Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Some off mini reviews-Armageddon 2419 and The Beasts of Tarzan

Since I'm taking a quick break from Barsoom I'll go ahead and post my thoughts on two other novels I've since read.

As some may know, this year marks the 80 anniverary of Buck Rogers, the sci-fi comic strip hero who in some respects was a successor to John Carter in making science fiction popular and introducing many familiar concepts. But before Buck made it to the comics page, he was first featured in Philip Nowlan's pulp novel Armageddon 2149 A.D. Published in 1928 in Amazing Stories magazine, the novel first introduced us to Anthony Rogers, a 20th Century man who goes to work and wakes up 500 years later. Working as part of a geographical survey team in Pennsylvania, Rogers heads into a cave filled with radioactive gas. When the roof falls, he's trapped and rendered unconscious until 2419 when he wakes up and discovers the world has been taken over by the Hans. Working with the resistance and his girl friday Wilma Deering he saves the world of course.

The one thing that struck me as I read this was how completely different it was compared to the latter comics, the Buster Crabbe serial or the campy TV series with Gil Gerard and Erin Gray. No space travel is present, Rogers and Wilma actually marry as the story progresses and the villians smack of 1920s stereotypes, evil Chinese who have clearly patterned themselves after Fu Manchu. Still some interesting devices are introduced, including antigravity belts that allow the user to jump high into the trees and and the use of rockets to bring down craft. I would recommend it but leave your PC sensibilites at the door. (If you can find it. The book is currently out of print but copies can be found cheaply on Ebay and Amazon.)

Next up is The Beasts of Tarzan. Yep Mr. Burroughs' other creation. In this third adventure for Lord Greystoke he is pitted up against Nikolas Rokoff, the Russian villian Tarzan fought in his previous adventure. But Rokoff plans his revenge smoothly. He kidnaps Tarzan's son and strands the ape man on an island. In a feet Lee Marvin would find impressive he gathers a small group of apes, Sheeta the panther and a tribal giant named Mugambi. Complicating matters are several cannibal tribes, Rokoff and his second in command Paulvitch and poor Jane who gets captured.

While I enjoyed the first novel of the series, this one felt repetitve, almost as if ERB was grinding it out for no other reason than Tarzan was still selling. (I guess I always enjoyed JCOM and some of his more sci-fi novels than Tarzan.) Here the plot gets predictable with one cannibal tribe after another all fearful of the white devil as Tarzan becomes known. Also I just didn't think Rokoff came off well as a villian. In certain sections he comes off like Snidely Whiplash, in others as a weakling. And for those who complain that Burroughs engaged in sexist beliefs in his work, this one will probably cement that since Jane spends most of her time fainting and being leered at by Rokoff who vows to do unspeakable things to her (in a Cinemax at 3 in the morning sense). If you are going for the ape man start with the first book.

Ratings-Armageddon 2419-*** out of 4; Beasts of Tarzan ** out of 4.

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