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Great Apes

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  2,611 Ratings  ·  175 Reviews
Fans of Will Self's satirical fiction and stunning prose will not be disappointed in the latest from the author who brought readers through the bizarre war between the sexes in Cock & Bull and into the costly world of high-stakes business in My Idea of Fun. With Great Apes, Self takes readers into a sort of "Planet of the Apes" with a twist.

Simon Dykes is a London pai

Paperback, 416 pages
Published August 11th 1998 by Grove Press (first published 1997)
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Community Reviews

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Anthony Vacca
Mar 17, 2016 Anthony Vacca rated it it was amazing
Great Apes is no small achievement. For one, it takes what most would guffaw away as a cheap gimmick good enough for a barroom joke (or a sequence of five movies, two television series, and two separate remakes with one spawning its very own sequel) but certainly not enough of a creative impetus to carry the heft of a four-hundred page novel atop its shoulders, right? Wrong. Self’s satiric gusto knows no boundaries in Great Apes, which stars a troubled mope of an artist, Simon Dykes, who after a ...more
Feb 14, 2008 Will rated it did not like it
I read this book mainly because of that awful picture on the cover, which was also strangely intriguing, and because I'd heard good things about Will Self. I found myself frustrated not twenty pages in, however, by both the language (which was ridiculously over-written) and the gimmicky nature of the plot (a bunch of apes act like people, basically), both of which stood in for any meaningful plot.

I'm giving this book one star, then, because it didn't make me feel anything at all. Yes, I underst
May 06, 2012 Clare rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
Okay, this one gets a point for concept and one for some nice prose, when the author isn't trying to beat you over the head with how clever he is and introduce you to a new twenty dollar word with each paragraph. However, the ape dialogue, which is a mixture of English with simian grunts and barks, is just plain annoying. There's only so many "Wraaf"s and "Hoo'Graaa"s I can stand. Incest and genitalia-displaying may well be an important part of chimpanzee culture, but I just can't get on board w ...more
MJ Nicholls
We asked three pupils in Class 2B at Roswell High what they would do if they woke up as an ape:

Daniel sez:

“I wish I was an ape in the evenings. If I was an ape in the evenings I would hang around the school gates spooking the teachers. I would knuckle-walk up to that sandal-wearing nonce Mr Almott and slap him so hard around the gums he’d need a new set of teeth to learn basic Esperanto. In the evenings I would sip tea on a tyre suspended from a tree and go “Hoo-haa!” while masturbating so hard
Jun 15, 2009 Stop added it
Shelves: interviewees
Read the STOP SMILING interview with author Will Self.

The Stop Smiling Interview with Will Self

By Sally Vincent

(This interview originally appeared in the STOP SMILING Photography Issue)

The first time I laid eyes on Will Self, he was monologuing about flying buttresses to a startled and ever-increasing audience of slack-jawed strangers, seemingly dumbstruck by his magniloquence. It was as though he couldn’t help himself. As though all this passion about architecture had been buildin
Feb 25, 2015 arkadyfalls rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other-modern
Very funny, and much more erotic than I was prepared for (so be comfortable with chimp porn if you're going to read this). It may sound trite (and possibly is lifted from the back cover of the book), but this novel did make me think about what it means to be human. And I was pleased and surprised when I didn't get the ending I hoped for.

Plus I only had to look up definitions for, like, ten words, max.
Brent Legault
Sep 14, 2013 Brent Legault rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: the low-browed, the uni-browed
This book, if book is what you must call it, stank up my life for ten days or two weeks while I dodged all of the chimpshit Self decided to fling at me, the innocent reader. Chimpshit. That's all it was. Four hundred pages of chimpshit.

