Science Fiction Book Review

King Kong

(1932 (2005 edition)) Delos W Lovelace, Gollancz, 6.99, hrdbk, 201pp, ISBN 0-575-07876-6

This novelisation was first published in 1932 (after being serialised in Mystery Magazine) a year before the film came out. This hardback edition has been released to co-incide with the Peter Jackson re-make and includes a comprehensive afterward by Stephen Jones on all matters Kong-related. I hope the plot is well-enough known that this isn't a spoiler... A filmmaker takes an expedition to a remote uncharted island where they encounter a big ape. Depending on your point of view (or perhaps the scale of the sets) King Kong is either 20 feet tall (as he is throughout the novelisation) or 50 feet tall (as he actually appears in the film). Either way, there's a lot of running around and dinosaur-ape fights and screaming woman abductions and villager stomping until Kong is captured and taken to New York. There he despairs of the Republican party and the congenital stupidity of Americans, gets a crack addiction and appears on Oprah, before plunging to his death... I might have made that bit up, but it's something similar. As novelisations go this is as competent as any, and includes the 'missing' spiders-in-the-ravine sequence cut(?) from the film (there's a production still of the set for this sequence; some say it was filmed, some say it wasn't, but I don't know of anyone who has claimed to have seen the actual footage). As a 1932 book modern readers will have to make allowances for the casual racism that depicts the superiority (arrogance) of the white explorer over the 'nigger savages', but it was 73 years ago! Try not to be frightened - it's only a word - reading this book will not make you a racist. It's just a cracking adventure yarn that shoots along at breakneck pace with (by modern standards) hopelessly naive characters, who are 'bricks', who make up in courage what they lack in intelligence. If I had one criticism it's just that the Beauty and the Beast theme is applied with such repetitive sledgehammer subtlety that it gets up your nose. Other than that, this is a fine old romp and quite enjoyable.

Tony Chester

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