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Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes

4.3 43
by Pierre Boulle

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Before you see the movie, read the original novel!

First published more than thirty-five years ago, Pierre Boulle’s chilling novel launched one of the greatest science fiction sagas in motion picture history, from the classic 1968 movie starring Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowell, through four sequels and two television series . . . and now the


Before you see the movie, read the original novel!

First published more than thirty-five years ago, Pierre Boulle’s chilling novel launched one of the greatest science fiction sagas in motion picture history, from the classic 1968 movie starring Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowell, through four sequels and two television series . . . and now the newest film adaptation directed by Tim Burton.

In the not-too-distant future, three astronauts land on what appears to be a planet just like Earth, with lush forests, a temperate climate, and breathable air. But while it appears to be a paradise, nothing is what it seems.

They soon discover the terrifying truth: On this world humans are savage beasts, and apes rule as their civilized masters. In an ironic novel of nonstop action and breathless intrigue, one man struggles to unlock the secret of a terrifying civilization, all the while wondering: Will he become the savior of the human race, or the final witness to its damnation? In a shocking climax that rivals that of the original movie, Boulle delivers the answer in a masterpiece of adventure, satire, and suspense.

Editorial Reviews

A reprint of the 1963 novel that started it all. Even if it had not inspired the 1968 Charlton Heston movie, Boulle's Planet would be worth visiting. Six movies and two t.v. series later, this crafty novel is still a chilling tale.

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Vintage Classic
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Jinn and Phyllis were spending a wonderful holiday, in space, as far away as possible from the inhabited stars.

In those days interplanetary voyages were an everyday occurrence, and interstellar travel not uncommon. Rockets took tourists to the wondrous sites of Sirius, or financiers to the famous stock exchanges of Arcturus and Aldebaran. But Jinn and Phyllis, a wealthy leisured couple, were distinguished in their cosmos for their originality and a few grains of poetry. They wandered over the universe for their pleasure—by sail.

Their ship was a sort of sphere with an envelope—the sail—which was miraculously fine and light and moved through space propelled by the pressure of light-radiation. Such a machine, left to its own devices in the vicinity of a star (though far enough away for the field of gravity not to be too power- ful), will always move in a straight line in the opposite direction to the star; but since Jinn and Phyllis’ stellar system contained three suns that were relatively close to one another, their vessel received rays of light along three different axes. Jinn had therefore conceived an extremely ingenious method of steering. His sail was lined inside with a series of black blinds that he could roll up or unroll at will, thus changing the effect of the light-pressure by modifying the reflecting power of certain sections. Furthermore, this elastic envelope could be stretched or contracted as the navigator pleased. Thus, when Jinn wanted to increase his speed, he gave it the biggest diameter possible. It would then take the blasts of radiation on an enormous surface and the vessel would hurtle through space at afurious velocity, which made his mate Phyllis quite dizzy. He would also be overcome by vertigo, and they would then cling passionately to each other, their gaze fixed on the mysterious and distant depths to which their flight propelled them. When, on the other hand, they wanted to slow down, Jinn pressed a button. The sail would shrink until it became a sphere just big enough to contain them both, packed tightly together. The effect of the light became negligible, and this minute bubble, reduced to nothing more than its own inertia, seemed motionless, as though suspended in the void by an invisible thread. The young couple would spend rapturous idle hours in this reduced universe, erected on their own scale and for them alone, which Jinn compared to a becalmed sailing ship and Phyllis to the air bubble of the sea spider.

Jinn knew a number of other tricks, considered as the height of art by sailing cosmonauts: for example, making use of the shadows of the planets and certain satellites in order to change course. He imparted this skill to Phyllis, who was now almost as accomplished as he himself and often more daring. When she held the tiller, she would sometimes fire a broadside that swept them right to the borders of the stellar system, heedless of the resulting magnetic storm, which would start to upset the light-rays and to shake their skiff like a cockleshell. On two or three occasions, waked up with a start by the tempest, Jinn had had quite a struggle snatching the tiller from her and, in order to run for shelter as quickly as possible, starting the auxiliary rocket, which they made it a point of honor never to use except in case of danger.

