Review Blog

Jul 06 2011

Tarzan : the Greystoke legacy by Andy Briggs

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Faber, 2011. ISBN 978 0 571272389.
Andy Briggs' contemporary Tarzan story shows a great deal of loyalty to the vision and style of Edgar Rice Burroughs. The original Tarzan of the apes was published nearly one hundred years ago, yet one is immediately aware when reading this new episode that very little change was necessary in the setting. The early Tarzan was way ahead of his time in recognising and resisting the threat posed by European exploitation of Africa's rain forests. Today jungles are being cleared and animals threatened at an alarming rate, hence it is natural that Briggs calls upon this true eco warrior to defend his animal friends in the same valiant tradition.
Briggs establishes Tarzan in modern times with the death of his wealthy parents in an air crash in the Congo whilst striving to protect the ecology of the region. Tarzan is then raised by a band of gorillas with whom he establishes bonds and rudimentary communication.
The character Jane finds herself in the forbidding jungle when her financially desperate father organises an illegal logging operation. This in itself enrages Tarzan, but so too does the presence of greater threats from local poachers and heavily armed warlords who have fled neighbouring Rwanda.
The inclusion of these plausible and realistic elements enabled Briggs to create a story with some depth which will educate young readers concerning the environmental destruction, social problems and political upheaval within the region.
Whilst the narrative appeared to labour in the first few chapters, the story gathers pace as the various characters and groups interact. The hero Tarzan must apply ingenuity, strength, courage and animal communication to defeat the most evil of enemies and for the purpose of the narrative, the despoliation of the forest by loggers is considered a lesser threat. Whilst protecting Jane from a range of hazards, Tarzan is able to educate her regarding the environmental impact of her father's timber operation. This contrasts with his ferocious attacks upon the armed brigands and the reader is made aware of Tarzan's innate intelligence compared with Jane's intellectual development prompted by her exposure to ecology and experience with him.
Like many adventure tales, the reader must forgive certain details, such as a flimsy construct which explains why Tarzan can speak basic English and his super-human demonstrations of physical strength and athleticism. This story does have substance, offering valuable insights on various topics regarding a continent of which many young people will have limited knowledge. Readers will be captivated by the Tarzan character as so many have in the past and will be enlightened whilst being entertained.
Rob Welsh

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