20 pages into this, you’d be forgiven for thinking Will Self was a meaningful pseudonym. Pretty much from the get go, this seems to be all about convincing us how clever the author is. As Lyn Gardner writes in her Guardian review of the Great Apes stage play,
… the show always seems keener on showcasing its larky cleverness than on creating real feeling.
Replace “the show” with “the novel” and my job here is done.
But for those of you expecting some sort of synopsis, Simon Dykes wakes up from what is effectively a Self-ian version of life to find that he is, not a beetle (cf Kafka), but a chimpanzee.
Or at least everyone else thinks he is. Simon remains convinced for pretty much the rest of our tedious literary journey that he is human. This is quite patently not the case at least from his affinity for touching other chimpanzees genitalia, copulating in a matter of seconds and feeling urges to swing through trees.
There’s very, very little here that hasn’t been done before unless you want to argue that Gulliver failed to include the London borough of Finchley in his travels. What is unique is probably best left in darkness between the covers.
Suffice to say, if you left an infinite number of chimpanzees in a room with an infinite number of typewriters, they might come up with the complete works of Shakespeare, but they’d probably form a committee to ensure they never randomly produced the rubbish that is Great Apes.