Planet of the Apes (novel)

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La Planète des singes
Planet of the Apes book cover.jpg
1963 American first edition hardcover
Author Pierre Boulle
Translator Xan Fielding
Country France
Language French
Genre Science fiction novel
Publisher Livre de Poche
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)

La Planète des singes, known in English as Planet of the Apes or Monkey Planet,[1] is a French 1963 science fiction novel by Pierre Boulle. The novel inspired the Planet of the Apes film franchise.

The novel tells the tale of three human explorers from Earth who visit a planet orbiting the star Betelgeuse, in which great apes are the dominant intelligent and civilized species, whereas humans are reduced to a savage animal-like state.


In the frame story, a frivolous couple sailing alone in space, Jinn and Phyllis, rescue and translate a manuscript from a floating bottle. Journalist Ulysse Mérou has set off for a friendly planet with his family. Single in 2500, he was invited by wealthy Professor Antelle to accompany him and his disciple, physician Arthur Levain to Betelgeuse. From time dilation, centuries pass on Earth for their two years in transit.

At temperate lushly forested Soror (Latin for sister), they launch a shuttle from the orbiting ship. They can breathe the air, drink the water, and eat the fruit. Attracted by a lovely golden naked woman they call Nova, they swim below a scenic waterfall. Frightened by their chimpanzee Hector, she strangles the pet. Her tribe also gabble speechless, eyes "void" of intelligence, wreck the newcomers' clothing and launch.

Fully dressed gorilla hunters attack, shoot many dead, including Arthur, trap Ulysse with survivors. Ape clothing matches that of modern men, except for gloves on prehensile feet. They smoke, photograph trophies, drink through straws, appear utterly civilized. Their stagnant society is divided into three strata: aggressive gorilla commanders, pedantic unchanging orangutan administrators, and chimp intellectuals. Men are mindless speechless animals.

In an urban biological research facility, Ulysse recognizes Pavlov's dog conditioning and is mated with Nova in the same cage. Luckily, curious chimp researcher Zira takes interest in his geometry drawings and few simian words. With help from her fiancé Cornélius, he makes a speech in front of several thousands, who give him freedom and best of all, tailored clothes. Old Antelle has reverted to bestiality in the zoo, so is moved to the lab for safety, with a young female mate.

But events conspire to threaten. Cornelius digs up an ancient human civilized city. An unconscious lab subject, brain stimulated by electrodes, tells the fall of human civilization in many voices. Ape slaves outnumbered, plotted, and killed or evicted their masters to the wild. Nova bears Ulysse a son Sirius, who precociously walks and talks at three months. In danger of their lives, the family are substituted - all humans look alike - into a space flight experiment, to rendezvous with the still orbiting ship.

Robots fly the ship back to Earth. Paris Orly Airport and the Eiffel Tower look the same, but the officer in the welcoming jeep of two is a gorilla. Jinn and Phyllis refuse to believe Ulysse's impossible story, being civilized chimps.

Publication history[edit]

The novel was published in France in 1963 by René Julliard. The first English language version, with a translation by Xan Fielding, was published in the United States by Vanguard Press in June 1963 under the title Planet of the Apes. In January 1964 it was published in the United Kingdom as Monkey Planet by Secker & Warburg of London, then re-issued as Planet of the Apes in August 1973 to tie it in to the film franchise it inspired. The first paperback edition was published in the US in March 1964 by Signet / New American Library. In May 1964 Saga: The Magazine For Men printed an abridged version of the novel.


The novel has inspired a media franchise comprising seven films, two television series (one animated), and comic books.

The first was Planet of the Apes (1968), a science fiction feature film directed by Franklin J. Schaffner from a screenplay by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling.[2] It stars Charlton Heston. The film was a critical and commercial success, spawning four sequels.

A second adaptation of the book was produced in 2001 directed by Tim Burton. A series reboot called Rise of the Planet of the Apes, directed by Rupert Wyatt, was released in August 2011 to critical and commercial success. It is intended to be the first in a new series of films.[3]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Monkey Planet". Retrieved 2012-04-25. 
  2. ^ "Those Damned Dirty Apes!". Retrieved 2011-05-25. 
  3. ^ Lussier, Germain. "Collider Visits The Set of RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES; Plus Video Blog",, 14 April 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-14.


  • Handley, Rich (2009). Timeline of the Planet of the Apes. Hasslein Books. ISBN 978-0615253923.  Includes cover gallery (p. 269).

See also[edit]