Monday, September 07, 2015
Monkey Wars, by Richard Kurti
This nuanced allegory about the rise of totalitarianism set amid the feral primates of Kolkata is one of the more imaginative books of the year. Superficially, it will call to mind the Planet of the Apes, but Kurti's writing is more informed by history. He makes numerous sharp observations about the psychology of terror and propaganda, and the way that totalitarianism both rises and falls. It's an extremely gory novel, but one with extraordinarily important observations to make about human behavior.
This is a "boy" book, in the sense that it focuses on action, at the expense of depicting most emotional growth (with the important exception of Mico's emergence as a liberal thinker). Most of the characters die by the end, so it's best to not get invested (Kurti cruelly spends significant time developing characters who are doomed to be brutally murdered within a chapter or two). And the story is stubbornly androcentric. Females play bit (although sometimes crucial) parts in the story which is overwhelmingly about males posturing and jostling for authority and power. One could blame that on the species depicted, but it is a shame in a story which otherwise uses the primate cover as a thin veil for the human souls expressed.