Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Novelizations – Book Reviews by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm, by Greg Keyes. Based on the screenplay written by Mark Bomback and Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver, based on characters created by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver.
London, Titan Books, May 2014, paperback $ and £7.99 (304 pages), Kindle $7.99 and £3.99.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: The Official Movie Novelization, by Alex Irvine.
London, Titan Books, July 2014, paperback $ and £7.99 (313 pages), Kindle $7.99 and £3.79.

La Planète des Singes, the original novel, was written by Pierre Boule in France and published in January 1963. Forget about it. It has almost nothing to do with the movies except inspiring the first of them.

Planet of the Apes, the first movie, was produced by 20th Century Fox and released in April 1968. Boulle’s novel was so extensively rewritten by numerous hands as to create an original plot. It was mega-popular, launching numerous theatrical sequels, TV spinoffs, novels and novelizations, and comic books. The comic books have arguably birthed the most bizarre variations in the form of authorized teamups. Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes. Green Lantern on the Planet of the Apes.

But we digress. All (with one exception) of the movies and TV series have had paperback novelizations and authorized prequels or sequels. Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the first movie sequel, was novelized by Michael Avallone. Most of the other books have been by different authors. Here are the two written for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the next to last movie.

The Planet of the Apes movies can be roughly divided into two groups. The first includes the first movie in 1968 and its four sequels through 1973, plus two TV series. They are set in 3978 A.D. and the next few years, when time-traveling American astronauts find that intelligent chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas have replaced humanity. The first movie was remade in 2001. Not only did that have a novelization by William T. Quick, he wrote two paperback sequels. The second group, telling how the apes replaced humanity, began in 2011 with Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the only movie that did not have a book, only a six-issue comic book prequel. In the near future Will Rodman is a scientist at Gen Sys, a San Francisco biotech company testing ALZ112, a viral-based drug designed to cure Alzheimer’s disease. The drug is tested on chimpanzees and unexpectedly greatly increases their intelligence. Rodman’s superior has the chimps killed, but Will and his assistant discover that a female had just had a baby. Will names the infant chimp Caesar and raises him as his own son. Events result in Caesar being taken from Will and imprisoned in the San Bruno Primate Shelter, where he learns to distrust humanity except Will. Gen Sys experiments with ALZ113, a more powerful aerosol drug. Caesar escapes, steals the ALZ113 from Will’s house, and returns to the shelter to raise the intelligence of all the apes there. They all escape under Caesar’s leadership, add apes from Gen Sys and the San Francisco Zoo, and form an army to battle the humans as they cross the Golden Gate Bridge into nearby Muir Woods. Will goes after them and begs Caesar to surrender since the apes cannot defeat all humanity, but Caesar’s loyalty is now with the other apes. However, mixed with a few earlier scenes and the movie’s closing credits is a foretelling that while the ALZ113 increases apes’ intelligence, it creates an Ebola-like lightning fatal pandemic in humans.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm is “The Official PREQUEL to the Dramatic New Film from 20th Century Fox”. It was “The all-new bridge between Rise of the Planet of the Apes [released August 5, 2011] and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” published two months before Dawn was released on July 11, 2014.

Firestorm tells several stories simultaneously. It begins less than a week after Rise. San Francisco is calming down after “Monkeygate”, the strange simian escape across the Golden Gate Bridge, and focusing on the coming mayoral election between incumbent Mayor House and ex-police chief Dreyfus. The news is claiming that only ten or twenty apes have escaped, not hundreds. And the first deaths come from the new disease.

The interlocked stories, all sympathetic, are those of the apes under Caesar to reach a place of safety; a team sent to catch them, including primatologist Clancy Stoppard and a Congo expert ape tracker, Malakai Youmans; Dr. Natalia Kosar of one of San Francisco’s major hospitals, who is the first to get patients of the new plague; Dreyfus, the mayoral challenger; and the biography of the chimpanzee Koba, one of Caesar’s lieutenants.

