Admit it. Like me, you thought this was just a film. I was surprised to see this on the library shelf, and had to try it. A French book made into a money-making American film.
Unfortunately for us, if you've seen the film there are certain elements and twists that may not shock as it would have the first readers of this book. If you've not seen the film you won't hear them from me.
But this is gripping stuff: three men (one a journalist, the others a scientist and his protege) travel through space on a long mission to Betelgeuse seeking out worlds different to our own on which life has developed. And boy, is this one different. Man and apes have developed at different speeds to those on Earth. With the apes having the evolutionary advantages, our protagonist is captured and taken for scientific study to a laboratory.
Like books that swap roles to make points and shock (Blonde Roots for slavery, Noughts and Crosses for racism), Planet of the Apes makes its points well, and despite being a translation is very eloquent and emotive.
It's also a great book for 'mulling over', great for a book group or for anyone on their own to ponder. Ulysse (our journalist) develops feelings for a local woman (devoid of speech and logical thought), has to decide where his loyalties lie, has to look at his new society with the experience of his old.
The bookends of the book (a couple finding Ulysse's transcript while travelling through space) are brilliantly used, hammering home the story in a brief episode you've all but forgotten about by the close.
Wonderful short book that I wish was better known.