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Powell, Gareth L

Entry updated 6 April 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1970-    ) UK author who began to publish work of genre interest with "Shadows" in The Rosy Body Cross for 1989, and has published his forceful and populous if sometimes cartoonish shorter work fairly widely, a representative sample being assembled as The Last Reef and Other Stories (coll 2008). He is best known for the Ack-Ack Macaque series – the main sequence comprising Ack-Ack Macaque (2012), which won a BSFA Award for best novel, Hive Monkey (2013) and Macaque Attack (2014), all assembled with added stories as Ack-Ack Macaque: The Complete Trilogy (omni 2017) – which is set in an Alternate World version of Near Future Britain, now amalgamated with France into a Steampunk-ish monarchy called Brittany ruled by a king whose queen runs an international high-Technology corporation named Celeste, after herself. Within this frame is found a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game called Ack-Ack Macaque, set in a Virtual Reality version of World War Two dominated by the exploits of its eponymous Hero (see Apes as Human), a macaque run by or indistinguishable from an increasingly powerful AI, an entity increasingly at odds with its developer Celeste. The protagonist in the Brittany frame is a woman who retains only half of her organic brain, but who houses (see Identity Transfer) a backup personality of her murdered ex-husband. In the second volume, Ack-Ack, having gained egress from the bondage of his game, encounters at least one Hive Mind, a gang of Neanderthals profiled in this book as inherently dangerous, and gathers about him a like-minded troop of fellow beings. Competently Equipoisal if occasionally jittery, the sequence becomes more complex, and the plots thicken, as it continues. A second sequence, the Embers of War series beginning with Embers of War (2018), is a narratively complex Space Opera involving Starships, Alien artefacts whose habit of carving entire planets into memorial artworks strongly evokes a sense of Time Abyss, a Forerunner species about to return to the worlds it fructified aeons ago, and a desperately sought-for Mysterious Stranger who may hold the key to the next volume.

Powell's first two singletons, Silversands (2010) and The Recollection (2011), are perhaps expectedly less exuberant, though the latter intriguingly conflates Near Future London, where a man in the Underground (see Underground) disappears through a portal, possibly into a Space Opera world centuries hence, where Dyson Spheres built by Aliens – possibly Forerunners – can be found, along with Pocket Universes, Inventions, Matter Transmission, and much else. "Spoiler alert" barriers have prevented reviewers from attempting to understand (or to share their understanding of) any genuine concerns governing what may be described as shenanigans; but Powell gives ample hints of being driven by concerns beyond the spectacular. [JC]

Gareth Lyn Powell

born Bristol, England: 1970



Ack-Ack Macaque

  • Ack-Ack Macaque (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Solaris, 2012) [portion appeared September 2007 Interzone: Ack-Ack Macaque: pb/Jake Murray]
  • Hive Monkey (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Solaris, 2013) [Ack-Ack Macaque: pb/Jake Murray]
  • Macaque Attack (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Solaris, 2014) [Ack-Ack Macaque: pb/Jake Murray]

Embers of War

Stars and Bones

individual titles

collections and stories



previous versions of this entry

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