Clancy and the older Malakai, who become friends, become aware that all the others on the team sent after the apes are not police or animal experts but professional hunters employed by Anvil, a private paramilitary contractor. Anvil’s team leader, Corbin, is impatient with the two “civilians”, and there are doubts that their rifles are only tranquilizer-dart guns. Caesar and his closest newly-intelligent lieutenants, the chimpanzees Koba and Rocket and Maurice, an orangutan, try to escape without harming any humans, but as they become increasingly desperate, the risk of deadly violence increases. The apes cannot talk in speech; they use sign language. Talia Kosar, an ER doctor, sees her accident and crime patients replaced by the new plague patients, who quickly overwhelm the hospital. In less than two weeks, San Francisco has over ten thousand fatalities, and there is widespread panicking. Dreyfus, the mayoral candidate, uses the plague in his campaign but he is genuinely concerned for the city’s welfare, and he provides the leadership that the incumbent mayor doesn’t. Koba’s life story before Caesar frees the apes and they become intelligent is full of human mistreatment and brutality. This justifies the apes’ escape, and also explains Koba’s hatred of all humans.

The apes’ stories are outnumbered by the multiple human’s stories, but they are all fast-moving and dramatic:

“Then she [Talia] turned toward him. ‘What’s up?’

‘You went to that symposium on respiratory infection last month.’

‘Mm-hmm,’ she said. ‘Sexiest symposium ever. Better than that rectal bleeding thing, even.’

‘I’ve got a woman I’d like you to take a look at.’

‘What are her symptoms?’

‘She’s sneezing up blood,’ he said.

‘Allergic rhinitis?’

‘She says she never has trouble with allergies – I had a look, and didn’t see anything,’ he said. ‘I’ve ordered a CT scan, but they’re backed up. Plus, she has a temperature of a hundred and four. She’s also showing some signs of subcutaneous bleeding.’

Talia was about to take another grudging drink, but stopped with the coffee cup halfway to her mouth.

‘How old is she?’ she asked.


‘Let me see her,’ she said.” (p. 20)

They are well blended so the reader does not know what is coming next.

The scenes with the apes will be of most interest. They do not have human vocal chords, but Caesar has learned human sign language from Will Rodman and he teaches it to what he thinks are the brightest of the apes that he gives “Will’s mist” to:

“Rocket spotted the helicopter first, and a moment’s observation showed the machine coming straight for them.

Find this many, he [Caesar] signed to Rocket, holding up six fingers. Go, and be quick. Then he raced back down, leaping from tree to tree, toward the main body of his troop. Most were in the middle canopy, and he searched through them, making low calming noises, until he found one [of] the orangutans, Maurice. Maurice knew the hand language that Caesar had been taught.

Calm them, he told Maurice. Make them quiet, and lead them in that direction. He pointed off toward a thicker region of the woods, away from the approaching helicopter.” (p. 30)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm is both suspenseful and fatalistic. The reader knows that whatever happens in the story, the Simian Flu will ultimately kill almost all humans and destroy civilization. Greg Keyes is a New York Times bestselling author of both original s-f/fantasy novels and many novels set in movie & TV s-f franchises.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: The Official Movie Novelization is set ten years later. It is quickly obvious that Alex Irvine’s writing style is much wordier and more leisurely than Greg Keyes; filled with more description than dialogue.

The first chapters establish the apes’ village, in a rainy forest near San Francisco:

“Their home, which lay behind a wall of timbers and a heavy gate, spiraled around the flanks of the mountain. It was a place made for them.

Apes looked over the walls and hung from the timbers higher up the mountain, hooting out excited welcomes as they watched the troop approach. The noise increased as news of the hunting party’s return spread.

[…] There was a central open area anchored by a large fire pit. Around it scattered clusters of huts and lean-tos followed the natural shape of the mountain’s slopes, continuing along the edge of a steep canyon bridged by fallen trees. The sound of the river rushing through the bottom of the canyon rose and fell with the seasons. […]

The village was united by a network of paths along the ground and timbers in the air, running from higher slopes to the branches of larger trees that grew within the walls. These trees, which served as lookout posts and homes, were connected to each other by woven grass ropes and swinging bridges.” (pgs. 16-17)

The apes are still led by Caesar and his lieutenants, Koba and Rocket, and their almost-adolescent sons, Caesar’s Blue Eyes and Rocket’s Ash. The apes ride horses, and hunt the elk and bears that have multiplied since man’s disappearance. Maurice has become a teacher in their village. It is close enough to San Francisco that the human city can be seen in the distance:

“Caesar had gotten them off to a good start. He would lead the apes until he was no longer able, and then his children and their children would spread over the world.

