Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Some time after 3200 c.e., Jinn and Phyllis are on a recreational ride in their specially designed spacecraft when they notice a bottle drifting near them. Inside it they find a long message written in “the language of the Earth.” They are startled to find that it repeatedly refers to humans as intelligent beings. Ulysse Mérou, a young French journalist, wrote the message, which relates the story of his experiences.
In 2500, Ulysse accompanies the wealthy Professor Antelle and Levain on a privately funded expedition to a planet of the star Betelguese. The passengers on Antelle’s spaceship will experience the round-trip journey as taking two years in each direction. However—because of the relativistic effects of stopping at the destination planet and turning around to come home—when they return, about seven hundred years will have passed on Earth.
The travelers reach their destination safely. The atmosphere seems breathable. Exiting their craft, the men soon see a small human footprint on the shore of a lake. A gorgeous, naked young woman appears and dives into the water. The explorers name her Nova. She fears the men until they remove their clothes. Then, she frolics near them but seems unable to speak, and she kills their pet chimpanzee.
A band of wild humans peers furtively from the underbrush. Finding the earthmen’s clothes on the bank, they tear them into shreds and damage the explorers’ landing craft beyond repair. The savages do not harm the explorers themselves, but soon a hunting party of clothed, talking, civilized apes appears. The apes wantonly shoot many of the humans and capture others, including the explorers. The survivors are taken to zoos or to research labs.
Ulysse is placed in the same cage as Nova and eventually mates with her. He displays such intelligence that the lab director Zira is platonically drawn to him. They gradually learn each other’s language, and Zira comes to believe his claim to have arrived from another planet. On her planet, humans are bestial. Zaius, however, insists that Ulysse’s apparent cleverness derives from tricks learned by rote during an earlier period of captivity. When Ulysse addresses Zaius and Zira by name, Zaius insists that Ulysse is merely parroting what he hears.
Ulysse learns that each of the three advanced species on the Planet of the Apes has separate talents and functions. The orangutans rule “official science” as figureheads. They are...
(The entire section is 1025 words.)
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