Sunday, September 2, 2012

Classic Fantasy: Tarzan Series by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Title: The Return of Tarzan
Series: Tarzan #2
Publisher: Ballantine
Date: 1913 (1984)
Format: paperback
Source: purchased used
Read: because I enjoyed Tarzan of the Apes a few years back
Pages: 220
Reading time: three days

From GoodReads: Tarzan had renounced his right to the woman he loved, and civilization held no pleasure for him. After a brief and harrowing period among men, he turned back to the African jungle where he had grown to manhood. It was there he first heard of Opar, the city of gold, left over from fabled Atlantis. It was a city of hideous men - and of beautiful, savage women, over whom reigned La, high priestess of the Flaming God. Its altars were stained with the blood of many sacrifices. Unheeding of the dangers, Tarzan led a band of savage warriors toward the ancient crypts and the more ancient evil of Opar.

My review: Why is Burroughs' pulp fiction so good?! I greatly enjoyed reading the second book in the Tarzan series (by the way, there are twenty-four official novels); at almost a hundred years later, the writing has aged only a little. There are, of course, the usual details and stereotypes that are now viewed as racially and ethnically offensive, but these can generally be skimmed over as simply products of their time. Another possible drawback is how melodramatic Burroughs' writing can be at times, though, at least in this case, I found it actually added a bit of humor to the novel. (I think there were times, especially towards the end, where Burroughs was intentionally trying to be funny; I was like, "Wait - did he actually just make a joke?!")

I won't speak as to any anthropological and primatological errors in the story; I'm sure there were a multitude. Some of the premises behind Tarzan himself as well as other aspects in this novel (like people surviving over a week in a lifeboat without ANY food or water) seem ridiculous, but the book remains quite entertaining because it's just such a fun read. The plot is constantly moving, and the action is exciting. As mentioned previously, there's lots of laughs, though possibly they're not all intentional. I really think Burroughs quit taking the story seriously in the last fifty pages, and he seemed to especially dislike William Clayton, Jane Porter's betrothed. On to the next book...

Title: The Beasts of Tarzan
Series: Tarzan #3
Publisher: Ballantine
Date: 1914 (1983)
Format: paperback
Source: purchased used
Read: because I enjoy the series
Pages: 160
Reading time: three days
*spoiler alert*

From GoodReads: Now that he was the rich Lord Greystoke, Tarzan became the target of greedy and evil men. His son was kidnapped, his wife had been abducted, and Tarzan was stranded on a desert island where he seemed helpless. But with the help of Sheeta, the vicious panther, and the great ape Akut, Tarzan begins his escape. Together, with the giant Mugambi, they reach the mainland and took up the trail of the kidnappers. Tarzan sought his wife and his child - and he sought such vengeance as only a human beast of the jungle could devise. But the men Tarzan sought had fled deep into the interior - and the trail was old and well-hidden.

My review: The third book? Not as good as the second. It's still an enjoyable read, but I didn't like it quite as much. Burroughs was definitely intentionally making jokes at the beginning. The start was hilariously ridiculous, so much that I'm still wondering whether or not the author takes his books seriously. You have the most evil, narrow-minded villains in the history of evil, narrow-minded villains - really, even moderately successful villains should be smarter than these guys. Plus, their idea is to drop off Tarzan's infant son in Africa and have him be raised by cannibals. Stop and think for just a moment here: how are they going to convince cannibals to raise a strange child without eating him, much less actually access these cannibals without getting eaten themselves?! And then Tarzan repeatedly shows up to save the day, surrounded with his posse of an African native, a black panther, and a dozen apes. In a canoe. Because apes and panthers are great paddlers.

So the beginning is all fun and laughs, well, interspersed between all the serious action-y bits, anyway, and the rest of the novel continues in typical Burroughs fashion. Again, the plot is exciting and holds even modern readers' attentions. Otherwise, though, this book didn't seem quite as well-written as some of Burroughs' others. At times the story felt rushed, and then it seemed like it just kept going and going and going. Everything's moving along great for a time, people are rescued, yada yada - and here comes another bad event, chase sequence, battle, etc. It seemed like the author was just trying to make a longer book, when really, a shorter one that wrapped everything up faster might have been better.

The edition that I read had an irritatingly large amount of typos. One of the ship's names was misspelled at least three times, for example.

No comments:

Post a Comment