Thursday, November 7, 2013

Review - The Beasts of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Short review: Tarzan and his entire family are kidnapped by Rokloff. In response, Tarzan sits around for a while and then enlists a menagerie of animals to help him rescue his loved ones.

When Rokloff escapes
And kidnaps Jane and her son
Tarzan needs the beasts

Full review: The Beasts of Tarzan is the third book in the Tarzan series. In this book, Tarzan and Jane seem to have settled into comfortable domesticity in London and had a child. This idyllic life is upset when the evil Rokloff escapes from the French prison he was sent to at the end of the last book. Rokloff immediately begins to set his plans for revenge in motion (as he clearly has nothing better to do than plot revenge against Tarzan) by arranging to kidnap both Tarzan and his son. Jane is kidnapped as well, as a sort of lucky bonus to Rokloff's plans. Once in custody, Tarzan becomes passive as he (and his wife and son, although Tarzan doesn't know this) are whisked away on a steamship to Africa where Tarzan is marooned. Rokloff then details his plan to have Tarzan's child raised by cannibals.

Tarzan, as usual when dumped in the wild with his loved ones at risk, becomes passive. Tarzan takes up with a band of apes, tames a wild panther, and hunts until a group of natives show up in canoes. With the help of his animals, Tarzan kills all but one native, who then becomes his ally and servant (since the natives are just waiting for a strong European to guide them I suppose). He gets his apes and panther to paddle him and his black friend to the mainland where he learns that Jane and a baby passed through a month before, chased by a band of nasty white men. Finally, after sitting on his butt for weeks, Tarzan decides he should rescue his spouse and progeny.

Tarzan then pursues Rokloff through the jungle. His animal companions are improbably competent and loyal through his various adventures. Through a series of increasingly improbable coincidences, Tarzan finally rescues Jane, recovers his baby, and Rokloff is killed. Tarzan then has to commandeer a ship of mutineers (mutiny seems to be the norm in Burroughs' version of the world: One wonders why anyone ever hires a crew for a ship to begin with), abandons his animals and returns to England safe and sound (with his native companion and a serendipitously found spouse for him).

Tarzan's character in the first two books is best described as a cartoon figure with improbable strength, skills, and intelligence. In this book, he becomes even more of an unbelievable character - taming a wild panther by smacking it on the nose a few times, talking a gang of apes into paddling a canoe, and a collection of other over-the-top accomplishments. Tarzan is, by a wide margin, the most unbelievable of all Burroughs' creations. The adventure is adequate, although there are far too many improbable coincidences for it to be truly satisfying. Even so, as pulp action goes, it is a classic of the genre, and worth the brief investment of time that reading it will take.

Previous book in the series: The Return of Tarzan

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