Monkey Talk by T. Lucas Earle

Monkey Talk by T. Lucas Earle
Publisher: Electric Spec
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (16 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Monkey Talk is loosely based on the Chinese myth, the Monkey King, a timeless story about who belongs, and who doesn’t. In a future in which Chimps can give lectures on cybernetics, Mr. Towry is a Chimp with an attitude. Unfortunately, the rules are still “No shirt, no shoes, no service.”

How long would you be happy living in a society that goes out of its way every day to make sure you know that you don’t truly belong in it?

Professor Towry, the narrator, isn’t an easy guy to like. He has clearly experienced a lot of painful things as an enhanced chimp in a society that created his kind and then didn’t quite know what to do with them. The descriptions of what it feels like to be consistently treated poorly for something you didn’t choose and will never be able to change are eerily accurate, and as someone who has lived through this I deeply sympathize with the professor’s frustration.

The story focuses on Professor’s Towry anger so much that at times it felt a little gratuitous. Most of the examples given of the ways in which he has been mistreated tend to be things that can be easily explained away by outsiders. I would have loved to see more concrete examples of prejudice against chimps, especially earlier in the professor’s life when humans would have presumably been even less accustomed to talking chimps than they are when this tale takes place. Many acts of discrimination are subtle, of course, but I think it’s even more powerful to bring up examples that cannot be explained away quite so easily by people who don’t have direct experience with them.

Ultimately it is the supporting characters that flesh out the message of this tale. Professor Towry’s strengths are revealed as he interacts with them, and there are several conversations that I will be referencing when I discuss matters related to prejudice and discrimination with the people in my life who aren’t intimately familiar with how these things can manifest.

Monkey Talk is equal parts science fiction and philosophy. I strongly recommend it to anyone who likes mixing those two genres or who has ever wondered what it’s like to be part of a minority group in a dominant culture that isn’t always aware of how it’s perceived. The parallels between Professor Towry’s world and our own aren’t perfect, but they’re a great place to start.

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