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Bry's Bountiful Book Blog

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The Return of Tarzan - Edgar Rice Burroughs

There are different types of reads. There are books that you read to expand your mental horizons, to help you ponder concepts that you might not otherwise, books which raise serious questions about the nature of humanity and the world we live in.

And then there are books like the Tarzan books.

The works of Edgar Rice Burroughs are the literary equivalent of popcorn. You can consume as much of it as you want, and it's very tasty at the time, but it really does not nourish you in any significant way. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy them for what they are. ERB writes very action-oriented, coincidence-fraught adventure novels which extoll the virtues of chivalry and honesty, and where the good guy always wins because he's so insanely badass. His books provide purely surface-level enjoyment and are not meant to be analyzed too deeply.

Having said all that, this book let me down.

I'm a big fan of the John Carter stuff, and actually read all of those books before digging into any Tarzan. When I finally did read the first Tarzan novel, I knew what to expect from Burroughs, and yet was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. So I went into this one knowing ERB's style, yet still with high hopes for a Gods Of Mars-style strong second book. What I got instead was a disjointed, scattered tale where Tarzan hops all over the map having a variety of loosely-connected, uninspiring adventures before finally getting back to the jungles of Africa in the second half of the book. This, to my mind, was the best part of the book, but as Burroughs spent the first half screwing around, the part involving the Waziri tribe and the people of Opar felt rushed and half-baked. As there wasn't really an engaging adventure to pay attention to, Burroughs' usual semi-benevolent sexism and colonial-style casual racism became much more apparent(which is definitely not a good thing).

I certainly hope succeeding Tarzan novels are a lot more focused than this one, because from what I've read so far, John Carter is much superior as pulp heroes go.