War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations – Gregory Keyes (2017)

Gregory Keyes is no stranger to writing Planet of the Apes movie prequel novels having penned the prequel Dawn on the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm which I really enjoyed. These prequel novels, when done correctly, provide a little more substance and background to the main event they are foreshadowing, and give us that little extra for those who want more than what a limited time film can deliver. Much like Alan Dean Foster was in his day, Keyes writes both original novels and franchise supplements, in this case also dipping his pen into Star Wars, Independence Day and Babylon 5 universes aside from my beloved simian series. I point this out to delineate the fact that he is not a new writer trying to find his groove and I do have expectations despite the fact that many would consider such an novelizations self indulgent fluff. But with War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations bridging the Dawn on the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes movies, I must admit that the end product did little to satiate my hunger for more.

To briefly recap where we are in this storyline, the emergence of sentient simians due to a human intelligence serum has killed of most of mankind and plunged the planet in a post apocalyptic largely barren world. Caesar, leader of the apes hopes to leave the few remaining humans to their own devices, but the renegade bonobo Koba started a war with the residents of San Francisco. Caesar defeated Koba, but not before word of the battle got out to other distant human colonies.

The novel draws on the events immediately following Dawn and is a direct lead up to the movie War. (Note: I also have the novelization of War and will be reviewing it at some point). Having seen the last movie and noting that the human contingent befriended by Caesar, Dreyfuss and his family, are nowhere to be seen, I figured that this novel may be explain how that family and the apes parted ways. Sadly, while Dreyfus is included here, the matter of how he separated was dealt with in just a few lines and basically matter of “We’re going in this direction. See ya.”

What this movie does address in greater detail is the role of Colonel McCullough who leads the forces of the military that approached San Francisco at the tail end of Dawn. In this plot line McCullough, a hardened war vet from a family with a long line of military allegiance knows little of his adversary leader Caesar. He slowly comes to realize that is dealing with a highly intelligent and tactical savvy opponent when his battleship locates the apes on the Golden Gate bridge and environs. Limited in artillery, McCullough awaits reinforcements from another ship while Caesar and his troupe attempt to escape.

However the majority of the novel deals with an insurgent group of apes once dedicated to the deceased Koba and the anti-human sentiment he sowed. The rebellion could not come at a worse time for Caesar, already short on fighters, with the women and children separated as they seek a secure hideout, and with his son Blue Eyes sent on another reconnaissance mission.

A common theme of father and son strained relationship prevails, not only between Caesar and Blue Eyes, but also that of McCullough and his son and subordinate. It is also a coming of age tale as Blue Eyes and two other apes have a long journey in which he encounters both sympathetic and combatant humans, even having to deal with some rebellious apes on his own. Largely focused on Blue Eye’s adventures, the novel occasionally shifts to Cornelia, Caesar’s wife, and the party of women and children who are temporarily on their own. While it was satisfying to seeing an expanded role for her, having largely been a minor character so far, having her deal with rogue apes as well became a somewhat tiresome thread.

There are a few nods to the original series from the 70’s with the inclusion to the Alpha and Omega from the Book of Revelations, and characters named Armand (Armando from Escape and Conquest), Evans (a tribute to Maurice Evans the original Dr. Zaius).

While there is abundant character development I found the book largely unsatisfying, shocking as I’ve enjoyed a lot of PotA drivel over the years. The one evident thing that this novel was missing was Caesar himself who is used only sparingly and then often wondering about the others. Even the duel of wits against McCullough is largely predictable and tame.

The novel lacks grandeur in the plot and is just one stretched threadbare setup to War without really giving us much that is new or revealing. Unlike Firestorm those few new characters introduced here are imminently forgettable as is the entire book. Usually at this point I would just recommend this for PotA diehards, but in this case even those fans may want to skip this one and just watch (or read) War.

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