Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L. Powell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
In the year 2058, the most popular video game is Ack-Ack Macaque, a World War II simulation starring a macaque fighter pilot. When some young revolutionaries discover the artificial intelligence powering the game is self-aware, they attempt to rescue it, only to find out that it's powered by an elevated monkey. Meanwhile, someone is killing people from the Celeste labs that created Ack-Ack and Victoria Valois, herself rebuilt by Celeste, aims to find out why. But what does this have to do with an attempt on the King's life that has made him a vegetable?
Yeah, this book was really hard to write a teaser for. There's a ton of stuff going on in Ack-Ack Macaque. It's not nearly as frivolous as the title might make it seam. It's part cyberpunk thriller, part WWII pulp action, part alternate history. I mention alternate history since in this version of things, France and Norway joined the UK in the 1950's. Buddy Holly still died in a plane crash, though. And there are nuclear powered airships.
The book has multiple plot threads that eventually converge, that of Victoria and her dead husband trying to solve a mystery, and Prince Merovich and Julie trying to liberate the AI that turns out not to be so artificial after all.
Make no mistake, this is a pretty serious book even though Ack-Ack is hilarious. What's not to love about a cigar-chomping, one-eyed monkey that curses a lot? Nothing, that's what! Anyway, Victoria kicks a serious amount of ass without seeming overly powerful and I found the relationship between Merovich and Julie believable enough. I loved how Victoria rose up and took center stage. The villains' plot was a little out there but it's cyberpunk so that's bound to happen to some degree.
Once the conspiracy is brought to light, everything kicks into high gear. While the heroes took a beating, I wasn't fearing for any of their lives. That being said, it was still an entertaining read with a lot of great concepts and a cigar-chomping monkey. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
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