September has been a month yet again full of many events. Reports of the world ending on September 23rd, the AFL Grand Final, and finally, It getting released (it’s fantastic) all happened this month! For me, September was when I finally watched Stranger Things and my SNES Classic Mini (which I’m playing right now). This month in terms of reading was what I call “Ape-tember”. I coined this term because I read novels where apes were an essential part of the story this past month.
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
First published in 1912, Tarzan of the Apes follows the main character Tarzan, the son of a respected British house, who is raised by apes in West Africa. This is the first book in the long-running series and introduces us to the now famous Tarzan and his love interest, Jane Porter, and to that fascinating world of the African jungle.
I used to enjoy the Tarzan cartoon from Disney when I was younger and his scream has been instilled into my memory. When I found out in a bookstore that they were all descended from books by Edgar Rice Burroughs my curiosity grew even more. From there it led me to read this, as well as a fascination with Burroughs’ other legendary series: John Carter of Mars.
Anyway, Tarzan of the Apes was an interesting read. I really enjoyed reading this story, even if it’s a little dense and clunky by modern standards. The story of Tarzan’s origins as well as him being around the apes really interested me and was very intriguing. Most of all, the characters were my favourite part of this story. Despite being written over 100 years old, the characters of particularly Tarzan and Jane still feel relevant in today’s world.
However, in contrast to A Princess of Mars, Burroughs’ other work of the time, Tarzan of the Apes hasn’t aged well. As I said before: the writing is a little clunky and dense, which is slightly disappointing. Burroughs’ description of the natives is slightly racist by today’s standards, but it’s a piece of its time and is forgivable.
Tarzan of the Apes may not have aged too well, but it’s a fascinating look into where a pop culture icon started. The story is timeless and still has a fresh feel to this day, despite becoming a storytelling cliché. If you like the Tarzan movies, or early 20th-century genre literature, give this a read. If you’re new to the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, start with A Princess of Mars and then come to this.
Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle
First published in 1963, Planet of the Apes follows a group of people who travel from Earth to the nearby star of Betelgeuse. Whilst on their journey, they discover a planet identical to Earth, which they name Soror. However, there’s something unusual about this world. That unusualness is that primates are the dominant creatures on this planet, not humans.
I’m a fan of the 1968 adaptation of this book, which stars Charlton Heston. It’s an impressive film of its time, and the ending is wow! I know it’s been said so much over the years by film critics and pop culture, but it’s still a fantastic ending. Despite its recognition by some as being one of the best sci-fi films of the 1960s, it’s nothing like the book. In fact, I don’t think there’s ever been a Planet of the Apes adaptation that has caught the essence of this book.
It’s this major difference from the book is why I really enjoyed reading it. I loved the imagination behind it, and all the similarities between Soror and Earth. Perhaps my favourite part of this novel is that it depicts the French travelling through space rather than Americans. This new perspective to me is fresh and thrilling to read, which makes this memorable. The characters were really well done too, especially Nova who didn’t even really talk at all to the main character. Her character development is well done for someone who can’t speak. Like the first movie, the ending to this story is really twisted and nothing to what I was expecting (hint: it’s completely different to the movies).
Planet of the Apes is a very interesting read, and is vastly different to all its film adaptations. If you love the films and want to know where it began, read this. If you want a space travel story unlike others out there, read this. I can’t recommend this classic of sci-fi enough.
As always, I’ll keep my thoughts on short stories brief to prevent spoilers, and for the fact that they’re short stories.
Bright Phoenix by Ray Bradbury
From A Pleasure to Burn; ‘Bright Phoenix’ is set in a library during a book burning frenzy. I really liked the premise of this story, and all the thoughts around books being dangerous. Despite this, it’s not the most memorable story in the collection to me.
The Mad Wizards of Mars by Ray Bradbury
This story is full of imagination that I find hard to say in these words. Also from A Pleasure to Burn, ‘The Mad Wizards of Mars’ is a fascinating piece that has Edgar Allan Poe on Mars. This is very Martian Chronicles-like, which is why I had a lot of fun with this. Give this a read if you want a story that’s both unique and strange.