Oh. I'm sorry. Did I forget to mention that I thought this novel to be nothing but chimpshit? Pure and fruity chimpshit?
May 10, 2008 tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: readers of Stewart Home's bks
Shelves: literature
I 1st read mention of Will Self in a text by Stewart Home. Home insulted Self as being something along the lines of a rich Oxford junkie who doesn't deserve his reputation as an underground writer. Since I'd never heard of Self before, he had no reputation w/ me at all. Knowing Stewart's tendency to publically degrade anyone who he perceives as competition, I didn't take the negativity as representative of any substantial critical take. After all, it seems that Home's usual intention is to disco ...more
Feb 28, 2008 R. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tobedatedlater
Bought a second copy from the bargain bin at Hasting's. My first reading was courtesy of a girlfriend with a library card - I strongly advise that, whenever possible, hook up with somebody who has a valid library card.

The first copy I owned, cash-in-hand, was from a bookstore that also had the 12" single of R.E.M.'s "Wendell Gee". But somebody had drawn on the cover with a crayon.

There wasn’t even time to sign/Goodbye to Wendell Gee/
So HoooRAHAaaH'ooo as the wind blows/H'ooHOOOraHAHA as the wi
Nov 20, 2015 Tony rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
I quite like Mr Self. Well, I don't actually know him, but when interviewed on the box or listening to his commentary on something in particular, I've always thought 'he's a switched on bloke, he knows where his towel is'. And such things.

I didn't like this though. The language was like pulling teeth. I could hear the grinding and squeaking of the tooth against the bone.

Could feel the dentist's foot on my shoulder, bracing himself.

In short, forced.

The blurb sounds good but I just couldn't get in
Dec 10, 2011 Adrian rated it did not like it
I didn't finish this book because it was far too much hard work. Even with an Oxbridge degree (though not in literature), I pretty much found myself opening a dictionary every couple of pages. And the new words used didn't really enrich or enliven the story - or my own vocab. I very much get the impression that the author is very much Self by name... This novel makes me think he writes for self-agrandisement rather than for creativity and the enjoyment of others.
Ryszard Karpiński
Sep 09, 2013 Ryszard Karpiński rated it it was amazing
Absolutely amazing.
It's shocking when you're realize that EVERYTHING is relative and if we take something as absolute, it's not because we're not subjective. it's because we "humbly" perceive our subjectivity as superior hence we can say it's objectivity just because we can; there is nobody to question that.
This book questions that and that's why it's so striking and deeply disturbing.
Sexually driven and obsessed like everything of Self. Great read.
May 18, 2015 Geoff marked it as to-read
Another Dr. Zack Busner adventurama?? I'm in!

WAIT so Dr. Zack Busner is a recurring Self character? Oh good that's great!
Jul 28, 2010 Mommalibrarian rated it did not like it
one line joke in 404 pages. The reader may get a minor positive feeling when the figure out some of the made-up words 'chimpunity' = humanity. There are major or minor levels of shock and disgust depending on your personal threshold for grossness when the 'apes' do the things you may have seen monkeys do at the zoo as part of acceptable everyday culture. And then there is the redundancy of having these two tricks expended and repeated to pad out the story. I am not sure why I forced myself to co ...more
Maarten Wagemakers
This is not the easiest book to get into. Will Self's indulgent use of thesaurus antiquities makes this is a difficult read if you're not in the right mindset for it, which is why it took several attempts over the years to actually finish this book. However, once you've managed to buy into his prose, it turned out this wasn't that hard to digest after all.

