A novel with a powerful beginning: a troop of Langur monkeys kills most of the group of Rhesus monkeys that live in the old cemetery of Kolkata. The survivors are snatched from their home in this dramatic attack. After this opening Richard Kurti guides us to a place where time is measured in Seasons, Moons and maybe other forms of more primitive lapses. In fact, we assist to one of those episodes that determine the course of history of… only monkeykind?
The author starts from a real incident that connects this story of apes with the human beings. In 2007 the Deputy Mayor of Delhi died after being attacked by a gang of Rhesus macaques. In order to find a solution to this sort of acts of violence the authorities tried using Langurs, a fiercer breed of monkey, to put the Rhesus off.
In Monkey Wars, the Rhesus live peacefully and safe before the attack. They actually believe monkeys are gods and have the perception that people pay homage to them as the living representation of the Monkey-God they worship.
As for the Langurs, the Rhesus territory squatters, their assumed duty is to bring peace to the city. They know what means to be a Langur and will face all attempts of destabilization and terrorism by the means of a militarized state based on ideological control and totalitarianism.
In a delicious night adventure Papina, a young Rhesus female, meets Mico, a small but smart Langur monkey. Their complicated relationship will end up being crucial in this story. Mico will be in between the Langurs and the Rhesus. Commanded by Tyrell, a paranoid monkey that strangely trusts Mico at first, he’ll help Papina and the other Rhesus to survive far from home.
Loyal to Tyrell but not a sellout, Mico will ask himself about the others. Are they as wicked as they say? He casts doubt on Langurs’ morals and realizes that under Tyrell’s instructions everything is meant to be conspiracy and threat. That’s why the Langurs have assaulted in a pitched battle not only the Rhesus but also other group, the Bonnets.
What I find in this novel is dynamic narrative, as agile as its characters’ movements, which are natural to monkeys and also crucial for them, especially for the Rhesus to keep safe. Richard Kurti has shaped a great fresco of society for those who may take this monkeys chronicle as an obvious metaphor for human power structure. Kurti has not just observed the monkeys but above all humans, from which he's taken psychology to depict characters. The dark ones, such as Deputy Tyrell, are really well created. He is a manipulative monkey who surrounds himself with circles to get reinforced as the new leader-to-be. Regarding Mico, Papina and the others, they all own a rich and humanlike profile.
This novel’s got potential as a movie. I could see the images while reading and thought about it once and again. I admire how the atmosphere in the intimate or massive situations is so properly grasped. In short, this is a great and very well written novel about military organization, its hierarchy, corrupt practices of politics, mistrust, betrayal, power struggles and a nicely finished criticism about manipulation.