Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Book Review: Tarzan-Return to Pal-ul-don

Tarzan returns in a new adventure! Beyond that I can't think of a snappy opening so let's just see what happens.

With World War II raging, Flying Officer John Clayton, known to you and me as Tarzan of the Apes, receives his first mission: Fly into uncharted African territory and find a missing intelligence officer code named Ilex. Going alone, Flying Officer Clayton finds the downed plane and the bodies of the other crew, as well as loyal Tantor he nicknames Torn Ear (after he gets one nearly torn off by a gimli). Before too long Clayton finds himself shedding civilization (and his uniform!) when he discovers he's back in Pal-ul-don. Only this time he finds Turtle Men, a new friend in a Waz-ho-hon warrior named Mu-bu-tan and a race of deadly spider pygmies. It isn't too long though before Tarzan has to put his wits, strength and will against these creatures to rescue Ilex and complete his mission.

If you want a brief synopsis of Tarzan: Return to Pal-ul-don it's "Tarzan Vs. Spider-Pygmies." That's pretty much all that happens for a good 2/3rds of the novel and frankly it gets a little winded after a while. Author Will Murray (who has also penned a couple of Doc Savage novels for the same publisher, Altus Press) starts off the novel with a good premise, working in Tarzan's wartime service that Edgar Rice Burroughs established in Tarzan and the 'Foreign Legion' and returning us back to familiar territory. Or at least somewhat familiar territory since Murray does not bring back any of the characters or races we read about in Tarzan the Terrible, opting for those spider pygmies and the Turtle Men. My major problem I guess is the lack of an antagonist for Tarzan. Most of the best stories have Lord Greystoke against a formidable adversary or villainous conspirators. While I can understand the desire to just pit Tarzan against a primitive group it might have worked more if there was an actual leader. Instead we get a bizarre homage to Aliens at the end and I'll leave it at that.

That's not to say that the book is a total wash. In fact it's an entertaining read that just could have used some pruning in the mid section. The opening as I mentioned is an unique setup for a Tarzan tale, with Tarzan going from civilized to savage over the slow period, which is a good transition. Tarzan's relationships with Torn Ear and Mu-bu-tan are also well developed, providing some needed character and humor. The action sequences are also top notch, with a level of suspense that kept me flipping the pages to find out what happened next. And while the spider pygmies get thin, they are creepy creatures in the beginning and their origin is straight out of a good horror tale.

Ultimately though the book is a good novel that just needed some editing to make it great. Tarzan fans will enjoy it for the references to previous tales and the return of the Lord of the Jungle but non Tarzan fans might want a little more from it. Rating: *** out of 4.

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