Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Book Review: Tarzan and the Cave City

It’s been a while since a book review, so let’s take a look at one of the rarer-and unauthorized-adventures of the lord of the jungle!
Receiving word from an old friend, Lord “Freddy” Pembroke, Tarzan sends Jane off to England to visit their son while he heads back to his home to get ready for Freddy and two other guests, Professor Norton and his fiancée Marcia. Their quest: To find a 100 pound emerald, which in usual Tarzan fashion is belongs to a hidden tribe of Ondo, which is ruled by King Nanda and Queen Nirva. Well if you ever read a Tarzan novel you can figure out the rest. There is another race called the Bamos that worship the emerald, some gladiatorial combat, an evil safari headed up by a villainous Wong Feng and his chief killer Magra Taask and the usual captures, escapes and an army of apes on the rampage.

If you’ve never heard of this one well you’re probably not alone. Back in the early 1960s when Edgar Rice Burroughs’ work was being republished, several publishers assumed that the rights to his work and characters had lapsed into public domain. One of these publishers, Gold Star Books, went a step further and hired a husband and wife writing team, Peter and Peggy Scott to pen a new series of Tarzan adventures under the name “Barton Werper.” They had turned out five books when the Burroughs estate stepped in and through legal action forced the series to end and remaining copies to be destroyed. That hasn’t stopped the books from popping up from time to time for a cost (I lucked into this book for only 12 bucks) but there isn’t much information about the series , even on sites like ERBZine.
OK we got the history, the question is the book any good? Not really. Part of the problem is that it seems the Scotts only read the later, more formulaic books with their lost civilizations, squabbling safaris, Tarzan doing hero duty reluctantly, etc without much new or different. It also doesn’t include Burroughs’ trademark humor or sense of action as the sequences basically just happen with little to remember them afterwards. Even a huge ape siege led by Mangani ape “Jedak” (someone got their Barsoomian mixed up there) fails to excite as the story shambles along to its climax. Also the supporting characters fail to register with Pembroke, Marcia, the Queen and King being bland non-entities in the story.

Is there any redeeming qualities? Some occasional humor pops up here and there, mostly in the opening with Jane where Tarzan tells her to get “into your leopard skin” for some private time in the trees but sadly that fades away as Jane makes her quick exit from the story to head off and visit son Jack. There is also some comic asides from Jedak the Ape, who comes across as smarter than most of the humans in the story.
I guess the curiosity and rarity factor is the only thing that made Tarzan and the Cave City interesting but beyond being a collector I can’t see it appealing to anyone outside of die-hard “have to read every Tarzan story” fan. Still maybe at some point ERB Inc will republish the series if for nothing else the historical value. Until next time faithful readers, keep practicing the bull ape cries.

1 comment:

pascalahad said...

I'm trying practicing the bull ape cry, but the neighbors filed complaints, including restraining orders...