If someone mentioned Planet of the Apes to you there’s a chance that you’d end up thinking about the new Andy Serkis-starring films, in large part to how popular the new trilogy of films have been, particularly with their spectacular visual effects bringing the apes to life. But what most people will think of is the iconic image of Charlton Heston on his knees before the remains of the Statue of Liberty.
The original Planet of the Apes films are icons of cinema, with the time-displaced astronaut fighting for his life in a world ruled by humanoid apes creating some incredibly striking visuals. Despite the popularity of these films it’s hard to believe that only two of the original five films were set in the strange future world, with the planet being completely destroyed in the second film.
What Death of The Planet of the Apes does is spend time during these first two films expanding not only on the story of George Taylor, but also delves into the history and structure of of the ape society in a way that the films were unable to do as it tracks the final days of the strange future world.
As described in the synopsis, a great deal of the book is dedicated to following Taylor after he disappears in the Forbidden Zone, as was seen briefly in the events of Beneath The Planet of the Apes. Whilst the decision to remove Taylor from the story was made due to production limitations Death of the Planet of the Apes is able to use Taylor as much as it likes. It can follow him through the irradiated wastes of the Forbidden Zone, it can show his amazing discoveries, and it can go back in time and explore his past.
Despite the amazing things discovered within the boundaries of the Forbidden Zone it’s the look backs into Taylor’s past are are the most interesting parts of the book that involve him. We get to see his experiences as a prisoner of war in World War 2, the atrocities that he witnessed and the things that shaped his anti-war personality. These insights make him a deeper character than he ever was in the films, one with depth and layers, a man with flaws and complexities.
The book also spends the time expanding upon ape society, following the political machinations of General Ursus as he attempts to gain the powers that he needs in order to wage a war upon the humans. Andrew Gaska has made the bold decision to show the inner workings of the ape government, to have characters with ambitions and goals that can only be achieved through duplicity and political manoeuvring. Whilst this was the kind of thing that made the Star Wars prequels dull here it adds so much more to the world. The apes are made into more than just caricatures, they have deeper personality, goals and ambitions, they develop plots and schemes.
Death of The Planet of the Apes has so much more to offer its readers than just the mystery of what happened to Taylor, it has political intrigue, robots, ape-human hybrids, giant psychic brains in jars, and even alien spaceships. The book has multiple plots that intertwine and build a bigger whole, one that creates a living breathing world in its final days. Andrew Gaska has taken the world of Planet of the Apes and has made it into something bigger than it was, given it more layers, taken concepts only hinted at before and made them bigger.
Whether or not you’re a fan of the original films the book is sure to draw you into its well crafted and fully realised world.
Death of the Planet of the Apes is now available from Titan Books.