One day Jim and Phyllis were lying side by side in the middle of their spacecraft without a care in the world, making the most of their holiday by exposing themselves to the rays of their three suns. Eyes closed, Jinn was thinking only of his love for Phyllis. Phyllis lay stretched out on her side, gazing at the immensity of the universe and letting herself be hypnotized, as she often did, by the cosmic sensation of the void.

All of a sudden she came out of her trance, wrinkled her brow, and sat up. An unusual flash of light had streaked across this void. She waited a few seconds and saw a second flash, like a ray being reflected off a shiny object. The cosmic sense she had acquired in the course of these cruises could not deceive her. Moreover, Jinn, when it was pointed out to him, agreed with her, and it was inconceivable that he should make a mistake in this matter: a body sparkling in the light was floating through space, at a distance they could not yet assess. Jinn picked up a pair of binoculars and focused them on the mysterious object, while Phyllis leaned on his shoulder.

“It’s not a very big object,” he said. “It seems to be made of glass. . . . No, let me look. It’s drawing closer. It’s going faster than we are. It looks like . . .”

A puzzled expression came into his eyes. He lowered the binoculars, which she at once snatched up.

“It’s a bottle, darling.”

“A bottle!”

She looked at it, in turn.

“Yes, it’s a bottle. I can see it quite clearly. It’s made of light-colored glass. It’s corked; I can see the seal. There’s something white inside that looks like paper—a message, obviously. Jinn, we’ve got to get hold of it!”

Jinn was of the same opinion and had already embarked on some skillful maneuvers to place the sphere on the trajectory of the unusual body. He soon succeeded and then reduced his own speed to enable it to catch up with him. Meanwhile Phyllis donned her diving suit and made her way out of the sail by the double trap door. There, holding onto a rope with one hand and brandishing a long- handled scoop in the other, she stood in readiness to retrieve the bottle.

It was not the first time they had come across strange bodies, and the scoop had already been in use. Sailing at low speed, sometimes completely motionless, they had enjoyed surprises and made discoveries that were precluded to travelers by rocket. In her net Phyllis had already gathered up remnants of pulverized planets, fragments of meteorites that had come from the depths of the universe, and pieces of satellites launched at the outset of the conquest of space. She was very proud of her collection; but this was the first time they had come across a bottle, and a bottle containing a message—of that she was certain. She trembled from head to foot with impatience, gesticulating like a spider on the end of its thread as she shouted down the telephone to her companion:

“Slower, Jinn. . . . No, a bit faster than that, it’s going to pass us. . . . Starboard. . . . Now hard to port. . . . Hold it. . . . I’ve got it!”

She gave a triumphant cry and came back inside with her trophy.

It was a largish bottle and its neck had been carefully sealed. A roll of paper could be seen inside.

“Jinn, break it open, hurry up!” Phyllis begged, stamping her foot.

Less impatient, Jinn methodically chipped off the sealing wax. But when the bottle was thus opened, he saw that the paper was stuck fast and could not be shaken out. He therefore yielded to his mate’s entreaties and smashed the glass with a hammer. The paper unrolled of its own accord. It consisted of a large number of very thin sheets, covered with tiny handwriting. The message was written in the language of the Earth, which Jinn knew perfectly, having been partly educated on that planet.

An uncomfortable feeling, however, restrained him from starting to read a document that had fallen into their hands in such an inconguous manner; but Phyllis’ state of excitement decided him. She was not so well acquainted with the language of the Earth and needed his help.

“Jinn, please!”

He reduced the volume of the sphere so that it floated idly in space, made sure that there was no obstacle in front of them, then lay down beside his companion and began to read the manuscript.

Copyright 2001 by Pierre Boulle

Meet the Author

Pierre Boulle was born in Avignon, France in 1912. He originally trained as an engineer, but in 1936 went to Malaysia as a rubber planter. In 1939 he was called up in the French forces in Indochina. When France fell during World War II, he fled to Singapore, where he joined the Free French Mission. After the Japanese invasion, he was sent via Rangoon and the Burma Road to Yunnan to establish contact with Kuomintang forces. He infiltrated Indochina as a guerilla where he was captured in 1943. He escaped in 1944, was picked up by a British plane, and served in the Special Forces in Calcutta for the rest of the war.

