Saturday, April 8, 2017

Kings Of The Jungle!

King Kong Vs. Tarzan by Will Murray from Altus Books has been sitting on my shelf since I first got my copy and finally spurred by the new movie Kong Skull Island I was filled with an immediate hankering to read it. To be fair to myself I started it sometime ago, but found the beginning of this rather longish pulp adventure a slow trudge in its first hundred pages.

We get a reprise of sorts of the events of the classic 1933 movie King Kong. What we have here is a story which answers the long-standing question which many who see the movie will think of later as they reflect on it, how the heck did they get that big ape to New York City anyway. The movie effectively short circuits all those complications by jetting forward in time to after the transport to the moment when King Kong will make his debut before the American public. This novel answers that question and some of it is just as tedious as you might expect.

The story operates in the same fictional universe fleshed out by Joe DeVito in his prequel to the original King Kong story Kong: King of Skull Island where we get a back story of sorts for Kong and the natives who live alongside him and the dinosaurs across the great wall. We see as the ancient woman dubbed the "Storyteller" who tends to Kong's legend and reality and who accompanies the The Wanderer and crew as they try to take the great beast across the vast oceans. She comes up with some herbs which sedate the great ape and we learn more than we need about the care and feeding of a monster primate. We follow the ship as they try to navigate the oceans, taking care to avoid storms and the authorities who might object to transporting such a monster to foreign lands.

The Wanderer eventually finds a safe harbor off the coast of Africa and of course Kong escapes into the jungle. Enter Tarzan of the Apes, a mythic figure that some have heard of and as we learn Denham has encountered. We see Kong as the thirty foot monster tramples across the wilderness terrorizing the prey he encounters. We eventually meet Tarzan (it takes a really long time) who takes steps to see to it that the "King" of Skull Island is neutralized as a threat. The best way to approach this novel is to see it as two pulps put together. The first deals at length with the transport of Kong and the second Kong's misadventures in Africa. Both are obviously linked and part of the same overarching narrative, but each part has a definite focus.

This is Will Murray's second King Kong novel in recent years. The first Doc Savage: Skull Island pitted Kong against a young Clark Savage Jr. and predated the events of the classic film and the novel in which Kong meets up with the Ape-man. And to be frank this is the best writing from Murray I've seen in a while. His previous Tarzan novel was too long and this one is long too, but it has enough going on eventually to justify that length. I was eager to see how they solved all the issues, even though we all know how the status quo must be reestablished before the novel's end. That would seem to be an insurmountable problem but it proves not to be in this instance. Here is a link to an interview with Murray about the project.


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  1. I read the Doc Savage/Kong book when it first came out. One of my favorite novels ever! I didn't have the money to buy the actual book, so I downloaded it to my phone. I've made it through the first couple chapters and am enjoying it (it's like "reading the movie"), but I can't wait to get Kong to Africa to meet Lord Greystoke! Thanks for the great review!

    1. Thanks a heap. The first half of the story gets really pedestrian for me, but you'll be glad you hung around when Tarzan finally shows up. It's a very slow reveal, but he's there in much of his glory.

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