Pierre Boulle's allegorical nightmare is one of the most famous books in sci-fi fiction thanks to the many film adaptations, notably the classic Charlton Heston version. It was in fact the recent Rise of the Planet of The Apes which made me look for the original book. I was surprised to find that there were few editions availble in the local sci-fi sections and it was with a hint of fortune that Vintage had released it as one of their 3D cover sci-fi classics around the time I was looking for it.
Planet of The Apes asks us to imagine a place, Soror, where apes rule and humans are a sub-species, used for scientific experimentation much like our own "animal testing". Ulysse, a journalist, lands on Soror with two fellow humans and a monkey hoping to discover something marvellous which he can literally write home about. However it soon becomes obvious that this place is home to primitive, animal-like humans and aggressive powerful apes.
Soon captured, Ulysse goes about trying to convince his Ape captives that he is as civilised as they are, able to learn their language and show that he is not like the other humans on the planet. Ulysse finds a friend and ally in Zira, a Chimpanzee (the most liberal of the Ape classes) who helps him demonstrate to his captives that he is infact not merely a trained animal, but a free thinking civilised person with a brain capacity much like their own.
Boulle's chilling novel is a page turning intrigue with a perfect mix of adventure and suspense. Ulysse's struggle to prove that his origins on Earth mirror those of Soror's population ultimately lead him to an horrific discovery. One I won't spoil here and hasn't quite been spoilt by the movies either...