Nova is a character in the French novel La Planète des Singes.
When the astronauts Ulysse Mérou, Professor Antelle and Arthur Levain reached the surface of the planet Soror with their pet chimp Hector, their first contact with life on the new planet was when a naked "golden" human woman appeared before them at a natural pool of water. To win her trust the explorers engaged her in a simple game of frolicking in the water like seals. When Ulysse attempted gauge a reaction from her with a smile, she reacted in fear. Upon seeing the chimp, Hector dashing out to his human masters she attacked and killed the unfortunate chimp, afterwards fleeing back into the forest. Ulysse smitten with her natural beauty named her Nova.
Nova was partly responsible for the trio being stranded in the wilds of Soror. After she fled from them in her initial encounter, she brought news of the visitors to her father and to the greater part of the tribe. Though initial contact with men from Earth were peaceful, the men's laughter evoked a violent response and further agitated them when the men wore clothes. The tribe en-mass stripped the explorers of their clothes and equipment, and sacked their vehicle, stranding them on Soror.
Nova's tribe dragged the explorers back to their colony, after which the tribe dispersed to frolicking about in the forests, Nova maintained a keen interest in the strange men, particularly Ulysse. She assisted the godforsaken men in gathering food for them and even helped them make nests. Nova eventually spent the night with Ulysse, snuggling next to him for warmth.
The next morning Nova and Ulysse attempted communication exchanging affectionate gestures. Nova though frighten by the intensity of Ulysse's eyes managed to maintain eye contact and attempted to produce a smile. Before Ulysse could engage in any other attempts at communication, she detected the gorilla hunters in the jungles. Like many of her tribemates, her instinct was to flee, however she was hesitant to escape without Ulysse.
After the ape hunting party killed or captured most of the humans, Nova was selected as an elite and found herself among the survivors with Ulysse. When he attempted to embrace, she reacted in fear due to this alien gesture, but as night fell she eventually crept to his side for warmth. They were sold to the Institute of Advanced Biological Study as test subjects in the advancement of science. She protested her treatment when they caged her but calmed down upon realizing her cage was across from Ulysse. She and Ulysse were subjected to a number of behavioral tests such as Pavolv's classical conditioning experiments, reflex conditioning, tool use, etc.
Later Zaius paired the Earthman with the Sororian woman in a study of sexual selectivity. When the Earthman refused to engage in relations with her, Zaius replaced her as the designated mate to Ulysses's neighbor. Before her new mate could touch her, she was returned to Ulysses when he finally responded in the manner of a savage man. Their union ended in cultivating in the eventual birth of their son.
During her time in captivity with her newly gained 'mate', Nova noticed the efforts that Ulysse used to attract the attentions of the head researcher chimp Zira in his attempts to prove he was a sentient being. These acts spurred Nova in jealous fits, making her resent the she-ape coming between them whenever possible.
After winning the trust of first Zira, and then most of the ape populace, before the Ape Council, Mérou was recognized as a civilized being and emancipated from his captivity. While it freed the Earthman, it condemn Nova to a lonely existence. Since Ulysse's emancipation Zira had refrained from giving her another mate out of respect to Earthman. Ulysse continued to interact with her, but due to his human self-respect, and her status as an animal he kept their former relationship at a distance unable to see her as a 'woman'.
Throughout the novel, Ulysse has attempted to uplift the Sororian men from their bestial state. He was partially successful, with his former mate, due to Nova's emotional attachment to him from the beginning and her willingness to please him in her lessons.
Nova is described as an exceptional subject by Ulysse, as she has displayed remarkable cognitive and language abilities, perhaps second only to himself. Prior to her captivity the young girl showed enthusiasm in learning to display genuine emotions (managing a grimace when imitating Ulysses' smile). During her time at the Institute she was shown to be able to solve complex problems (creating a makeshift ladder by following the Earthman's example within two days). Also under Ulysse's tutelage she managed to possess a vocabulary of four words. Nova was able to show the potential and hope for all men on Soror to regain their sentience.
Nova's first step in regaining her kind's lost sentience become's apparent when she is pregnant with Ulysse's child. Zira discovered her to be pregnant and spirited her away to an isolated facility. Her condition was noted to have given her a personality and dignity that she did not display prior to her interaction to Ulysse. Upon her son's birth, christened Sirius, her fleeting gleam of intelligence had become a radiant glow. Despite her animalistic mentality, her heightened self-awareness caused Ulysse acknowledge her as a woman, and to accept her as his wife, dramatically changing their relationship. Another point of her character evolution was that she was able to release her bitterness towards Zira, even trusting her to touch her son.
Due to her closeness to Ulysses and being the mother of Sirius, Nova was regarded as a threat to the apes. The threat of a new race of intelligent human beings was the catalyst that forced the family to return to Mérou's spacecraft and head back to Earth. She took the place of the woman slated to board a space capsule launched by the apes. Nova's education as a woman would be later continued through the assistance of her 'husband' and son. Initially only able to communicate with her mate through gestures, by the time the family has reached Earth, Nova's motherhood and marriage has transformed her from a savage animal into a clothed rational being, now able to talk and express emotions. However Nova's visit to Earth was short-lived as the family found that the passage of many centuries had led to an ape takeover of that planet too, and forcing them to flee again and wander space.