Review – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm by Greg Keyes

Posted: July 23, 2014 in Sci-Fi
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I’m not sure what I was expecting from a movie tie-in novel but I wasn’t thinking that it would be such a well written, thought provoking, down-right sheer entertaining read. Author Greg Keyes has done a brilliant job, not only in getting me excited for the forthcoming film but in also producing a fantastic and balanced story.

The blurb doesn’t really say much but here it is: The official prequel novel to the brand-new movie Dawn of the Planet of the Apes bridges the gap between the events of the box-office smash Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the much-anticipated sequel, as well as offering fans the full story that leads into the action on screen.

The novel focuses on a cast of characters, two main leads on the ape side of the story and a few more on the human side. What quickly becomes apparent is that, in stark contrast to the original 1968 film where the apes are the ‘baddies’, Keyes portrays a more nuanced landscape of greys. In fact, the book really tends toward Caesar and his troop of liberated apes, chimps and orangutans as the ones in the right.

Leading off from the franchise’s reboot and the ending of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar is leading his troop into the redwood forest, eager to escape from human society. Gen-Sys are attempting to clear up the aftermath of the ape’s escape but, more importantly, are also trying to cover up the extent of this strange uprising. Drafting in a young and naive primatologist, Clancy, and an old hunter from the Congo, Malakai, Gen-Sys are also using their paramilitary branch Anvil to capture and kill Caesar and his gang. Clancy and Malakai soon realise there is more to this operation than meets the eye as they become, effectively, prisoners of Anvil with no contact to the outside world allowed.

In the meantime, a virus has broken out and is rapidly claiming lives. It is against this background that the novel picks up the pace as panic sets in and society unravels into rioting, looting and mayhem. A group of characters, from a doctor to a reporter and the ex-chief of police are all trying to piece together what is happening. With humanity on the verge of extinction the picture becomes clear. The deadly virus is directly connected to the apes increased intelligence and Gen-Sys are to blame.

What Keyes does exceptionally well is tell the story from multiple view points, pairing seemingly contradictory characters together. Clancy, with her naïveté, is in direct contrast to Malakai, a former child soldier, ape hunter and mercenary with a terrifying past. Equally, Koba and Caesar’s dichotomy is just as stark yet all have come to the same conclusions about life and equality. It is in the telling of these histories, through flash-back memories that we are exposed to humanities many horrors, from the injuries we inflict on each other to the abuse we dole out to animals and those deemed less than us.

In the end, it is the best of humanity that saves Caesar and his troop allowing them to inherit the Earth. Keyes’ novel is a fast, fun read but it also takes to task some pretty hefty ideas. Malakai and Koba’s histories are very effective tools and add serious weight to the story. It paints the whole franchise in an intriguing light and, whilst not essential to the enjoyment of the movies, is a brilliant book that adds gravity and context to the whole Planet of the Apes enterprise.

Review copy
Published by Titan Books


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