Planet of the Apes: Tales From the Forbidden Zone, Edited by Rich Handley and Jim Beard – Book Review by Fred Patten
by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Planet of the Apes: Tales From the Forbidden Zone, edited by Rich Handley and Jim Beard.
London, Titan Books, January 2017, paperback, $14.95 (421 pages), Kindle $9.99.
“The 1968 Planet of the Apes film has inspired generations of authors. Now a who’s who of modern writers produces sixteen all-new tales, exclusive to this volume, set in the world of the original films and television series.” (blurb)
Plus an Introduction by co-editor Rich Handley and an Afterword by co-editor Jim Beard. Handley explains that, while there have been Planet of the Apes movies, TV series, script novelizations, original novels, comic books, and so on, there have not been any Apes short stories before. Hence this book.
Seventeen authors (one story is a collaboration), most of whom are veteran s-f novelists or comic-book writers who have written some form of Apes fiction before, were invited to contribute a story to this anthology. All have had the creative freedom to explore their own ideas, without any editorial attempt to make the stories consistent. Since the first five Apes films established the concept that time travel is “a highway with infinite lanes leading from the past to the future” (p. 12), all stories are equally valid.
“Unfired” by Dan Abnett is set in the nuclear wasteland in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. A group of seven mutated, telepathic humans is making a pilgrimage through the Forbidden Zone to the subterranean city:
“They spent two weeks following the track through the craterland. By night, wild dogs barked in the distance, and Taul kept his rifle close. They skirted the rims of wide craters in the heat. The sun made the air buzz and click. Chemical lakes had formed in the basins of the craters, some vivid turquoise or blood-red. The wind stank of sulfur. Occasionally, they could see shapes down in the lakes: rusted, twisted, blackened masses half submerged, buckled metal leering at the sky, vague in the mists that lay across the toxic pools.” (p. 20)
Four turn back, or die, or are killed by the Third Race (the apes), one by one. The survivors’ goal is the the city under New York; the holy city of God — the doomsday bomb.
“More Than Human, Less Than Ape” by Nancy A. Collins features Cornelius, the chimpanzee from the first movie, in a prequel adventure from his first archaeological expedition. It explains why there are chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas, but no baboons.
“Blood Brothers” by Will Murray takes place in the setting of the 1974 Planet of the Apes live-action TV series, which has several differences from the movies; the largest being that ANSA (American National Space Administration) astronauts Alan Virdon and Peter Burke find themselves in a 3085 where talking apes and talking humans coexist. Virdon, Burke, and chimpanzee Galen from the apes’ Central City are escaping from the ruthless gorilla army of Security Chief Urko, looking for a remnant of human civilization.
“They had been pushing north for days, toward the Napa Valley. Village humans had told them that the apes avoided the Napa Valley. No one knew why. But it was a good place to find respite, and a steady supply of food, if the abundant vineyards still survived after generations.” (p. 66)
Urko’s troops are about to capture them in the Valley of Grapes when they are rescued by humans dressed like stereotypical Native American warriors.
“‘I see Sioux, Hopi, Navajo, Cheyenne, Yurok, and other costumes [Burke says]. The faces that go with them seem authentic. Everybody looks like a full-blooded brave of one tribe or another.’” (p. 72)
The humans of the Tribe of the Last from the Rez are led by gorilla Chief Apex in a full war bonnet of eagle feathers. Apex has been raised by the humans and has become “‘Kind of like Tarzan of the Apes, but in reverse.’” The three are forced to join Apex’s war party, and to witness a personal battle between Apex and Urko before continuing on their journey.
“The Pacing Place” by Bob Mayer is a sequel to the first movie. Astronaut George Taylor and speechless human Nova cross the desert of the Forbidden Zone and gradually collect more wild humans. Taylor creates Fort Wayne. Three years later, Taylor’s and Nova’s son Adam is born, who can talk. Over many years, Taylor passes on civilization to Adam and his later children.
“Murderers’ Row” by John Jackson Miller is in the Escape from the Planet of the Apes setting. In that movie, chimpanzees Cornelius, Zira, and Dr. Milo time-travel into the past, to 1973, and become celebrities. The movie covers the next few months; a year or so. This story takes place seventeen years in the future, in 1990, and recounts how all human civilization – especially the Hollywood TV industry — has been changed.