Despite the fact that I finished it in a single day does not necessarily mean it is a pageturner, however. It is an interesting twist on the
Sharon Bakar
Jun 19, 2016 Sharon Bakar rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, novels, british
This book has one of the most exhilarating first chapters I've ever read - I actually went back to reread it twice before moving on to chapter 2. The basic premise of the book is fascinating: the central character is transformed intio a chimpanzee and so is everyone else around him. The first part of the book was a joy, but the joke wears progressively thinner as the book goes on. It would have made a great novella, but the pressure to make it a book length thing destroyed it.
Brian Cowlishaw
Jul 09, 2016 Brian Cowlishaw rated it it was amazing
I think now that I have proved to myself again, the truth of the idea that certain authors can only really be properly appreciated if you read them at the right time in your life. I purchased The Book of Dave as it came out several (7 or 8?) years ago, but set it aside until this summer. I've read that, Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys, and now Great Apes since March. I am 100% impressed. Self is now my favorite non-Desi British author. In the language of the chimps in Great Apes, "It wou ...more
Tom Schulte
May 28, 2014 Tom Schulte rated it liked it
The best critique of footnotes came from the actor John Barrymore (or Noel Coward or I don't know who) who likened footnotes to something "rushing down the stairs every time the doorbell rings on one's wedding night." Well, encountering a twenty-five-cent word the same way with definition not obvious context is like having to leave the honeymoon suite to go to Western Union to send money to bail out a misbehaving friend. Self can't get past himself to do that often and so often he used a shoe ho ...more
Jan 24, 2016 Beverly rated it liked it
Shelves: 1001-bymrbyd
Simon Dykes. a successful London painter is preparing for a new exhibition. The paintings that are being exhibited have disturbing content--apocalyptic images and he decides that he will forego his normal carousing the night prior to the opening in order to alert and ready the next day. In spite of his convictions, he and his cohorts get carried away and indulge in a variety of drugs. He and his girlfriend, Sarah Peasenhulme, spend the night together and when he wakes the next morning it seems t ...more
Sonia Wilson
Mar 07, 2014 Sonia Wilson rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2014
What if the roles of humans and chimps were reversed in the evolutionary scheme? Clever gimmick— too gimmicky, in fact, to sustain a novel-length treatment. The various repetitive tics and conceits involved in portraying a chimpanzee-run world become tiresome quickly and actual plot is pretty thin on the ground. The book ought to be about 200 pages shorter; and while brevity wouldn’t have made the story any less unremittingly unpleasant to read, it would at least have saved me some of the time I ...more
Richard Watson
Mar 08, 2012 Richard Watson rated it liked it
to be honest I still have not finished this book yet.
When I started to read it my person life went tits up...things evened out and I picked up the book again and my personal life went tits up, I stopped reading it, things got better, started again and things went tits up!

The book is cursed. I mentioned my problems with The Great Apes to a friend of mine, Paul Lee, and the exact same patten happened with him!!
Jun 09, 2013 Sandhouse rated it really liked it
This is a fun satire. A little slow but not to the point of exasperation. I really enjoyed reading it although the ending was a little bit of a let-down.

This author certainly isn't afraid of repetition - repetition of the same words and phrases over and over. If I see the word ischial or brachiating one more time ...
Neil Breeze
Mar 27, 2015 Neil Breeze rated it really liked it
Whilst Self's writing style might be a little over-the-top for some tastes, the story he tells is unique in both its satirical humour and the way his 'flipped reality' is portrayed with significant thought and depth.

The characters are surprisingly fun and memorable with personalities that are distinctly human yet portrayed in the well-researched and clever 'great ape' package.

I wasn't overly keen on the ending, yet it was surprising in that the expected 'twist' did not happen the way one might a
Matthew King
Oct 13, 2015 Matthew King rated it really liked it
Since finishing 'Great Apes,' I've also read 'The book of Dave' and I now feel in a better place to give my thoughts on the former.

Will Self is undeniably a learned writer of powerful satire: originality in this volume is as rife in the plot as it is in the narration, and yet I've seen a lot of negativity in the reviews: citing that the book’s a little too out there, or that the language is too off-putting. These criticisms are also difficult to deny.

It's not a book you can dip into, and whils
Nick Davies
Jan 30, 2016 Nick Davies rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very enjoyable - both in the delightful visceral/sexual wordsmithery of the opening few chapters, and in the convincing narrative of the remainder of the book. Undeniably witty, thought-provoking, and surprisingly involving too (I particularly liked the description of the invention of the radio).

