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BOOK REVIEW - PIERRE BOULLE - MONKEY PLANET 1963 Penguin Classics

 

The novel on which The Planet of the Apes, its sequels, remakes, TV shows, and spin-offs are all based. The same man who wrote The Bridge On The River Kwai wrote this. Monkey Planet begins with a small pleasure craft-space vehicle going through space. A married couple are on holiday, and clearly relaxed and happy. They suddenly find a package drifting in space. They salvage it, and discover a book telling the story of an astronaut. The book has been sent out in the same way a message in a bottle might be sent out from someone on a desert island. The tourists read the book to one another. It tells of an expedition from Earth, which has discovered a World where apes, monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees have evolved to the point where they live in towns, drive cars, wear clothes. People are primitive, and treated as zoological specimens, or wild creatures. The apes hold people in utter contempt. The people of the expedition are captured, and subjected to the same privations, and study as the indigenous people of the strange planet. Most of the scientists are killed, and the last one manages to communicate his greater intelligence to the apes, causing some consternation and a crisis. His theories of a counter-evolution in which people are equal to if not superior to apes give some distress. He is forced in the end to run for his life. He eventually gets away back into space, but he has no fuel left to take him anywhere. He casts his manuscript out to leave a record of his adventures. The readers complete the study of the work, and laugh about it. We now discover that they are apes. They regard the whole story as fairy-tale and science fiction nonsense. Itís a fun book, tough rather dated in its formal dry delivery, apart from the jokey ending. Fans of the films will be surprised not to see the famous Statue Of Liberty finale here, but that was a Hollywood invention. Boulleís is much more casual than that.

 

 

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