Planet of the Apes (Signet)

A book by Pierre Boulle

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A Classic: Planet of the Apes

  • Feb 6, 2004
As a young teenager, I saw the original Planet of the Apes movie featuring Charlton Heston one night on television. The final scene, with Heston screaming on the sea shore at the Statue of Liberty made a tremendous impression on me then and now, ranking right at the top in all time incredible scenes. But, I had never read the book, thinking that it was just a novelization of the movie. Thanks to the release of the new movie, which was okay at best in my opinion, the original book was also released again and I was able to get a copy through my local library.

In a future time, a couple is taking a vacation in deep space under solar sail. Adrift, with no destination planned, they find a bottle containing a journal of sorts. One immediately thinks of the idea of castaways throwing their messages in bottles to the sea for possible discovery. A record of what they have seen and done, should the individuals not survive. The journal is unfurled and the couple settles back for the read.

The journal begins in the year 2500 on Earth. "I am confiding this manuscript to space, not with the intention of saving myself, but to help, perhaps, to avert the appalling scourge that is menacing the human race. Lord have pity on us." The writer is Ulysse Merou and he was a journalist. He was one of three launched on the first interstellar flight and like his apparent namesake, has been on a long and tragic quest.

They were to explore the region surrounding Betelgeuse (Alpha Orion) around three hundred light years from our planet. Professor Antelle made the decision after supervising the project from the beginning. Also along is the Professor's disciple Arthur Levain who is a young physician. The two-year journey goes relatively smoothly and soon they find themselves close to the red sun, Betelgeuse.

The professor quickly finds four planets in rotation around the sun, one of which seems to be relatively Earth like for this system. The decision is made to go there, using one of the launches. There are three aboard the main craft and being smaller, are designed for excursions to planetary surfaces. With their ship remaining in orbit, the three adventurers go down to the surface. During the landing sequence their flight takes them over a small town and they quickly realize that the world is inhabited.

They land far from the town and go exploring. The planet is virtually identical to Earth in almost every respect and they decide that it should be named. They name it Soror and begin to explore it with their pet monkey, Hector. They soon find a small pool and a waterfall and human tracks in the soil on the banks of the pool.

They go for a swim and soon they see someone watching from the cliffs above. It is a young and very lovely naked woman who acts more like an animal than human. It quickly becomes clear that she is an animal, beautiful in a sensual way, but still an animal. Ulysse feels an attraction for her and leads the group back to the pool the next day.

This becomes a mistake as the group is seized by the rest of the woman's companions. The expedition is stripped, their vehicle plundered and destroyed, before being marched to the savages camp. There they are fed and begin to adjust to life as prisoners while plotting their escape. Ulysse decides to name the woman Nova and begins to try to teach her a few things such as his name.

The teaching is interrupted when panic sets in among the group. Bugles are heard and the bushes are beaten to flush them out as unknown forces attack them. Running through a gauntlet, Ulysse is separated from his companions and captured by Gorillas. Gorillas that walk, talk, ride horses, and act like Englishmen on a hunt, round up all the survivors and take them to town.

There begins a rude indoctrination as Ulysse is forced to confront a world where Mankind is not the superior race it believes itself to be on Earth. This is a world where humans are savages, and are the ones subject to extermination or experimentation. Ulysse must confront his own notions of society and civilization as well as his eventual leadership of the caged humans as he is the only one that can talk and think.

This book is certainly is a much different version that the movie versions. The writing is stilted at times in the way a lot of classic science fiction will read today. At the same time, the writing is vivid and the author manages to inject observations that are still valid today as when the novel was written. The fundamental question is never answered and left purposefully for the reader to consider. What constitutes a civilization and have we reached the zenith?

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Kevin R. Tipple ()
My stories have appeared in such magazines such as “Lynx Eye,” “Starblade,” “Show and Tell,” and "The Writer's Post Journal" among others and online at … more
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About this book


If you've seen the progressively cheesier Planet of the Apes movies of 1968-1973, you may be shocked to learn the first movie was adapted from an intelligent, ironic, and literate novel. You'll be less surprised when you learn the original novel Planet of the Apes was written by Pierre Boulle, author of The Bridge over the River Kwai.

In the novel Planet of the Apes, the three Frenchmen making the first interstellar journey discover a remarkably Earth-like world orbiting Betelgeuse--Earth-like, with one crucial difference: The humans are dumb beasts, and the apes are intelligent. Captured during a terrifying manhunt, locked in a cage, and ignorant of the simian language, Ulysse Merou struggles to convince the apes that he possesses intelligence and reason. But if he proves he is not an animal, he may seal his own doom.

Like the first movie, the novel Planet of the Apes has a twist ending, but a twist of a different--yet equally shocking--sort. --Cynthia Ward --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

First published more than thirty-five years ago, Pierre Boulle’s chilling novel launched one of the greatest science fiction sagas in motion picture history, from the classic 1968 movie starring Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowell, through four sequels and two television series . . . and now the newest film adaptation directed by Tim Burton.

In the not-too-distant future, three astronauts land on what appears to be a planet just like Earth, with ...

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ISBN-10: 0345447980
ISBN-13: 978-0345447982
Author: Pierre Boulle
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Del Rey
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