Though I very much enjoyed it, I couldn't quite escape the feeling that I used to get when I stopped reading science fiction and fantasy novels in my teens - the alternative worlds conjured up by the aut
Dan Phillips
Sep 30, 2013 Dan Phillips rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
Years ago, I read Self's My Idea of Fun and thought it was waaaay too clever and self(!)- aware for my tastes, so I've been avoiding him ever since -- with the exception of this book, whose premise is just too intriguing to ignore. Basically, the setup is that chimpanzees and humans have switched places in terms of evolutionary dominance, and per Great Apes' fake forward, this is an ambitious novel FROM that alternate history narrated, weirdly enough, by a human being.

Or at least that's how it s
S Pat
Oct 31, 2011 S Pat rated it liked it
I almost quite reading it... it took me quite some time to get into the novel. It occurred at roughly the same time we arrive into a fully realized world where chimps rule and humans are the lab tested animals.

Simon Dykes is renown artist and after a alcohol, drug and sex fueled night he wakes up in a where humanity is no longer -- rather, it's a chimpunity. Chimps drive the Volvo's and drugs are tested on human.; lil' chimps visit humans in the zoo and wear human masks at halloween. When I firs
Matti Karjalainen
Taiteilija Simon Dykes herää huumeisen ja viinanhuuruisen illan jälkeen vuoteestaan ja tajuaa muuttuneensa simpanssiksi. Hermoromahdushan siitä seuraa, eikä tilannetta yhtään helpota se, että sairaalasta herättyään tilanne ei ole muuttunut miksikään, vaan Simon löytää itsensä keskeltä apinoiden kansoittamaa planeettaa. Muistikuvat ihmisyydestä ovat kuitenkin vahvoja, ja yhdessä vaikeisiin tapauksiin erikoistuneen apinalääkäri Busnerin kanssa ryhdytään selvittämään mistä oikein mahtaa olla kyse.

I've been putting off reviewing this for a while, so I'm just going to bite the bullet and get it over with. This may be a quickie.

I fully expected to love Great Apes . It's completely absurd, filled with drugs, violence, and wild monkey sex (as in, literally involving monkeys). There are some hysterical, laugh-out-loud funny bits and some perverse, cringe-worthy sections. Unfortunately, there are also some fucking boring parts. After a while, I thought the metaphor and satire became strained,
Nov 03, 2009 Brian rated it really liked it
This is a Will Self book. His vocabulary is incredible, but more striking is the way he uses it: his writing will evoke a visceral response. In addition to the provocative metaphorical associations one expects in a "clever" author, everything in Will Self's work has a texture and a smell.

If you are squeamish, this book is not for you. It is a book where all the characters are chimpanzees. Their society and form of communication involves sign language and hooting vocalizations, but also things ch
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William Self is an English novelist, reviewer and columnist. He received his education at University College School, Christ's College Finchley, and Exeter College, Oxford. He is married to journalist Deborah Orr.

Self is known for his satirical, grotesque and fantastic novels and short stories set in seemingly parallel universes.
More about Will Self...

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“As my voice died away I became conscious of the voice of another woman two tables away. I couldn't hear what she was saying to her set-faced male companion, but the tone was the same as my own, the exact same plangent composite of need and recrimination. I stared at them. Their faces said it all: his awful detachment, her hideous yearning. And as I looked around the cafe at couple after couple, eaching confronting one another over the marble table tops, I had the beginnings of an intimation.

Perhaps all this awful mismatching, this emotional grating, these Mexican stand-offs of trust and commitment, were somehow in the air. It wasn't down to individuals: me and him, Grace and John, those two over there... It was a contagion that was getting to all of us; a germ of insecurity that had lodged in all our breasts and was now fissioning frantically, creating a domino effect as relationship after relationship collapsed in a rubble of mistrust and acrimony.”
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