DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES: FIRESTORM Review
The Rise of the Planet of the Apes sequel isn’t coming until July 11, 2014, but 20th Century Fox and Titan Books has something that will satisfy any Planet of the Apes fan’s appetite for a little while. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm, written by Greg Keyes, is the official movie prequel that bridges the gap between Rise and Dawn that gives a bit of insight on the state of things as well as set us up for the action coming to the big screen. Warning: some mild spoilers.
Caesar and his followers have escaped the clutches of man, fighting their way across the Golden Gate Bridge and taking refuge in the vast redwood forest known as Muir Woods. There they hope to establish a home, far from the humans who so horribly abused them. But mankind has far worse things to worry about. The “Simian Flu” has begun to strike down unsuspecting innocents throughout San Francisco. What began as isolated cases quickly becomes a full-on epidemic. There are those who blame the apes, and would seek to take revenge, while other hunt Caesar and his troop for their own insidious reasons. Either way, the result will be the same… [a] Firestorm.
Firestorm follows a number of characters: Caesar, the violent bonobo with one eye named Koba, Dreyfus, Talia, David Flynn, and Clancy and Malakai. The story takes place days after the stand-off at the Golden Gate Bridge, which reporters now refer to as “Monkeygate.” Several things are going on at once in just the few days after the events of Rise.
Gen Sys affiliate, Anvil, is contracted by Mayor House to “clean up” the situation with Caesar’s troop, who are still on the run inside Muir Woods. They hire two civilian experts to help track down the apes. Clancy is a young, bright primatologist, and Malakai is a former chimpanzee and gorilla poacher turned mercenary. Team Anvil gives Caesar a run for his money, volleying tricks that never seem to work for long. Meanwhile, members of Caesar’s troop are wounded from the big fight, tired, and starving.
Elsewhere, we get perspectives from Talia, an ER doctor, who starts noticing a rash of symptoms that are killing people left and right; from David Flynn, with whom Clancy has been leaking information about Anvil, uncovers the origin of the killer flu and the sinister cover up; from Dreyfus, the former chief of police currently running for mayor. All while these characters are dealing with the outbreak in their own way, the world is quickly turning to a chaotic hell with riots and a the appearance of a violent radical group, “Alpha/Omega,” attacking quarantine zones.
The most intriguing, and perhaps important, POVs we get are from Koba and Malakai; they’re they only ones who truly receive character growth. Koba, if you recall from the first movie, is the one-eyed ape who Will Rodman (James Franco) was testing RV113 on in the Gen Sys labs. We get his origin story throughout the book, giving the reader an understanding on exactly why he detests humans. Adjacent to his origin, we also see what Koba’s thinking while Caesar and company try to escape from the humans for good. He’s constantly pondering Caesar’s motives, particularly why they aren’t attacking their pursuers, and later realizes the true meaning of their motto “Ape together, strong.”
Pretty much the same type of framing happens with Malakai Youmans. He recounts his uncle teaching him how to hunt gorillas and chimpanzees, his village getting annihilated by a mercenary group, the many conflicts between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes, and his time as a mercenary. Throughout his life, the most prominent memories have something to do with his interactions with apes where he was always the hunter or murderer. Towards the end of the book, he doesn’t necessarily learn the error of his ways, but he gains an understanding with Caesar’s troop.
Firestorm is a quick read anyone can get through in a weekend or less, depending on how fast you read. What this book does well is convey through many parallel points of view on just how far man falls when the world is ending. Keyes sets up the “what happens next?” scenario after Rise’s “happily ever after ending” with the apes. Yes, it’s implied that the virus spreads worldwide and the humans are essentially frakked, but we never see how that all falls apart. Keyes gives us that window through which to look. Riots throw all of San Fran into chaos (unsurprisingly, Twitter sets aflame to many of these violent outbreaks). A radical group rises to “cleanse” the world from the “weak.” The people ask “Who’s to blame: the apes, some evil corporation, or God?”
Overall, I liked Firestorm. Irecommend it for any Planet of the Apes fans who want a little more insight into the world we’ll be seeing in the upcoming movie. However, I fear there are too many voices considering what happens to most of them by the end of the book. My biggest complaint are the spelling errors I encountered. It’s not totally unfounded that any book you come across has an error or two. But as I got closer to the end, the frequency of errors occurred more and more, and it just got distracting. If you’re an English major, these certainly take you out of the story to shake your fist in the air.