THIS is an six-CD reading of Pierre Boulle’s classic sci-fi novel Monkey Planet, which inspired the popular movie and TV series, but unlike its live action counterparts, Boulle’s simian civilisation isn’t a futuristic Earth where apes rule supreme following a nuclear catastrophe, but a distant world in another galaxy.

Evolution on the planet Soror took a different direction to that on our own world, with apes becoming the dominant race and human beings little more than degenerate animals, a reality which horrifies French journalist and astronaut Ulysse Merou and his companions upon their arrival.

Striving to prove his intelligence to avoid being used as slave labour or for scientific experimentation, Merou eventually befriends members of the ape community and learns their language in order to communicate with them, but his curiosity about the planet’s past leads him to discover secrets which the ape hierarchy would prefer kept hidden…

Despite the familiarity of characters and concepts found in the Planet of the Apes series, Monkey Planet actually offers more social commentary than the films, touching on the obsessive nature of the Space Race between the USA and the USSR, and the morality behind animal experimentation and research.

Boulle proves to be a first-rate science fiction writer whose attention to detail and intelligent explanations ensure the far-fetched ideas presented in his narrative actually gain credence. There’s also a lot more depth to that found in any of the movies, including the Charlton Heston original, which neatly fleshes out the apes’ civilisation and history.

Actor Greg Wise (Sense and Sensibility) does an excellent job narrating the unabridged audio version of the novel, proving you don’t need music and special effects for an audio when the reader’s performance is as strong as this.

Highly recommended.