“Planet of the Apes” is one of those books that’s hard to approach without bringing along the baggage of the original 60s film adaptation or the less-than-successful remake a few years ago. The original film is such a part of our pop-culture concsiousness that it’s almost impossible to separate it from what we have here.
This is one of those books that is what it is–no more, no less.
I could spend several paragraphs detailing the differences between the movie and the book, but that would be kind of pointless and wouldn’t tell you much about the book as a whole. That said, Boulle’s original novel is a social satire, as advertises and it’s one of what I’d classify as a fairly light, “bubble-gum” sci-fi read. It has just enough in there to make you think while reading it, but it’s not going to stay with you long after you’ve finished the final pages.
The thing is that not a lot of the characters have much depth. They’re all in here to be part of the satire of modern life and humanity’s relationship with each other and animals. For a satire that wants to point out how drawing distinctions based on external apperances isn’t a great thing, you’d think it would have a bit more depth to the characters. Add to that that the central narrator has a tendency to become a bit pompous in his relation of events and you’ve got a story that works, quite frankly, better as a movie than it does as a novel. I’d even go so far as to say that without the series of movies, this is one novel that would have faded in memory long ago, remembered by some who read it for a few of the twists in the final pages but not much more.
It’s not to say I hated this novel. But it’s not to say I loved it or found it nearly as compelling as some of the mid-range works by Issac Asimov or Orson Scott Card.