Book Review: The Return of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs

1 Jul

BookTarzan0202F(Continuing to republish my 2009 reviews of the first three Tarzan novels in anticipation of the new movie, The Legend of Tarzan. The film opens today!)

I did not hate this book. I really enjoyed it and easily recommend it as part of the one-two punch that is the origin story of Tarzan. But Edgar Rice Burroughs put so many “Come On!” moments in the novel that he would be slaughtered at any modern critique group. So, don’t forget: I liked the book.

When we last saw Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, (as recent as my forgotten book last week), he had made a decision that made the happy-ending part of me scream. And growl. And beat my chest like a gorilla. Well, not really. My family was still asleep.

Nevertheless, Tarzan leaves America and cruises across the Atlantic on an ocean liner. He injects himself in a quarrel not of his own making…and earns himself a dreaded enemy, the dastardly Nikolas Rokoff and his comrade-in-mischief, Alexis Paulvitch. Tarzan disembarks in Paris and stays with his friend, Paul d’Arnot, and, of course, Rokoff tries to off Tarzan again. And again. And again. Guess the hatred’s pretty deep.

After a time, Tarzan gets himself a job in Algeria and steams out of Paris. Lo, and behold, who should be on the ship? None other than Hazel Strong, Jane Porter’s best friend. Come on! They talk but she doesn’t know who he is. Rokoff’s there and manages to throw Tarzan overboard. And then he swims to shore. Come on! And lands right where he dad and mom were marooned early in the first book. Seriously?! Whereupon he delves back in the jungle and becomes, through various little incidences that don’t amount to much, the King of the Waziri people.

Later, Jane Porter, her dad, Tarzan’s blood cousin William Clayton, Rokoff (now in disguise as Thuran, all get shipwrecked *right where Tarzan just swam to shore*! Yeah, really. I’ll admit I was rolling my eyes at some parts of this story, not a good idea while listening to the audiobook and commuting in Houston rush hour traffic. I almost let out my own Tarzan yell when a car swerved near me.

Finally, there’s a lost city–found by Tarzan–, the great city of Opar. Tarzan himself gets captured but escapes. Yeah, really. Then–and you’re not going to believe this one–his one true love, Jane, gets herself captured, too. Yes! And Tarzan has to rescue her. Yes way! And then some other stuff happens that round out the book and make for a nice happy ending.

Lesson I take from reading The Return of Tarzan: coincidence must’ve been a lot more permissible in the 1910s as opposed to the 2000s. Some of Tarzan’s coincidences I could’ve stomached. But the landing exactly where he used to live. No way.

Taken together, however, The Return of Tarzan and Tarzan of the Apes is a great, pulp, adventure read. There are a couple of books I’ve enjoyed just a bit more this year. Other than those two, I haven’t enjoyed a book (they really are one giant adventure) as much as I enjoyed these two this year. They are great fun. Period.

You know, there’s another giant book out this week that lots of people are criticizing [Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol]. I’ve started it already. I quickly realized that, yes, I have read this story before. But you know what? I don’t care. I had fun reading Tarzan and I’m going to have fun reading Dan Brown’s book, too. Fun is fun.

I’m pretty psyched about reading more Tarzan adventures. I’ve got about ten or so old paperbacks here on my shelf. I’ve mentioned before that I inherited boxes full of old westerns from my grandfather. In those boxes were the old Tarzan books. I recently asked my mom who bought those books. Without a word, she just smiled and tapped her chest with her thumb. Ah. Those are *her* books. Way to go, Mom.

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