Death of the Planet of the Apes takes the franchise where no ape has gone before

Review by C.J. Bunce

The writer behind the graphic novel Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes has returned with a new novel of connecting stories, sporting another great Planet of the Apes title, Death of the Planet of the Apes (believe it or not, this title had not yet been used in the franchise).  Andrew E. C. “Drew” Gaska dug into the original movie series and provides all the connective material that fans of the film series didn’t see on the big screen.  What happened to Charlton Heston’s astronaut George Taylor when he left for the Forbidden Zone in Beneath the Planet of the Apes?  What is his backstory before he lands with his crew and first confronts a strange, simian-ruled planet?  But Death of the Planet of the Apes does more than follow Taylor around.

The best new features in the POTA-verse include Gaska showing us how our favorite chimps Zira, Cornelius, and Dr. Milo make the ANSA spacecraft work again, connecting the dots between their run-in with astronaut Brent in Beneath of the Planet of the Apes and their arrival at Earth of the past at the beginning of the most fun film of the series, Escape from the Planet of the Apes.  Gaska provides some great prequel material, intertwining the ANSA space agency with the real-world NASA (something he began in his Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes).  Taylor becomes a Chuck Yeager-esque flight pioneer in one of the subplots, a man with determination, insight, and the stoic outlook of a Scott Kelly.  We follow more of Ursus, Zaius, and Nova, and meet a new gorilla and a new part human/part ape hybrid living far beyond the realm of the apes that appeared on film (a callback to an unused production concept from the films of the 1970s).

Official ANSA crew photograph.

With so many stories focused on Cornelius and Zira’s son Caesar, in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, and the latest reboot trilogy of films, it’s refreshing that Death of the Planet of the Apes returns to these core characters.  Gaska moves back and forth in time in his storytelling, weaving all the segments from the different eras into a grand-scale adventure.  More so than the original, readers will revisit concepts of science fiction’s past: the Philip K. Dick-inspired telekinesis concept from Beneath the Planet of the Apes is fleshed out, the Forbidden Zone travels and robots conjure images of Logan’s Run, and Planet of the Apes as a retelling of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine becomes even more clear.

A young test actor for a concept of human/ape hybrid from the 1970s.

So many tie-in stories to major franchises read like fan fiction, but not so with this comprehensive volume.  The classic adaptations were sci-fi favorite reads, and Gaska shows his love for all the source material, getting into the heads of every human, chimp, orangutan, and gorilla.  His characters’ dialogue is believable and will instantly evoke the actors who originally portrayed them.  This entire 464-page book could easily be considered canon Planet of the Apes material.  It’s so exhaustive it could have been divided into two novels.

How did the apes get from there to here?

Gaska is also not afraid to restate scenes from the movies to get readers up to speed–a plus that helps readers keep up with the changing eras of the narrative.

A must-read for fans of Planet of the Apes, a great sci-fi read, and one of the best movie tie-in novels you’ll read this year, Death of the Planet of the Apes is available from Titan Books now here at Amazon.

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