Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Book Review: Tarzan and the Castaways

I'm still working on Tarzan on Mars but I thought I would go ahead and post this review for the last Tarzan book I read.

Published in 1965 by Canaveral Press, Tarzan and the Castaways collects a 100 page+ novella and two short stories that had not been collected before. While that's good for the collector the stories themselves leave a little to be desired as they were penned after several uneven Tarzan novels. So those approaching this hoping for Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar or Tarzan and the Ant Men will be disappointed.

The first story originally appeared under the title "The Quest of Tarzan" but was later renamed to avoid confusion with Tarzan's Quest. In this story Tarzan finds himself a prisoner of a mad arab and a German, Fritz Krause, who plans to put the Ape Man on display as a savage and are sailing to the US on board the ship the Saigon. Oh and he's lost the ability to speak since he got bonked on the head (the two common enemies of Tarzan-head injuries and the inability to balance a check book!). There's also a stock Commie, the passengers and rescued crew of a British ship that believes Tarzan ate the captain and a deserted island inhabited my sacrifice happy Mayans. So in short if you've ever read an earlier Tarzan novel it's pretty much the standard tale, with some humor spicing up the tale. All in all not a bad tale but not that memorable either.

The second tale "Tarzan and the Champion" finds Tarzan trading blows with "One-Punch" Mullargan, the new Worldwide Boxing Champion and his manager Joey Marks. After the last big match, "One-Punch" decides to head to Africa (Disneyland not being invented yet) for R and R when his plans to shot animals brings him face to face with Tarzan and some cannibals. The story is pretty much a one note affair that suffers from Mullargan and Marks failing to develop beyond comic stereotypes.

The final story is "Tarzan and the Jungle Murders" where Tarzan plays Sherlock Holmes and investigates a murder and two crashed planes. Eventually it leads to international espionage and a safari. The weakest of the three it fails on the most basic level of any great detective story-there is no suspense. Reportedly Burroughs thought this would be a new path for Tarzan to pursue but as great a writer as Burroughs was he wasn't Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie.

In short, Tarzan and the Castaways is mostly just for ERB die-hards. If you want to start out with Tarzan I would suggest sticking with the earlier books. Rating: **1/2 out of 4.

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