Matthew Kresal apes out.
Given its longevity, one would expect a mountain of prose tales based off of the Planet Of The Apes franchise. Yet outside of the novel that inspired the classic 1968 film, there are a handful of novelizations and some other largely forgotten efforts. 2017 has seen that change thanks to Tales From The Forbidden Zone, a new anthology published in January by Titan Books. Edited by Rich Handley and Jim Beard, the book presents sixteen new stories set across the width and breadth of the “classic” franchise (that's the five original films and the two 1970s TV shows).
As if being an Apes anthology wasn't notable enough, just consider the authors involved. The contents page reads like a who's who of familiar names including Dan Abnett, Kevin J. Anderson, Nancy Collins, Greg Cox, Greg Keyes, and Dayton Ward. That's just a few of the names but it hopefully gives an idea of the talent involved and the quality of what's present.
The sheer range of the tales is a sight to behold. There are side-stories such as John Jackson Miller's Murders' Row with its intriguing perspective on Escape From The Planet Of The Apes. Tales that delve into the back-stories of classic character such as Anderson and co-author Sam Knight's Of Monsters And Men. Explorations of Ape culture such as the tales written by Cox and co-editor Handley, and stories that present new additions to the mythology such as Keyes' tale which also takes readers beyond the usual North American setting of the franchise. There are stories that fill-in plot holes such as Ty Templeton's which sets up the aforementioned film Escape, or ones that act as sequels such as Ward's Message In A Bottle which helps to start wrapping up the canceled 1970s live-action TV series. There's even room for some poignant tales such as Bob Mayer's “what if?” sequel to the 1968 film, or co-editor Beard's epic Silenced that will have you looking at parts of the series in a whole new light.
Perhaps more than the individual stories is the sheer quality of the overall product. Anthologies, by the nature of them being a hodgepodge of different authors, tend to be hit and miss affairs. There are exceptions to almost every rule and this proves to be such the case as there isn't a single miss in the entire collection. All sixteen stories offer up their own intriguing (and even knowingly contradictory) take on Planet Of The Apes as we know it. Someone once said that the hallmark of good short fiction is that it leaves you begging for more and this collection is full of such tales.
Tales From The Forbidden Zone is among the rarest species of anthologies. That's not just because it finally presents a collection of Planet Of The Apes short fiction but because of the sheer quality of the tales it presents. It's a book that expands and explores the Apes franchise in new and exciting ways, sometimes outside the box, but one that never ceases to be interesting. So if you are someone with even a modicum of interest in classic Apes, this is an anthology for you.
Dare I say it: You might even go Ape for it.
Matthew Kresal lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't
have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the
Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places.