A couple of weeks ago, I was doing a crossword and the clue was something about the author of the book The Planet of the Apes. Sometimes, I can get these things just by getting the crossing words, but I was bogged down, so I looked it up. (It's Pierre Boulle.) In the course of that, I found a couple of reviews that were pretty excited about the book. "Read it," they said. "It's better than the movie." So I got it from the library. Big mistake.
I'm sorry. I'm not impressed. It wasn't a terribly interesting story. I didn't find the characters at all believable. And the science was simply atrocious.
In the book, the Planet of the Apes is not Earth. It is a different, separate planet, orbiting Betelgeuse. Which immediately brings up the question of how two worlds so far apart managed to have such astoundingly similar development. But OK, let that go. Boulle is hardly the first author to glide over something like that.
What's worse to me is his anthropology. How in the world could humans devolve? What would suck the intelligence and drive out of them. And it happens not just on a macro level, but also on an individual level. One of the members of the Earth crew gets put in a zoo, and in a matter of months he has forgotten how to talk. And in the next year, he can't relearn, even with his friend trying to teach him. What? In the movie, the apes did some sort of brain experiment on one of the Earthmen, which would at least explain it. And Boulle had the opportunity to make that happen, but he didn't.
The other gimmick that was totally unbelievable was how they finally found out about the history of the Planet of the Apes. (Small spoiler, but don't worry, because you don't want to read this tripe, anyway.) On the PotA, humans were originally the dominant species, and they were supplanted by apes. How do we find this out? The apes manage to hook into a human brain, and release "atavistic memories," carried by the species, complete with direct quotes. Gag me.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the difference between realism and believability. I think a big part of it is how well the author hooks you. Because I wasn't enjoying the story, I was free to notice all these ugly details.
So, in case you hadn't guessed, I didn't like this one. The only good thing about it is that it was short. So much for reading for pleasure.