His first novel published in the United States was The Bridge on the River Kwai. It was awarded the Prix Ste. Beuve in France, and led to the motion picture that received an amazing seven Academy Awards. He considered his subsequent books, of which Planet of the Apes is the most well-known, to be social fantasies.

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Planet of the Apes 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 43 reviews.
Sabin_Knight More than 1 year ago
I found this book very interesting. I have always been a fan of the movie series, so thought I would check out the source material. It is a very quick read, but well worth it. I would love to discuss certain parts of the book on here, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is more enjoyable than sex. That is all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Three men set off for Betelgeuse, a journey that takes two years from their viewpoint. Thanks to relativity, though, centuries pass on Earth. Journalist Ulysse Merou and his two companions encounter no difficulty establishing orbit around a habitable planet and descending to its surface in their space ship's launch. Once there, they make first contact with the planet's Human inhabitants under what they don't understand to be fortuitous circumstances. They're swimming naked, on a hot day, when a beautiful and equally bare Human female notices them and approaches. She reacts violently to the presence of their pet chimpanzee, and runs away in horror when she realizes that the clothes piled nearby belong to these members of her own species. Nova, as Merou names the woman, brings others to see the newcomers. Stripped of all their technology, and even of their clothing, the three Earthmen have just started trying to understand these people when they - along with the tribe they've unwillingly joined - become targets of an organized hunt. The hunters are gorillas, assisted by chimpanzees. While most of the tribe's members are slaughtered, including one of Merou's companions, he and Professor Antelle (the Betelgeuse expedition's leader) are among the 'lucky' captured ones. Alive, but separated, with Merou winding up caged in what he soon learns is a laboratory. Author Boulle uses the role reversal he's thus established, of apes vs. Humans, to stage a chilling and succinct morality play. At first it seems that his main theme is Humankind's lack of compassion toward 'lesser' yet highly intelligent creatures (our own planet's various ape species), but as the book progresses the reader realizes he has a far more disturbing agenda. Boulle's real concern is what makes Humans - well - human. What qualities do we possess that have combined to give us dominance over all of Earth's other species? Is it possible we might sacrifice that dominance, one day, on the altar of sloth and/or other flaws indulged instead of conquered? Witty, brutally clever, and filled with material so 'hot to handle' that I'm not a bit surprised most of it never made the transition from novel to motion picture script, this venture by a mainstream writer into speculative fiction fully shares the wonderful irony of Boulle's at least equally famous (and, I suspect, far more widely read) THE BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI. This is satire at its finest, a book to make readers sputter with laughter and shiver with fright simultaneously.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read the book as teenager when it came out. I knew the movie was not true to the book but now that i read it again i appreciate the moral issues and the application of physics at the heart of the story that are completely ignored by the movie which missed all the points by embracing cold war paranoia. The story is amazingly thought provoking. I knew the movie dumbed down the story but realized how much of importance was not in the movie after reading the book a second time fifty years later.
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I grew up watching the movies and enjoy all of them. This book is simply amazing its got so much more detail and takes its time unlike the movie and im glad i have devoured every page of this book and enjoyed it. I think they should make a movie more close to the book the original movie as good as it was could of been better by staying closer to the book. I def give this book 5/5 stars absolutely amazing
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Simply amazing and brilliantly written. You're pulled through Ulysses' struggle to assert his mind and soul, and you rejoice alongside him in his triumph, only to come full circle with his bizzare and catastrophic return to Earth.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First off let me be clear: the book and the movie (any version of the movie you care to name) have very little in common. Therefore disregard any precocieved ideas you have. The book reminds me of jules verne in its style... not really able to articulate why, but that is high praise. Its well worth reading and you really ought to do yourself the favor of reading it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't care for the modernized cover but what a good book. A must read.
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