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Pierre Boulle was born in Avignon, France in 1912. He originally trained as an engineer, but in 1936 went to Malaysia as a rubber planter. In 1939 he was called up in the French forces in Indochina. When France fell during World War II, he fled to Singapore, where he joined the Free French Mission. After the Japanese invasion, he was sent via Rangoon and the Burma Road to Yunnan to establish contact with Kuomintang forces. He infiltrated Indochina as a guerilla where he was captured in 1943. He escaped in 1944, was picked up by a British plane, and served in the Special Forces in Calcutta for the rest of the war. His first novel published in the United States was The Bridge on the River Kwai. It was awarded the Prix Ste. Beuve in France, and led to the motion picture that received an amazing seven Academy Awards. He considered his subsequent books, of which Planet of the Apes is the most well-known, to be social fantasies.
This thrilling 1963 sf novel has lost none of its power. Those familiar with its film/TV adaptations will be surprised by the story's suspenseful nature and ending. Three French astronauts in the year 2500 travel to an Earth-like planet and are shocked to find it very much like home with one major exception-humans are naked, animalistic, unthinking savages and apes are the civilized species. It takes Ulysse Merou some time to impress upon his simian captors that he is an aware, intelligent human. While he is at first viewed as wondrous, Ulysse increasingly senses that he poses a major threat to the apes' sense of evolution and society. With the chance that he might father an intelligent human baby, his peril grows. British actor Greg Wise's superb narration adds to the increasing sense of unease, effectively conveying the confusion, horror, shock, and egotism evinced by Ulysse. While his American accent can be a bit dicey at times, the fervor with which Wise imbues each sentence overcomes any quibbles listeners may have. VERDICT Essential for all public library collections.-B. Allison Gray. Goleta Branch, Santa Barbara P.L. Syst., CA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.