by Richard Kurti
One of the perks of being a part-time teacher is that I get introduced to books that I would never pick up in a million years. Monkey Wars is one of those books. The school that I am presently working in is introducing this novel to their Y8s next week and the author will be visiting the school in January to run a workshop with the pupils and talk about the novel. And here is one of the downsides to being a part-time teacher. I won’t be there when he visits.
Back to the book. A super read and thoroughly engaging. If you are thinking Planet of the Apes – this is not the book for you. The Langur monkeys have driven the Rhesus monkeys out of the cemetery where they live. Driven out is maybe too mild, the Langur are brutal as they drive the Rhesus out. Mico, a young Langur monkey witnesses the violent murder of a lone Rhesus monkey and this leads him to start questioning who he should trust.
Papina, is a young Rhesus monkey, one of the troop that has been driven out of the cemetery. She and Mico meet and a relationship/bond forms. The beginning of the book alternates between Mico and Papina and explores their uneasy alliance. Papina’s stories of Langur attacks contrast sharply with the versions that the Langur leaders tell the Langur monkeys which adds to Mico’s confusion. Mico’s questioning, curious mind is the reason that Tyrell, one of the Langur deputies promotes him; he recognises Mico’s intelligence and realises that he needs to keep him close.
When Tyrell takes over the troop we see the rise of a tryant/dictator. This could be the story of any leader in recent history. Propaganda is used to control. Anyone questioning authority disappears.
I am not going to say any more about the plot but suffice to say that we see intelligence against brute force. Some of the events are gory and horrific but are readable for young minds. You are drawn to Mico and Papina, but other monkeys also have an effect upon you. Fig is an amazing character. As for the ending …. I will leave you to make up your mind. I am so glad that the school have decided to use this novel and I am so disappointed that I will not be able to hear the author discuss his work.