Planet of the Apes: Caesar’s Story, by Maurice* (with Greg Keyes and illustrations by Zachary Baldus). Hachette Books, 2018, 256 pgs.
Planet of the Apes: Caesar’s Story is a wonderfully creative “biography” of Caesar, the central character (for anyone who doesn’t know) portrayed by Andy Serkis in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), and War for the Planet of the Apes (2017).
What makes this book truly unique is that it is told by Maurice, the orangutan (portrayed by Karin Konoval) who is Caesar’s most trusted friend and the ape who knows him best. Maurice recounts the ape leader’s life story for Caesar’s youngest son, Cornelius, fulfilling the promise that he made to Caesar at the end of War. It perfectly captures Maurice’s voice and viewpoint. He speaks of Apes signing to each other, which apes were Changed by AZ-113, and refers to places and objects as the apes see them (such as the Orange Bridge for San Francisco’s Golden Gate).
The book’s design does an excellent job of establishing this viewpoint. The cover has a leather-bound look and texture. The inside pages are parchment-colored with brown text. Chapter titles look handwritten and the book text looks like it came off a typewriter. The numerous illustrations are either hand-drawn or photos made to look hand-drawn. I especially liked the “ape drawn” symbols scattered throughout the book that perfectly match the ones from the film, such as when Caesar drew in his cage at the primate shelter.
For events where Maurice was not present, he “interviewed” the other apes who were for their perspective. Each of these sections are labeled with the character’s name (Oak’s Tale, Rocket’s Tale) and have reverse, handwritten type on brown pages. Maurice even adds his own commentary about whether the ape interviewed is still with us or recounted the events in sign language.
While the majority of the book understandably covers the events of the three films, my absolute favorite chapters were the ones that filled in the blanks between films. Especially the ten years between Rise and Dawn. This is where Keyes draws on his two tie-in novels, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm and War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations (more of the former than the latter). Following Rise, Caesar and company didn’t just run off into the Redwoods and live happily ever after until Malcolm and Ellie showed up. Even having been made smarter, the apes are ill-equipped to survive on their own. While they desperately search for food and shelter, they still have many encounters with humans who haven’t yet been taken down by the Simian Flu. As each season passes, we see them gradually build the society presented in Dawn. I couldn’t help but think that this section would make great material for a TV series (hint hint, Fox/Disney).
Overall, Caesar’s Story is a great read. I loved how it retold the story from an especially unique perspective, and well-captured Maurice’s voice and love for Caesar in doing so. The book is superbly designed with every effort made to visually build on the story. I highly recommend it for any fan of the series.
Read more about this title and an excerpt.
* Full disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book from Hachette.