“Endangered Species” by Greg Cox is set in the world of the first movie, but several generations earlier. The chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans of Ape City have only recently crossed the desolation of the Forbidden Zone and begun to spread out. Janae, a young chimpanzee, is on a scientific expedition to study a colony of feral humans, but she is constantly thwarted by Captain Atlas and his gorillas who consider humans to be only fodder for hunting parties.
“Dangerous Imaginings” by Paul Kupperberg imagines that the world is not destroyed at the end of Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Young chimp scientists Darius, Kya, and Sidd find proof of ancient man’s technology. But it goes against the Academy’s religious doctrines that man was never intelligent. They learn more about their Academy than they suspect.
“Of Monsters and Men” by Kevin J. Anderson and Sam Knight is another prequel to the first movie, but featuring Zaius in his youth rather than Cornelius. Zaius, an Academy apprentice, has been put in charge of an expedition to explore the Forbidden Zone surrounding Ape City. The expedition’s other chimp and orangutan scientists follow his orders, but arrogant gorilla Captain Caetus feels he should be the leader. What they discover threatens to destroy them all.
“The Unknown Ape” by Andrew E. C. Gaska covers the Return to the Planet of the Apes 1975 animated TV series. General Urko, who has been exiled, has his gorilla troops raise a nuclear bomb from the psionic Underdwellers’ subterranean city. It is not clear whether he intends to destroy the humans’ Hidden Valley, or Ape City in revenge – but it is really an Alpha-Omega doomsday bomb that will destroy the whole Earth. He is foiled by a human army including apes Cornelius, Dr. Zaius, Virgil, and others, led by the prophesized Unknown Ape (Caesar, son of Cornelius and Zira); but not before the unstoppable bomb has been launched. Caesar, Virgil, Krador (the Underdwellers’ leader), and the Travelers (time-traveling astronauts Alan Virdon, Jeff Allen, and Judy Franklin) argue nobly over who among them will take the Probe Nine on a suicide mission to destroy it in orbit before it returns to Earth.
“Silenced” by Jim Beard covers generations, centuries, beginning with George Taylor in the present and returning to him in the future, telling in between of he gradual devolution of humanity into the feral humans that Taylor finds in the future.
“Who is This Man? What Sort of Devil is He?” by Robert Greenberger is a second tale in the setting of the 1974 live-action TV series. It gives an unexpectedly sympathetic portrayal of the gorilla Urko as he pursues Virdon and Burke.
“Stone Monkey” by Greg Keyes does not fit into any of the movies or TV series. Sun the siamang gibbon, a wily trickster, is captured by gorilla warlord Shor Telag. He demands Sun help him to live forever, as the legendary Stone Monkey does. Sun leads Shor and his gorilla troops into the Forbidden Zone …
“Milo’s Tale” by Ty Templeton is the personal tale of Dr. Milo, the chimpanzee scientist who accompanies Cornelius and Zira, just before the three travel into the past in Escape from the Planet of the Apes.
“Message in a Bottle” by Dayton Ward returns to the 1975 TV animated series. Astronauts Virdon and Burke, and the chimpanzee Galen, fleeing gorilla security chief Urko and his troops, venture into the Paola Wasteland, rumored to hold unknown ruins. What the three find is, naturally, extraordinary and incredible, and they have to keep it from falling into Urko’s control.
“The King is Dead – Long Live the King” by Rich Handley is a sequel to Battle for the Planet of the Apes, the final feature of the original series. Twenty years after its conclusion, Caesar is the leader of the new peaceful joint society of apes and humans in Ape City. He wants to forge a peace with the mutants of the subterranean Forbidden City (the Underdwellers). The leaders from Ape City and the Forbidden City meet, but a traitor sabotages everything.
“Banana Republic” by Jonathan Maberry is about the discovery of something that proves all the apes of the future are wrong in what they believe. It is also ape politics, and the strange alliance between orangutan priest Dante and gorilla military Captain Maximus.
These sixteen tales are all by professional authors, and are all well-written. But unless you are a really big fan of the first five Planet of the Apes movies and the two 1974-1975 television series, this is probably too specialized for you. This is a good anthology to be read gradually, a story or two at a time over a couple of weeks.
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