The War for the Planet of the Apes Novels – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

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

The War for the Planet of the Apes novels.

War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations, by Greg Keyes.
London, Titan Books, June 2017, paperback, $7.99 (336 pages), Kindle $7.99.

War for the Planet of the Apes: The Official Movie Novelization, by Greg Cox.
London, Titan Books, July 2017, paperback, 7.99 (318 pages), Kindle $7.99.

Both novels are “Based on the screenplay written by Mark Bomback & Matt Reeves; based on characters created by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver”. Revelations is advertised as “The Official Movie Prequel”. They were marketed to be released one month before, and upon the release of the movie on July 14, 2017.

It may seem pointless to review two movie tie-in novels months after the movie has come and gone, but the lasting value of literature is whether the novel is still worth reading after its movie is gone. These two War for the Planet of the Apes novels hold up well.

War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations is a bridge between the 2014 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes movie and the 2017 War for the Planet of the Apes movie – or between their novelizations.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: The Official Movie Novelization, ended ten years after the Simian Flu has killed almost all humans. The Ape Village of intelligent chimpanzees, orangutans, bonobos, and gorillas that had escaped from San Francisco, under the leadership of Caesar, the chimp, is starting to expand just as the few human survivors in San Francisco are also starting to expand. Their discovery of each other leads to a tense confrontation. Both Caesar and Dreyfus, the human leader, want peace, but they are sabotaged by Carver, a human hothead, and betrayed by Koba, Caesar’s chimp lieutenant who hates all humans. Dawn ends with Dreyfus dead and Caesar barely surviving his fight-to-the-almost-death with Koba, while the Apes are trying to establish a new village while facing a new group of human soldiers coming from a military base with advanced weapons.

War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations starts soon after Dawn ends. It has a lovely line two pages in:

“‘Forest,’ he grunted. ‘He’s gone. Snap out of it. I need you to spot the shooter.’” (p. 6)

You try grunting that line.

Revelations begins with warfare among the human survivors of the plague. The pertinent paragraph is:

“But what he [Colonel John McCullough] was fighting was not another army, just a bunch of people with guns. It was the difference between disciplined Roman troops and sword-waving barbarians, and in under half an hour the area was secure.” (p. 8)

McCullough is with the remains of the U.S. Army, in the north around Seattle. He has spent a decade in the fighting against one militia after another. Now he is leading an expedition to San Francisco, where it all began, where human survivors have radioed that they are at war with intelligent apes.

The ape community is in shambles. Koba is dead, but he had grievously wounded Caesar and killed Ash, the best friend of Blue Eyes, Caesar’s older son. Blue Eyes had looked up to Ash as the better leader. All the Apes are traumatized by Koba’s attempt to kill Caesar and anyone who opposed him. “Ape not kill ape”, but Koba did. Maybe worse, Koba had attacked the humans that Caesar had made peace with. The humans do not understand the apes’ politics, and consider all the apes as having betrayed them. McCullough and his troops, including his son, John jr., arrive in San Francisco not knowing what they will find.

War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations is two stories with several substories, switching back and forth. One is of the warfare around San Francisco. The two main forces are McCullough’s human soldiers and Caesar’s apes. The humans underestimate the apes at first, but McCullough cannot get his commander in Seattle to send him any reinforcements. The general is ready to write San Francisco off:

“‘It’s a parochial conflict,’ the General said [over the radio]. ‘And I see no overarching danger.   Our resources are better spent keeping the peace we’ve made and trying to contact other pockets of civilization. We sent you down there to find out what was going on, and we outfitted you with the resources to mop up a decent-sized problem. If you deem that problem too big to solve with the resources you have – well, then it is within the scope of your orders to return to base.’

‘Are you recalling me, sir?’

‘I am not,’ Prescott said. ‘I’m just asking you to use your judgment. Which would be easier – to continue fighting these animals, or to move the human survivors to a safe zone?’” (p. 97)

McCullough feels the apes are a serious potential danger to humanity and it would be a mistake to leave the San Francisco area to them to build up their ape army. He continues the warfare against the apes. Caesar is hard-pressed to save the ape colony; plus some of Koba’s followers plot to overthrow him. While Caesar leads the resistance against McCullough, centering on the Golden Gate Bridge, Caesar’s mate Cornelia leads the resistance in the ape community against Koba’s followers.

The second story is of a three-ape expedition Caesar sends out. Caesar realizes that Blue Eyes, his son and natural successor, has no military talent; and that if anything should happen to him, the apes need a strong leader, not a stunned figurehead. To get Blue Eyes out of the way, Caesar sends him with Rocket (chimp), his second-in-command, and Ray (orangutan) to explore down to the south, to learn if there is any human colony there.   Blue Eyes, Rocket, and Ray have adventures with earthquakes, stampeding buffalo, and wolves, before encountering humans and an even greater danger.

War for the Planet of the Apes: The Official Movie Novelization is set two years after Revelations. Blue Eyes and Rocket have returned to the ape community, which has been fleeing through the Redwood forests north of San Francisco. They are pursued by McCullough and his troops, who have gone rogue from the U.S. Army and now call themselves just the Colonel and the Alpha-Omega Army. Although they are determined to kill all the free apes led by Caesar, they have accepted the remains of Koba’s rebels, led by the gorilla Red, as their slaves. Something the Colonel does turns Caesar into his personal enemy. The Colonel says that he is on a holy war against the apes, and War for the Planet of the Apes: The Official Movie Novelization does have the emotional feel of a holy war.

War for the Planet of the Apes: The Official Movie Novelization, like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: The Official Movie Novelization, has more narration and less dialogue than its prequel:

“Caesar signaled the others to proceed cautiously as the apes dismounted and approached the building, their rifles drawn. They had only taken a few steps, however, before Green Coat bolted from behind one of the adjacent outbuildings and dashed through the front entrance of the central lodge. An ornate glass door, which had somehow survived the collapse of civilization, slammed behind him.

The other apes looked to Caesar. He nodded silently and raised his rifle higher as he led Rocket and Luca up the front steps and through the front door, while Maurice and the girl waited outside, pressing their faces against the frosty door pane. They had come this far already, Caesar decided, and he had no desire to leave an armed stalker unaccounted for; they needed to find out who this was – and what must be done about him.” (p. 108)

Fans of the Planet of the Apes movies will want The Official Movie Novelization as the completion of the film trilogy, but Revelations is better as a novel.

Fred Patten

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