Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Review: Tarzan the Invincible
Tarzan the Invincible is the fourteenth Tarzan book by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It's not really necessary to read these in order, they all stand alone pretty well, to the best of my knowledge. I had many of these books as a kid, although I didn't read all of them- to be honest, I was drawn more to the cover art by Neal Adams than the idea of Tarzan itself. So when I decided to re- read some ERB recently, I was of course attracted to the artwork again- and this being a good example of Neal Adams' work, I chose this one.
The other thing that attracted me to the story was the lost city of Opar. The Tarzan tales have no shortage of lost cities and ancient civilizations, but Opar- that glorious ruin, long lost outpost of Atlantis- has always fired my imagination. When I read the blurb and saw that Opar, along with the beautiful La, high priestess of the Flaming god, played a prominent role in the story, I was in.
In this volume Tarzan learns that a party of communist agents (this was written in the 1930's) is out to loot the treasure vaults of ruined Opar. Wishing to warn La, the queen of Opar, he goes there only to discover that La has been deposed, and replaced as high priestess. He is quicky captured and thrown into a cell, to be sacrificed to the Flaming God- but ever resourceful, he soon escapes and flees with La. They are soon separated, in typical Burroughs fashion, and La is captured by slave traders working with the communists. The story unfold from there with lots of hair raising escapes, coincidences, and encounters with wild animals. The perspective changes as we see through the eyes of Tarzan, La, a Russian agent named Zora, and an enigmatic American who may or may not be a traitor to his country. We even get the perspective of little Nkima, a nervous monkey who idolizes Tarzan but is easily distracted, getting himself into all kinds of trouble.
I wasn't sure how a story like this would hold up for me as an adult, but I was surprised how much I liked it and I stayed up late to read it. The sequences in Opar, not surprisingly, were my favorites- the imagery of the ruined city, with its subhuman inhabitants and wailing cries, the beautiful priestesses and colorful domes, made me want to go there and walk the rubble choked streets, and glimpse the wonders of ancient Atlantis. I have to admit the story would have been less compelling for me without this element and the plight of La. Still, this was a fun read with a lot to recommend it. There's a touching moment when a young priestess helps the American escape, after he too is captured by the inhabitants of Opar. And there is some comic relief with little Nkima as well, who is very brave when Tarzan is around but otherwise flees in terror from the jungle dwellers who don't appreciate his sens e of humor.
The only real drawback here, other than the old fashioned style of writing, is the attitude of the times. It's not politically correct by today's standards, and while I realize it is a product of its time, it can be a bit jarring for modern readers. However, it is a fun story and a good way to spend a few hours if you want a good adventure.
The girl rose angrily from her throne. "Know, man of the outer world, that I am high priestess. I, Oah, am high priestess of the Flaming God."
Tarzan ignored her. "Where is La?" he demanded again of Dooth.
Oah flew into a frenzy of rage. "She is dead!" she screamed, advancing to the edge of the dais as though to leap upon Tarzan, the jeweled handle of her sacrificial knife gleaming in the sunlight, which poured through a great aperture where a portion of the ancient roof of the throne room had fallen in.