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Great Apes

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  3,165 ratings  ·  213 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

Paperback, 404 pages
Published August 11th 1998 by Grove Press (first published 1997)
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Average rating 3.66  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,165 ratings  ·  213 reviews

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Anthony Vacca
Sep 11, 2014 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
May 06, 2012 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 ...more
Feb 14, 2008 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
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
Brent Legault
May 06, 2008 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?
Apr 24, 2008 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 ...more
Dec 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Pongis habilis
Recommended to Alan by: Other work
Simon Dykes is an artist on the rise, living large in 1990s London, with a flat and a girlfriend of his own, with previous work hung in the Tate Modern and an important gallery show coming up, with a new direction for his paintings that promises to provoke the best kind of outrage, the kind that cements reputations. Simon doesn't really have time to party all night at the Sealink Club, mixing that dodgy coke and Ecstasy... but he does so anyway. Simon and Sarah quit the club close to dawn, go to ...more
Jun 15, 2009 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
Ryszard Karpiński
Sep 09, 2013 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.
Jul 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
One of my very favourite things to do is stay in bed, drinking coffee and reading. This slim hardback was perfect...

... to act as a coaster for my coffee while I read something that wasn't shite...
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 1001-books
... an infinite number of chimpanzees ... would probably form a committee to ensure they never randomly produced the rubbish that is Great Apes.

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 herGuardian review of the Great Apes stage play,
... the show always seems keener on showcasing its larky cleverness than on creating real
Aug 25, 2007 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
Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...
May 10, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 1001-books
I absolutely hated this book. I would have DNFd it if it had not been on the list of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die. I found the writing much too complicated, it felt both messy and over-written. On top of that I felt the story was a joke or a gimmick, and didn't find it at all funny. I know it is satire and fans of this type of story absolutely love this book. I am just not among them. I didn't have any emotional connection to the book. I didn't learn anything. And, I wasn't entertained.
Dec 10, 2011 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.
May 18, 2015 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!
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: satire
I'm not sure what the intended target of the satire was supposed to be. The touch starved nature of modern humanity, perhaps, along with Self's apparent objection to sex that lasts longer than a few seconds?

I would go into more detail, but the Android version doesn't make it easy to hide spoilers and as much as I enjoyed the attention to detail, I really don't care enough about the book to make the effort.
Anthony Panegyres
Self at his irreverent satirical best. Could have perhaps done without the literal brown-nosing coprophilia metaphor at Oxford, but we all pant-hoot to this novel's great merit. I submissively pant-grunt, bend low and offer my fragrant backside to Self, a true genius.
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Will Self's book "Great Apes" is a funny idea that gets dragged out into a full length novel for no particular good reason. A man wakes up and finds all the world has transformed into chimpanzees. Cue a whole lot of furry copulation and poop flinging. I found it tedious after about 50 pages.
Apr 01, 2019 marked it as abandoned
Shelves: badly-written, boring
I was a wee teenage lassie when I first tried to read this book, and I gave it up - an incredibly rare occurrence for me. I am now a wee adult lassie and I have had to give it up again. I simply cannot argue with the side of myself indicating that I'm losing my time by trying to read it. Pompous and fragmented, I would not recommend it. Interesting plot line and decent characters, but not much else for me.
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
The author was clearly intelligent, the premise clever and unique, the book well-written... and I hated it. I hated every dragging minute of it. If I never read one more paragraph about simian genitalia, I will die a happy woman. And I'm far from a prude, which was perhaps the problem? If the author was trying to make his point via shock-value, then I wasn't shocked at all, just deeply bored by the 80th reference to "anal scrag" or frenzied mating. It seemed as though he was trying to make sure ...more
Jul 28, 2010 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 ...more
Nov 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Give a monkey a brain and he'll think he is the center of the universe (thanks Fishbone). This felt too close for comfort, finishing this work the same week of the election. Sadly, a world run by chimpanzees does not vary much from one in which humans sit at the top (or at least we have convinced ourselves of some type of dominance and superiority--and then we go and do what we did this week). Brilliant satire with gobs of scat thrown in.
Sharon Bakar
Jun 19, 2016 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.
Richard Watson
Mar 08, 2012 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!!
Raul Clement
Oct 22, 2009 rated it did not like it
I give this book one star for the fact that it was written. But that's about it. It's a cool premise, but I am not even going to waste the effort describing it; you can read the plot synopsis on Amazon. Contains some of the falsest, most purple, self-indulgent prose ever written. The first book I've ever flung away in disgust.
Andrew Webster
Aug 16, 2016 rated it did not like it
The concept is interesting, but the chimp culture felt contrived and overdone and the human plot line bored me to tears. And please stop beating me over the head with the "morality is relative" message. We get it, man is just as dirty as chimps, even if they aren't repeatedly banging their aunt's bloody vagina.
Feb 20, 2012 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 ...
Nov 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
One of the oddest books I've ever read, and I've read it about 10 times. Yep, still odd.
Jonathan Glen
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Original and provocative. Not for the faint hearted but with a use of language quite singularly brilliant.
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Reading 1001: Great Apes by Will Self 1 8 May 10, 2018 03:22PM  
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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.
“But mostly they just sat there, cemented in place by their secretions of chatter.” 0 likes
“...human intelligence is by definition what humans naturally do...” 0 likes
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