Saturday, January 19, 2013

Book Review: Tarzan-The Greystoke Legacy

I'm still recovering from the cold but I figured I better go ahead and post this since this review is a little late. So if there is typos blame the cold. Otherwise here's my review.

In this take on the legend, the story is updated to 21st century Africa and centers on the illegal logging industry that is decimating the rain forests. Among the loggers are Archie Porter, a former doctor trying to raise money after being chased out of the US by his ex-wife's debts and his friend Clark; Robbie Canler, a teenage runaway hoping to hide his past and create a new future for himself; and Jane, Archie's daughter, who finds herself dealing with both her father and being separated from her friends and former life. The logging operation is soon hit with acts of sabotage, leading Archie and Clark to wonder if the perpetrators are men of the rebel leader Tafari, who has a deal with them. But when Jane disappears following a massive explosion, she discovers the truth-Tarzan, a half-savage human who lives with the apes and is fighting to save them and their home. As she learns more about him, Jane begins to suspect that he is the lost heir to the Greystoke Estate and tries to convince him to return to society. But first they must overcome Tafari and save her father and Robbie from him and his cutthroat band.

I admit when I first heard about this book a few years back I was a little worried, if not skeptical. A 21st century spin on Tarzan written for the young adult market? Suddenly I began to fear that our favorite ape man was going to get watered down, or worse the Twilight treatment. A few positive reviews convinced me to try it but I had to wait since the book wasn't available in the US until last fall from publisher Open Road. With that I dove in and came away entertained but with some qualms.

First the good stuff. Author Andy Briggs shows both respect for Edgar Rice Burroughs' creation but also knows how to plot his story and keep it simple: Bad men enter Tarzan's domain, big mistake. The writing style is crisp and clear, benefiting the narrative of Tarzan trying to save his homeland and his "family" contrasted with Jane's attempts to come to terms with her father while trying to survive being lost in the jungle. Briggs also keeps the action moving quick and surprisingly violently (one of the major reasons reportedly it took a while to be published here). I wasn't expecting a scene of Tarzan sewing up a wound with ant heads but it's here in all of its gory glory.

Briggs also fleshes out the character of Robbie, a poor kid suffering from guilt over his past and his growing feelings for Jane. If there is one notable aspect is the lack of any romantic subplots in the book. Maybe there is in the sequels that Briggs has written but for now there is no sparks between the three leads, no Team Tarzan or Team Robbie so to speak.

I did mention a few qualms and here they are. While Briggs establishes Tarzan's back story as a descendant of Lord and Lady Greystoke he does rewrite Tarzan's education. There is mention of Paul D'Arnot finding and teaching Tarzan English but it isn't the verbose Tarzan of Burroughs. In fact it comes closer to Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan which I did find a little distracting. That said some of it was quite good and at least he gets to the point, especially when he says "Revenge at Tarzan's Hands!" Also I found the major villain Tafari sort of weak compared to classic Burroughs antagonists. Oh well you can't have La all the time.

Even with those qualms I found Tarzan: The Greystoke Legacy a fast-paced and entertaining take on the character that will probably appeal more to first time Tarzan readers rather than Burroughs die-hards. But if you have an open mind and don't mind it's an enjoyable book. Rating: *** out of 4.

1 comment:

Spaceman Spiff said...

Sorry,call me one of those die hard Burroughs fans but this seems completely unnecessary to me.