Book Review: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes: Firestorm
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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm
Paperback | Kindle
By Greg Keyes
Titan Books
Release date: May 27, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm is a novel that’s the official movie prequel to the upcoming Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which is the sequel to 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes — the reboot of the franchise that began with 1968’s Planet of the Apes — and is very similar in premise to the fourth installment of the series, 1972’s Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.

Since Dawn picks up about 10 years after the events of Rise, which saw a group of genetically enhanced apes break out of captivity, Firestorm bridges the gap between the two stories, although it concentrates on the time right after Rise. Dawn, which arrives in theaters on July 11, 2014, finds humanity on the brink of extinction, as a pandemic believed to be caused by the apes wipes out most of the humans. The prequel novel is an original story about how the virus was first detected and what happened in the early days of contagion.

In order to fully absorb Firestorm, you have to understand the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and author Greg Keyes, who’s written several Star Wars: New Jedi Order books as well as his own original novels, does a great job getting the reader up to speed on what happened prior to this bridge story.

If you saw Rise, then you know who Caesar is, why he’s so special, and how this genetically enhanced chimpanzee came to fight against the humans to lead a band of primates out of captivity to freedom. From the end of the film, you can assume that they lived happily ever after in their new Redwood forest home in the Muir Woods, but after the violent battle on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, you don’t think the humans are going to let these apes go off and live in peace, do you? Add to that the fact that these primates, with their super-intelligence and ability to sign to communicate, would make fascinating test subjects in a laboratory, and you know the humans will never relent.

Instead of just telling one side of the story, Firestorm switches back and forth between Caesar and his new family of super simians and several groups of humans, all of whom connect somehow with what will happen in Dawn. Some of the characters followed in the novel will be seen on screen, like Gary Oldman’s Dreyfus, who is introduced here as the former San Francisco Chief of Police now running for Mayor, while others are specific to this prequel. Specific chapters are devoted to each character and their scenarios, like the doctor who first comes into contact with patients infected with the simian flu; a tracker hired to help capture the apes in Muir Woods and the sympathetic primatologist he’s partnered with; and then there’s Caesar’s group with their struggle for survival not only because of the attacking humans, but also because food is scarce.

While Firestorm is ripe with information that will undoubtedly enhance the viewing pleasure of the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes film, what I found most compelling about it was the presentation of Caesar’s point of view as leader of the apes under such tremendous pressure, as well as the back story of his second in command Koba, who was also a test-lab animal. Keyes really pulls at the heartstrings when he gives Koba flashbacks, showing his initial happy existence with this mother that leads unexpectedly to fear, loss, and pain — the bonobo’s tale is as heart-wrenching as any human’s.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm is a quick, entertaining read that will get you pumped up for the new film. Fans of Caesar — and I know there must be lots — will enjoy getting this glimpse inside his mind. To those interested in the rebooted franchise who want to know what occurred soon after the end of the first film, especially the direct aftermath of the battle on the bridge, definitely pick up this prequel novel.

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