Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tarzan On The Precipice!

Following on after Will Murray's Return To Pal-Ul-Don this novel by Michael Sanford is the second of the "Wild Adventures". Tarzan On The Precipice is a new yarn commissioned by the folks at Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc, and is I suppose part of the official canon now. That's unfortunate in many ways since despite some intriguing elements the novel falls well short of the classics written so long ago by ERB himself.

The story begins where the classic Tarzan of the Apes leaves off, with Tarzan in America. Having given up his inheritance and the hand of the woman he loves, Tarzan heads off into the wilds of Canada and there confronts of all things another tribe of ape-like creatures and a well and truly lost civilization. The civilization he discovers is a tribe of lost Vikings who have survived in the maw of a deep and broad territory created by a massive meteor strike eons before. Alongside them thrive a colony of Sasquatch who appear to be of a similar lineage though markedly different in key details to the Apes among which Tarzan grew up.

Tarzan finds his way into this hidden land thanks to the handiwork of to proper villains who make a living waylaying and robbing trains and who also have an enterprise with some elements inside the pit in which Tarzan finds himself. Also on hand is a naive and beautiful girl named London as well as her mother and her tutor. All of these folks get drawn into a somewhat sprawling adventure which lasts a strangely undefined but lengthy time and all are changed by the sometimes grisly events.

I don't want to spoil any of the surprises, few as they are alas, so I will keep the details of the tale under wraps. But to speak to the writing style, it's a far cry from the fast-paced classic hand of ERB with diversions into all manner of background information. Especially in regard the Vikings we get pages of cultural detail which only marginally helps to freshen our understanding of the events at hand and do remarkable harm to the pacing of the story. When Tarzan is interacting with the Sasquatch the story feels more organically paced. Weirdly the story at times reads almost like a summary of events and not a true engaging narrative.

This is a young Tarzan, still fresh from the wild and barely civilized. My favorite moments in the book speak to Tarzan's nature and seeing him trying to survive in the deciduous forests of Canadian north are really vital. I have to say that the elements of a grand story are all here, but somehow the execution simply falls short. This story reads alas like what it is, an above average bit of fan fiction by an academic who is unable to parse the difference between detail and relevant detail.

I wanted to like this more, but I only liked parts of it. Will Meugniot's artwork is not bad at all and does add value to the book. I would recommend this one to Tarzan purists. It's recognizably Tarzan but sadly not the exciting version ERB often wrote about.

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