Planet of the Apes-the book

planet Planet of the Apes the book

Aug. 5 is the release date of the new film Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  I`m sure many of us are excited about this CGI-enhanced reboot of  the classic Planet of the Apes franchise.   But before the 5 movies, there was a novel, originally called Monkey Planet.  Published back in 1963, it was penned by versatile writer Pierre Boulle (he also wrote Bridge on the River Kwai).  It`s back in print and definitely worth a look.

There are some significant differences between the Apes novel and the films, though Rod Serling, who adapted it for  the first movie, 1969`s Planet of the Apes, kept a lot of the basic story elements.  The most jarring change is that Boulle`s primates have a technological society and use cars and helicopters.  This  is a marked contrast to the more primitive feel of the big-screen apes, who ride horses and seem to have more of a 19th-century society.   And the story starts in a totally different way: far in the future, a vacationing couple finds a bottle floating in space.   They open it and read a strange tale narrated by astronaut Ulysse Merou, who becomes Charlton Heston`s Taylor in the first film.  Merou and his team mate Arthur accidentally crash their spaceship on a distant planet which is inhabited by intelligent apes ( the twist that this is  actually Earth was added for the movie).

The apes wear clothes, drive cars, and view other creatures, including humans, as completely beneath them. They hunt humans and use them in laboratory experiments.  The astronauts are captured and placed in a lab.  Arthur remains a subject, but Merou obtains his freedom by giving a speech to his captors.  He befriends  scientists Zira and Cornelius, and a good deal of the story is then devoted to their discussions on human and ape intelligence.

The book is written in a philosophical, yet fast-moving style which grabs your  attention easily. Instead of the constant action of the films, it`s more character-driven.  The major situation of the second half  is Merou`s attraction to the ape Zira . In the movie version, Taylor likes and respect Zira, and there is the barest hint of a flirtation.  In the novel, Merou falls in  love with her. She is devoted to him, but finds him physically unappealing, though they remain friends.  The  famous character Dr. Zaius also makes his debut in the story: he`s just as leery of the talking humans as he is on screen.

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The Apes novel is a fascinating read, and it`s fun to find the plot points which later appear in the movie series. In short, this is an essential part of the Apes canon.

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