confronting the one challenge for which he was never prepared: impending fatherhood! Meanwhile, former journalist Victoria Valois fights to save the electronic ghost of her dead husband and reclaim his stolen soul from the sands of Mars.

If you want to interact with Ack-Ack, you can find him on Twitter: @AckAckMacaque

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