Perhaps someday they would return to the city where they had come from. He looked over it now from the upper part of his house, the side that faced away from the canyon and toward the jumbled hills and the ocean, far away, gleaming orange under the setting sun. Caesar remembered the first time he climbed one of the great redwoods and looked at the city, back when Will was alive. There had been so much motion then […]

Now he saw the city from much farther away. The air was clear and nothing moved. In the shadows among the buildings, no lights came on as the sun sank into the ocean.” (pgs. 29-30)

I wonder if they really are all gone, he signed.

Ten winters now, Maurice signed. And for the last two, no sign of them. He shrugged. They must be.

Caesar wasn’t so sure. Humans had been strong enough and smart enough to create great cities. They had made roads across the world. They had built machines that could fly. Will had told him once that humans had even walked on the moon. If they could do that, what could kill all of them off? He knew some of them had been sick when the apes had escaped after becoming smarter, but apes got sick sometimes, too.

Yet no sickness killed them all.” (p. 31)

The humans are not all dead, of course, but they don’t appear until page 39, in Chapter 9 that establishes that Blue Eyes and Ash are best friends, but Blue Eyes resents that Ash is allowed more freedom than Caesar gives him.

The few human survivors have coalesced in San Francisco and are just beginning, with their children, to spread out again. Their group consists of five adult men led by Malcolm, his wife Ellie, and his son Alex. Malcolm is a reasonable man, but one of the others, Carver, is trigger-happy. He wounds Ash and almost starts a new ape-human war. Caesar lets the human leave, but everything is new from there. The apes, with spears and clubs, have to prepare for a new confrontation with humans with guns and worse.

Caesar sends Koba and his lieutenants, Grey and Stone, to follow the humans and report back. In this movie and novelization, Koba’s hatred of humans is intensified to fanatacism. Koba at first considers himself a loyal follower of Caesar, but that Caesar is too peaceful and the humans too aggressive. Koba is determined to kill all the humans this time, if he has to kill Carsar, blame it on the humans, and take over leadership of the apes.

The human Colony, in an unfinished skyscraper in downtown San Francisco, is led by Dreyfus.

“The lower twenty floors or so had flooring, and had been turned into housing for the few thousand people who, for all they knew, were the last surviving humans on earth. The bottom six floors occupied the entire block, and enclosed what had been envisioned as an upscale mall and luxury office complex.

Dreyfus had chosen the location carefully. The triple arch of the building’s main gateway was easily defended, and other entrances had been blocked for years. At first they had built defenses against gangs and loose militias that had ravaged the city during the plague’s first years. As time went on and more and more people died, however, many of those marauders ‘came in from the cold,’ as it were, joining what came to be called the Colony.” (p. 62)

Under other circumstances Dreyfus would have been happy to ignore the apes, but the apes’ village is near a dam that the Colony needs for hydroelectric power. Also, if the apes have spears and clubs, now that they know there are human survivors, will they attack? Dreyfus and Malcolm want to prepare for defense of the human Colony if necessary, while Carver and his followers want to take warfare to the apes.

Malcolm gets Dreyfus to put him in charge of a peaceful mission to get the apes to let them restart the hydroelectric dam. Carver sabotages that, which is what Koba needs to shoot Caesar with a stolen human gun and lead the apes to attack the Colony. Read the novelization or see the movie for the details of what happens; but to summarize, Malcolm and his family nurse Caesar back to health, Caesar realizes that apes can be as corrupt and untrustworthy as humans, Caesar takes back leadership of the apes after a fight to the death with Koba, and the apes prepare to defend themselves against another group of humans from a military base with advanced weapons.

See War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) for the sequel. Its book prequel and movie novelization will be reviewed in the future. These two Dawn books are well-written and worth reading, especially Firestorm. The movie novelization, which is a bit slow, may be skippable for those who are familiar with the movie.

Fred Patten

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