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Planet of the Apes

written by Pierre Boulle

Vintage | ISBN 9780099529040

Paperback – 208 pages

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Boulle's classic 1963 novel differs in several ways from the 1968 movie and its various spinoffs. While the bare-bones story is familiar—astronaut travels to a planet populated by intelligent apes, is captured, fights to prove that he is a thinking creature—the novel is richer in detail and parallels to human culture. Boulle's apes live in cities, wear human-style clothing, drive automobiles. Technologically, they are in pre-spaceflight mode (although they have sent vessels into orbit, with humans as pilots—just like we did with monkeys, back in the 1950s and '60s). As in the '68 movie, Boulle's humans are essentially wild animals, unclothed and uncivilized—which is why our hero, French journalist Ulysse Mérou, poses such a problem for his captors: intelligent humans, capable of speech and advanced thought, are not supposed to exist. Many familiar ape characters are here—Zira, Cornelius, Nova, Zaius—but they are subtly different: for example Zaius, the orangutan scientist, is less buffoonish, and more menacing, than you might be expecting. The novel is paced more slowly than the movie, too: the film is a sci-fi movie with philosophical undertones, but the novel is more like a fable, an overt morality tale posing as science fiction, weighted more toward dialogue than action. It should be considered essential reading not just for fans of the movie, but for all science-fiction readers.

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