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Literature / Planet of the Apes

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This cover spoils the ending... but not the ending of the book.

La Planète des Singes, released in English as Planet of the Apes, is a 1963 French satirical sci-fi novel by Pierre Boulle. It formed the basis for the 1968 film, which spawned a decades-long franchise in its turn.

In this original version, we follow a scientist named Ulysse who accompanies his mentor, the professor Antelle, to a long space trip, after getting bored of Earth and humans. They land on a planet strikingly similar to Earth, and are welcomed by a beautiful young (and naked) woman… who strangely acts like an animal, as do the other members of her "tribe". And soon enough, they are taken in the middle of a hunt where the hunters have an… unexpected appearance. They are both captured and separated, and Ulysse ends up in a research center, where he will learn what it feels like to be on the side of the animals.


This novel provides examples of:

  • Aerith and Bob: The apes of Soror that were named in the book are: Zira, Zaius, Zoram, Zanam and Cornelius (who is also the only one whose name doesn't begin with Z, for some reason). Also, the ancient Genetic Memory of one of the humans mentions a woman named Anna.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Averted. They speak their own language. Ulysse has to learn it.
  • Artistic Licence Biology:
    • After living a few months among savage humans, the old scientific genius Professor Antelle loses his memory, his speech, and even his conscience, becoming totally animal-like like the others... that's a bit radical. Though he was bit of a cynic which may have had something to do with it.
    • Put electrodes on a woman's head, stimulate specific areas of her brain, and she will awaken memories of what her ancestors said ten thousand years ago. No, really!
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    • Gorillas are apparently meat-eaters and chimps abhor the idea of murder. Justified, though, in that it takes place in the future and on an alien planet, so the apes could certainly have evolved differently from their modern Earth counterparts.
  • Covers Always Lie: Many modern covers of the book show the Statue of Liberty, even though this is something exclusive to the first movie adaptation.
  • Creative Sterility: Apes can mimic human civilization but haven't come up with any new inventions for ten thousand years.
  • Cute Mute: Nova. The first thing our explorers notice about her is her stunning beauty. But like all Sororian humans, she only communicates with animal noises.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The "stock exchange" scene. It certainly looks nothing like reality.
  • Downer Ending: Phyllis and Jinn reveal that they know that there are no intelligent humans on Earth.
  • Formerly Sapient Species: Soror's Human Aliens used to have their own civilization, before falling into decadence and degenerating into animals as the increasingly intelligent apes overtook them.
  • Framing Device: The majority of the book is a manuscript which a couple of scientists find floating in space at the beginning.
  • The Grand Hunt: An organized expedition of apes (mostly gorillas) go out hunting humans. They kill a bunch but keep a few for medical experimentation. After the hunt they pose for pictures with some of their kills. This doesn't count as Hunting the Most Dangerous Game because (a) the prey humans aren't intelligent and (b) the hunters aren't human.
  • Human Aliens: The people of Soror look exactly like humans and can even breed with them (Ulysse has a child with Nova). Though they're on the mental level of the apes of Earth, they used to have human-like intelligence too, but they degenerated over time.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Subverted. Soror's humans, before being overwhelmed by the apes, aren't so much depicted as bastards (although they do nasty experiments on them, but so do the apes afterwards) than as a decadent species no longer fit to survive by natural selection, with a "mental idleness" and a total incapacity to organize and resist against the rise of the apes. Ulysses lampshades that a race that submitted and resigned itself so pitifully easily might as well be replaced by a "more noble race".
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Nova never wears clothes, nor do any of Soror's humans.
  • Interspecies Romance: It depends on if you consider Soror's humans as a different species.
  • Killer Space Monkey: The alien apes who make up the dominant species on Soror hunt humans for sport and use them as lab animals. The "killer" part is downplayed, though: most of them aren't unnecessarily cruel and some even risk their careers to help the protagonist. The chimps in particular are said to abhor the idea of murder (but have no problem with performing horrific experiments on living test subjects).
  • Meaningful Name: Justified. The humans called her Nova because they thought she was beautiful.
  • Message in a Bottle: The Framing Device is two scientists finding the story in a bottle floating in space.
  • Nubile Savage: Nova, a savage woman living in the wild, is described as beautiful.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: Turns out that's how the intelligent apes originated. Before them, there were intelligent humans who used the apes as servants and lab animals. It's implied that the apes started out merely imitating their masters, treating them like they themselves were treated and learning to operate their tech. Eventually, they developed actual sapience.
  • Twist Ending: A completely different one from the movies. Ulysse escapes from Soror and returns to the Earth, but during the time which passed, Earth was taken over by apes as well. As a further twist, the scientists who are reading the human's diary turn out to be apes (to be precise, chimpanzees). After finishing their read, they scoff at the notion that a human would ever be that intelligent, since they know there are no humans like that living on Earth.
  • Wham Line: Ulysse's last line. "It is a gorilla".


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