'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' won't be hitting theaters until July 11th, but fans of the franchise can get a taste of what's to come with 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm' (Titan Books), a novel that acts as both a sequel to 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' and a prequel to 'Dawn.'
The book, written by Greg Keyes ('Star Wars: The New Jedi Order') covers the 10 year span between both films, explaining more about the Simian flu that was unleashed in the post-credit sequence of 'Rise' and all its deadly implications.
'Firestorm' is told from various perspectives, both human and ape, giving further scope to the divide between animal and man.
Many characters that appear in the novel, don't show up in the film, and that is slightly disappointing, given Keyes expertly fleshing out the characters of scientists, reporters, doctors and mercenaries, all grappling with the catastrophic death's from the flu while terrorizing the apes, both for misguided revenge, and scientific study. But they remain captivating and essential pieces of the puzzle.
The 'Planet of the Apes' series has been one of the most thought-provoking sci-fi series ever made, exploring man's uneasy alliance/discord with nature, and our inability to peacefully co-exist with our animal predecessors. And Keyes makes great note of this in 'Firestorm.' He also does an excellent job of putting us into the minds of the Apes.
While Ape leader Caesar remains the main hero of our story, there is a greater emphasis on Koba, the scarred, human hating Chimpanzee who had a minor role in 'Rise.' In 'Firestorm' we get tangible reasons for his anger, not just in the experiments done by Gen-Sys in 'Rise', but from his very beginnings; abused and exploited by animal trainers for entertainment, and passed from one harrowing situation to the next. It offers many heartbreaking moments that firmly place our sympathy on the sides of the apes. A great exchange occurs when Koba recounts his abuses to Orangutan Maurice, trying to figure out why humans have been so unkind to their species. Maurice thoughtfully replies "I think maybe they hate themselves."
It also shows a subtle power struggle between Koba and Caesar, that may or may not play out in 'Dawn'. And readers should pay close attention to police chief Dreyfus. He'll be the main antagonist in 'Dawn' and after reading 'Firestorm', you get a sense of what sends him down such a dark path.
While it isn't necessary to read 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm' to enjoy the film, it is an entertaining and engrossing read for fans of the series, giving insight and empathy to the very moment when the Earth shifted back from human to ape, and the conflict involved wherein.
Check back later this week when I'll be conducting an interview Keyes on the concept and implications made by his book.