So, I decided to watch the movie “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” a few nights ago, and was thoroughly amazed. The latest in the “Planet of the Apes” franchise is yet another spectacular film in the long line of “reboots” that have come in the wake of Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins”. It is yet another attempt to meld an amazing story with a little bit of realism, and I must say it succeeds remarkably. Afterwards, I decided to go back to the genesis of the story and read “Planet of the Apes” by the French author Pierre Boulle. Now, normally I tend to avoid translated books, but Boulle’s work does not disappoint in the slightest.
“Planet of the Apes” is a story told from the point of view of a French journalist named Ulysse on a voyage to a distant sun, and who finds himself on a planet where humans are the animals and apes are the “civilized” and advanced species. It is written in the form of a diary, the notes of a journalist cataloguing everything he sees and experiences. Along the way we experience life from the other side of the equation. But what is especially wonderful about this book is the science and scientific detail that runs throughout. Ulysse is eventually captured, experimented upon by his primate overlords, and gets to explore the primate civilization. Boulle takes this opportunity to explore the world from the vantage point of a biologist or even archaeologist/palaeontologist who has been transported to the other end of their experiments and observations. We get to encounter experiments not only from the point of view of the subject, but from the point of view of a subject that knows exactly what is happening and what is expected. We explore the feelings and effects, and even the ethical problems this poses. We get to explore the effects of archaeology and its impacts on how we view the world. We get to explore.
I vaguely remember the plot from the Charlton Heston “Planet of the Apes” series, but, even then, the novel’s plot is remarkably alien to me. I generally despise filmmakers who alter the storyline of novels beyond what is necessary for adaptation, but, experiencing this pretty much in reverse, I was truly thrilled. Page after page I encountered nothing that I either remembered or expected. I was constantly looking ahead, guessing what was to come based on the storylines that I knew, and was flummoxed every time. For those of you who are more familiar with the movies will probably not have to worry about encountering the same story slightly rehashed.
All in all I would recommend this book to everyone, from fans of the movie and even those who don’t much care for science or science fiction. It is an amazing idea, and an amazing way to look at the world. It is full of surprises from beginning to end. A truly terrific read.
Title: Planet of the Apes
Author: Pierre Boulle
Pages: 272 (Paperback)
Publisher: Del Ray
Josh’s Rating: 4/5
Originally posted @ Sakalabujan Magazine