Review: Tarzan and the Madman

Tarzan and the Madman

And so I face the final curtain…

It has been a long, sometimes bumpy, road from Tarzan of the Apes to Tarzan and the Madman. Along the way, especially around the Tarzan and the Ant Men mark, I wondered if I would ever get through, but I persevered and rediscovered my love for this character and his world. Yes, the books are racist, sexist, and dated, but Tarzan rises above it all and has stayed firmly lodged in my heart.

Now that I have finished the last of the original Tarzan books and am left with nothing but tales told by other authors, I find myself more melancholy than relieved. It reminds me of when I read the series for the first time in 1975. I finished the last book and immediately started over with book one and read all the way through to the end again. Then I went back and read the first six about four more times each. I’m too old and busy to do that now, but I understand the impulse. I don’t want to leave Tarzan’s company, life is just richer with him in it.

Enough fangirling, let me talk a little bit about this book. Tarzan and the Madman gives us yet another Tarzan imposter. This time around he doesn’t look much like Tarzan but he runs around clad in a g-string and carrying Tarzan’s weapons while accompanied by the great apes. This Tarzan isn’t a good guy, however, he’s stealing women and children and carrying them off into the jungle never to be seen again. By the time Tarzan learns of this imposter’s antics he has stolen a white girl from her father’s safari. Tarzan sets out to kill the imposter and rescue the white girl. As was sadly typical of ERB, he ignores the fate of the black captives and only concerns himself with the white prisoners. There are evil white men, heroic white men, and a helpless white woman whom every male wants, even the apes. What is with the apes and their desire for white girls? There is something very weird about that.

I won’t spoil the ending for you but I’m reminded of a lesson learned in earlier ERB books, be careful who you fall in love with because if there are two of you in love with the same girl, one of you will definitely die. It’s not possible for you to go off and love another, you must win the love race or croak, those are your only options.

Let’s talk about something else that happens over and over again in ERB’s books. If you are a woman and you are about to be dishonored (no one in an ERB book would use the word rape) you are honor-bound to kill yourself. They don’t call it a fate worse than death for nothing. Talk about blaming the victim! It’s probably the second-most problematic feature of this author, right after the horrid racism. I’m not saying that chastity and morality have no meaning, but I’m so glad we have evolved away from the idea that your sexual purity is more important than your life.

This is not a great book, it’s probably not even a good book, but there are good moments in it and a nice comeuppance for some bad guys. There are glaring plot holes, including the reason for why the imposter can talk to the apes, that are never explained. The ends get tied up much too neatly even for an ERB novel and Tarzan doesn’t get much chance to shine in this one. It’s worth reading if you are, like me, a completist and a Tarzan fan, but it won’t hurt you to miss it if you can’t get your hands on a copy.

I’m giving it four stars, mostly because I’m so sad the series is over. Don’t judge me!

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