Bookshelf: Planet of the Apes #1 – Man the Fugitive

Planet of the Apes #1 – Man the Fugitive
By George Alec Effinger
First Published in 1974
Published by Award Books
172 Pages

I am a huge fan of the Planet of the Apes franchise. Huge fan. The movies series, the live-action television show and even the cartoon. I love them all. So of course I have several tie-in novels related to Planet of the Apes in my collection. George Alec Effinger wrote four novelizations based on the series between 1974 and 1976 (by which time the CBS drama had been off the air for quite some time), which were apparently first published in hardcover, although every copy I’ve seen is in paperback.

Rather than novelizing the first two episodes of the series to be broadcast (“Escape from Tomorrow” and “The Gladiators,” originally broadcast September 13th and 20th, 1974), Man the Fugitive tackles “The Cure” (originally broadcast November 29th, 1974) and “The Good Seeds” (originally broadcast October 4th, 1974). However, “The Good Seeds” was actually the first episode produced (and “The Cure” was the sixth episode produced) and given that Effinger was likely working from scripts that were available, it actually makes some sense that these would be the first episodes novelized.

Man the Fugitive Front
Man the Fugitive Front – Copyright 1974 Award Books

Despite having seen the episodes more than once I really enjoyed Man the Fugitive. Although because I haven’t watched these episodes in years I can’t directly compare them to the television versions. But I can say with some certainty that Effinger fleshed them out a bit in order to make them more readable in print form, adding description and inner dialogue. That’s the only way to expand an hour-long drama into 89 pages (for “The Cure”) or 82 pages (for “The Good Seeds”).

In “The Cure,” astronauts Alan Virdon and Pete Burke, and their friend Galen (a chimpanzee) risk being captured by General Urko to try to save a human village in the throes of a malaria outbreak. Virdon miraculously recalls how to make quinine (using bark from cinchona trees) and the three are able to convince the ape medical chief Zoran to use the medicine. Urko, of course, just wants to burn down the village and almost gets his way when apes start getting sick as well. But Virdon, Burke and Galen win the day.

Man the Fugitive Back
Man the Fugitive Back – Copyright 1974 Award Books

While running from Urko and his apes, Galen falls and hurts his leg in “The Good Seeds,” forcing Virdon and Burke to carry him to an ape farmhouse and beg for help. The father, Polar, relucantly agrees to let them stay but fully expects the humans to work for their keep. And work they do, introducing novel farming techniques, draining a swamp, building strong fences, a windmill and even a shower. But the older son, Anto, doesn’t want the humans around, worried that they’ll curse the family cow and keep him from getting the bull calf he needs to start his own family. Once again, Virdon comes through with the necessary knowledge to save both the cow and its offspring, winning over Anto in the process. It’s a touching story, really.

I also have the second and third novelizations written by Effinger, but I haven’t been able to find a copy of the fourth one. Nor do I have any of the novelizations of the animated Return to the Planet of the Apes by William Arrow, which are apparently somewhat rare. I just cannot justify spending $50 for a paperback tie-in novel, no matter how much I want to read it.

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2 Replies to “Bookshelf: Planet of the Apes #1 – Man the Fugitive”

  1. 20th Century-Fox re-edited several episodes of the “APES” TV series into ersatz “TV movies” in the late ’70s, which they circulated on local stations for years (including WABC-TV in New York, which aired them on their “4:30 MOVIE” for several years during “Planet Of the Apes” weeks, with Roddy McDowall as “Zaius” delivering new taped introductions and epilogues…and, of course, they were among the highest-rated Channel 7 aired locally at that time). So, naturally, there was an interest in “new” paperback novels to keep the “franchise” going…right into 1976, two years AFTER the series ended. However, Variety’s quote [from their initial review] about the TV version being “a sure winner” was about as accurate as that famous 1948 Chicago Tribune headline, “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN”. The CBS series {which the network commissioned after the initial telecast of the original movie was a ratings blockbuster on “THE CBS FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIES” in September 1973} was scheduled on Friday nights at 8pm(et), opposite “SANFORD AND SON” and the first season of “CHICO AND THE MAN” on NBC, which got more viewers, and Fred Silverman couldn’t wait to “build” an audience for the series, and yanked it off by the end of December 1974.
    Perhaps one day, Fox will get it “right”.

  2. I loved the movies as a kid, but I think the problem with the show was that there should have been an explanation whether or not it was a sequel or a prequel to the movies.

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