01/06/2012. Contributed by Sue Davies
pub: Audio Go/BBC. 6 CDs 357 minute story. Price: CD: £15.00 (UK), Download: £ 6.74 (UK). ISBN: 978-162064-048-7). read by: Greg Wise.
check out website: www.audiogo.com
'This place is like a zoo.' How often has your mum said that? Imagine a place where the human really do live in a zoo. They don't speak, they don't think. The apes have risen. They are in control. This is the 'Planet Of The Apes'!
This original novel by Pierre Boulle and read by Greg Wise has six CDs totalling about seven hours. This is paced differently to the all-action, adventure movie where Charlton Heston beats his chest and howls at the fate of the Earth. This really is set on another planet, reached by a faster-than-light spaceship. A journey time of 300 years to the Betelgeuse system is collapsed into a couple of years. The three travellers are our narrator and leader, Ulysse Merou, Professor Antelle and another similar aged man, physicist, Arthur Levain.
Despite approaching the planet and landing without too much of a hitch, the adventurers are curious about the earth-like environment and meeting a beautiful girl, they think things are looking up. Except the beautiful girl is naked and silent. She reacts badly to their smiles and words. Her companions tear the clothes from the travellers' backs.
Naked and forced to follow with the mute humans, the three are subjected to a vicious hunt and the perpetrators are dressed gorillas. When Merou reaches the town, he cannot deny the evidence of his eyes, the apes live in a civilised society and man is an animal here.
This is a more cerebral affair than the film and, after the hunt, there is time to ponder on the whys and wherefores of the apes' dominance. Although the word 'monkey' is often used in this novel, it is really shorthand for the combination of animals, gorillas, chimpanzees and orang-utans that form the basis of this civilisation.
Our hero thinks a lot and also thinks a lot of himself. Realising he might have to single-handled re-populate the human race, he rises to the challenge (oh suit yourselves).
Although this is based on a pathetic fallacy, apes like us are now at the end of the potential evolution, nevertheless this is fascinating philosophical treatise in the manner of Jonathan Swift's 'Gulliver's Travels' The outsider Merou is able to offer a unique perspective on the curious society.
The denouement will never match the 1968 film's classic one of the wrecked Statue of Liberty in the sand, this has two of its own that gave the inspiration to that finish. It's a book worth reading or listening to as the narration by Greg Wise is measured and engaging. This significant novel, by a man who wrote an account of his time as prisoner of war on the infamous Burma Railway which became the film 'Bridge Over The River Kwai', Boulle offers an insight into the potential sickness within human society that could lead to the destruction of civilisation. It might make you think twice when you go to the zoo.
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