There must be something written so very deeply into human DNA that makes us imagine, craft, and almost long for tales of our own Apocalypse. Did something happen over and over millennia ago that caused some derivation to appear in our gene sequencing that – in ways we cannot consciously understand – makes us somehow seek out our own destruction? I’ve heard it said that it’s a particularly human trait to survive, so perhaps in a way that’s what drives us to explore so many creative tales about our impending demise. Global cooling. Global warming. The Mayan prophecies. The predictions of Nostradamus. If they promise us anything, it’s that tomorrow may indeed by bleak; and perhaps there was no better cinematic version of man’s eventual fall from grace than the late 60’s PLANET OF THE APES, a franchise so powerful it exists still today.
In fact, we’re collectively prepped for the return of the apes as DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES premieres theatrically this summer (of 2014) … so it’s only fitting that the media tie-ins start trickling down the pipe. One of the first I’ve seen (and been given a chance to review) is called FIRESTORM, and it examines that fitful days after 2011’s RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES ended and the apes first real struggle begins …
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Caesar has led the apes into the wilds surrounding San Francisco, but – unbeknownst to him – he never realized what lay ahead. Despite only wanting to be left alone, men have begun incursions into these woods. Hoping to maintain the fragile peace and not wanting any war, Caesar teaches the others to practice every skill to avoid capture he can imagine; furthermore, he’s even begun using strategies to deflect would-be hunters away from his race, sending them instead on wild goose chases where no ape will be harmed. However, the San Francisco political machine is under pressure from a potential scandal: did the mayor or others in the local government cover-up elements of the apes’ rampage from the city? And, if so, what greater secret could they be hiding? It’s clear that the clock is ticking for both man and ape as the Simian Flu rages from city-to-city, and a team of gorilla experts are brought in to – once and for all – capture a specimen so that scientists can find a cure before it’s too late!
There’s plenty at play throughout FIRESTORM. While there are familiar faces including Caesar and his trainer/friend Will Rodman (who appears several times in flashbacks which further flesh out the events of the RISE motion picture), there are enjoy new players – Malakai (a skilled hunter); Koba (one of Caesar’s closest soldiers); Clancy (a female ape specialist who joins the hunt for Caesar); David (a journalist on the verge of breaking the ‘Monkeygate’ story wide open); Dreyfus (former Chief of Police and San Francisco mayoral candidate) – but what FIRESTORM does uniquely well is bring these people into this universe along with their own stories to tell. Unlike other movie tie-ins I’ve read, FIRESTORM gives these new players not only a shared existence but also a significant reason to be in this story, in this time and place, witnessing the inevitable fall of man. Author Keyes ratchets up each of these narratives, giving the novel a richness I’ve rarely seen in what most critics would probably dismiss as crass commercialism; instead, he serves up a smart and topical ‘next phase’ in the evolution of the entire APES universe, showing us what’s ahead for a world that’s only beginning to unravel.
There’s a terrific parallel between our world (a political one) and the new ‘rise’ of these apes drawn up in the idea of a ‘firestorm.’ Each of these new players somehow finds himself or herself wrapped up in this brewing ‘firestorm,’ and – in order to try to bring down the simian counterparts – the ‘establishment’ is promising a firestorm all of its own. To add yet one more layer of complexity, an End-of-Days cult calling itself “the Alpha/Omegas” also chooses to use their own brand of fire with which to broadcast their own prophecies. Wherein other authors would be content to just play in the APES’ mythology, Keyes rather expertly crafts a read as inclusive as it is prescient … and I’ve no shame in revealing I read it in (mostly) a single sitting.
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES: FIRESTORM is published by Titan Books. The story is written by Greg Keyes, and (as per the cover artwork) it’s based on the film’s screenplay as written by Mark Bomback and Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver. It bears the cover price of $7.99 (U.S.), and that’s a bargain so far as this knuckle-dragging ape enthusiast is concerned.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Picking up largely where the events of RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES left audiences, FIRESTORM serves as a motion picture tie-in prequel novel to the events forthcoming in DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Caesar and the apes are back – now that they’ve escaped their cages, they’re in even greater jeopardy as mankind seeks to wipe them out for allegedly spawning the ‘Simian Flu’ wiping out cities worldwide. Lucky for the leader, he’ll find he has a few allies in high places amongst the hunters, giving him the chance to not only save himself but put apes well down the path toward achieving their freedom.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Titan Books provided me with an advance copy of DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES: FIRESTORM (by Greg Keyes) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.
What did you think of this review?
Fun to Read
About the reviewer
What? You don't know enough about me from the picture? Get a clue! I'm a graduate from the School of Hard Knocks! You can find me around the web as "Trekscribbler" or "Manchops". … more