Tarzan of the Apes (Tarzan, #1)

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Rating: 2 stars

Objectively, this wasn’t a very good book. It’s incredibly pulp, there’s very purple prose and the attitudes towards anyone who isn’t white and male are quite painful for a modern audience. But despite all that, it’s still fun. I did find myself laughing out loud at times at the sheer absurdity of the whole idea, but Burroughs is so intense about it that you find yourself being caught up and thinking that maybe a child raised by apes could survive, become king of the apes and teach himself to read.

The story is moderately familiar to us all. Lord and Lady Greystoke are marooned on an island and die, leaving their baby son to be raised by a tribe of apes. He survives to become Tarzan, later meets Jane and falls in love.

Entertaining but despite the cliffhanger ending, I won’t be seeking out the next volume (although if it’s out of copyright, I might track down an electronic copy just for the next chapter or two to resolve the cliffhanger).

Book details

Publisher: Flamingo Books
Year of publication: 1912

The Gods of Mars (Barsoom #2)

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Rating: 3 stars

The second of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ ‘Mars’ books is a good old-fashioned adventure. The hero, John Carter, is rarely not stabbing or slicing someone most of the way through. Removed from Earth by the same mysterious process that took him before, he is deposited in Mars’ equivalent of Eden. But it is an Eden that is far from peaceful. Soon reunited with old friend and comrade in arms Tars Tarkas, John Carter must fight his way out back to his beloved princess Dejah Thoris.

I think what I noticed most about this book was how easy it was for John Carter. His superior Earth-muscles and training make him an invincible warrior and he seems to have an aura that persuades other people to just fall in line with him and throw their swords at his feet, not to mention having very good luck. So even if captured or facing innumerable odds, you never really feel that our hero is in any danger.

A fun book that’s easy to pick up and put down at frequent intervals as it doesn’t require a huge amount of mental effort (making it good lunch time reading).

Book details

ISBN: 9780345324399
Publisher: Random House Ballantine Del Rey
Year of publication: 1913

The Beasts of Tarzan (Tarzan, #3)

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Rating: 4 stars

I’ve read very little Burroughs and no Tarzan so when I found this slim volume going cheap at a con I grabbed it. The writing style is fairly simplistic but once you get past that and the casual racism (the assumption that white men are superior to the jungle ‘savages’ is omnipresent but not pushed down your throat; and a tribe leader that Tarzan befriends is counted as one of the eponymous ‘beasts’ of Tarzan) it’s quite a fun story. Tarzan’s arch-nemesis Nikolas Rokoff has escaped from prison and is hell-bent on getting revenge. To this end, he kidnaps Tarzan’s wife and child and strands the ape-man himself on a jungle island. Yeah, that’s like locking the A-Team in a shed, they’re helpless, right? It’s not long before Tarzan escapes at the head of a pack formed of a panther, tribe of ape-men and tribe leader to rescue his family.

I sort of wish I’d encountered the Tarzan novels when I was younger, they are perfect teenage boy books with lots adventure and men’s men where villains are dispatched in appropriately gruesome ways. In saying that, it is very much of its time and the racism and implicit (and sometimes explicit) suggestion that white men are the supreme form of Humanity doesn’t sit well. However, if you can ignore that (and it’s a big if), there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had from this simple story.

Book details

ISBN: 9780809599844
Publisher: Wildside Press
Year of publication: 1914

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