Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes by Alex Irvine (book review).

I suspect a lot of you will have been to the cinema to watch ‘Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes’ before even considering picking up the novelisation of the film by Alex Irvine. You can’t get any more non-conformist than me than doing it the other way around, let alone waiting for the film to come out on DVD before watching it. Even so, these ‘Apes’ films are going to be low on dialogue so understanding certain motivations or at least their subtly will probably come from a source like this. Saying that, it’s pretty obvious from the start that both humans and apes have to learn co-operation if they aren’t going to get into a war situation. None of which is helped by the fact that there is more weapon arsenals about than food or fuel. This is America and we shouldn’t be surprised at that. I suspect that’s also true in our pre-apocalyptic reality as well.


There’s been a decade with both humans and apes thinking their own species was the only one left after the Simian Flu. It’s only when a small team of humans from what remains of San Francisco to see if they can get the hydro-power from the dam working that there is an encounter and a bullet nearly puts an end to a peaceful start. Fortunately, Caesar sees it a near accident caused by surprise and although the chimpanzee was injured is still alive but gets the humans, led by Malcolm, to go home. He isn’t totally stupid and gets the one-eyed Koba and a couple other apes to see where they go and the number of surviving humans. The apes later visit in force to remind the humans not to come back which is the scene most used in this film’s promotion.

Under orders from his leader Dreyfus, Malcolm returns the next day with his team and convinces Caesar that they could all benefit from the electricity and if they don’t do it, some less friendly types would have to at some point. The ever bitter Koba sees Caesar helping the humans as a sign of weakness and goes off to watch the humans and discovers that they have a large usable weapons arsenal which he later takes control of. At which point, you know there’s going to be an uprising and internal war in the ape community and none of it is going to be good for the humans.

How much of the novelisation is going to be in the film, you’ll have to decide. Invariably, authors of such work tend to use early screenplays to ensure their book is ready for printing when the film comes out. With all the necessary CGI work involved, I suspect that the time lag would ensure some element of accuracy to the final film.

Even so, there are still some elements of the story that raise questions. Although I mentioned I was concerned about where the apes were getting their food from in other related reviews, it looks even more worrying for the humans in the city and I’ll be looking closely at the film for any vegetable gardens. What are they eating for over a decade that hasn’t gone off through lack of refrigeration or do they have a taste for rat or dog? You cannot sustain even a small population on a dwindling supply of canned foods and certainly when there are no fast food outlets any more.

There is a reference in the book that apart from the great apes, that there were also some gibbons although it is only gets one mention which tends to suggest that they moved away from this in the film. Likewise, there is no hint at how integrated those apes who didn’t receive the gas enhancement and those who did. Were the former used more as cannon-fodder? I mean, they must surely looked or felt out of place compared to the more intelligence apes.

Plotwise and this is no reflection on author Alex Irvine, who is only adapting the screenplay, the plot is somewhat by numbers. You can see certain aspects have to go down certain paths and there is some element of the original ‘Battle For The Planet Of The Apes’ film between Caesar and Koba regarding apes not killing apes. Koba would always be seeing as the war leader in waiting, ready to seize power when he could with any excuse needed which tended to make this film ape and white with little tone in between.

The real problem now is can they do a third film? I doubt there’s any more from the original film series they can explore unless there’s some astronauts coming back from a deep space mission or a forbidden city with psionically enhanced mutates out there. In many respects, these two ‘Apes’ films have stayed within the possibility of things happening than going off on wild fantasies.

There is a hint that there are other pockets of human groups surviving who were immune to the Simian Flu but there would be little to gain by going after the apes, although it would make for an interesting title, ‘Harmony On The Planet Of The Apes’, even if some people will undoubtedly see it as some sort of musical. In the meantime, if you missed any subtly in the film, this novelisation will fill that gap.

GF Willmetts

July 2013

(pub: Titan Books. 309 page paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK), $ 7.99 (US), $ 9.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-78329-271-1)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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