Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Tarzan of the Apes: The First Three Novels, by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Tarzan of the Apes: The First Three Novels (Tarzan, #1-3)

Any character that remains popular for over a century has something unique to offer. Tarzan could easily be called the first superhero: he possesses extraordinary strength, stamina, speed, agility, healing, and intelligence—basically Captain America without needing the Super Soldier Serum. Tarzan can speak with apes, kill gorillas, lions, and crocodiles with his bare hands, and his senses of hearing and smell rival those of bats and bears. His skill handling animals is also remarkable; at one point Tarzan trains a group of apes to man oars and sail through the Atlantic Ocean. There isn't much depth to these books (the volume I read collects the first three of twenty-four) but they are thoroughly entertaining pulp novels.

Both set and written in the early twentieth century, the style of writing suffers from what we expect today. Plots are melodramatic and driven by coincidence after coincidence, the characters are thin and one-dimensional, and the rampant negative stereotyping exposes the widespread sexism and racism common in the period. Despite all this, there is an undeniable charm to these stories and it is easy to see why they remain in favor today. Escapist and fun, the Tarzan books are a wonderful set of adventures.

First Sentence from Tarzan of the Apes:
I had this story from one who had no business to tell it to me, or to any other.
First Sentence from The Return of Tarzan:
"Magnifique!" ejaculated the Countess de Coude, beneath her breath.
First Sentence from The Beasts of Tarzan:
"The entire affair is shrouded in mystery," said D'Arnot.

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