Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Tarzan: The Greystoke Legacy by Andy Briggs
What lies in the depths of the jungle?
Escaping a dark secret, Robbie Canler joins an illegal logging team in the Congo jungle. Now they’re under siege from a sinister force.
When the daughter of the camp’s boss, Jane Porter, goes missing, they assume bloodthirsty rebel soldiers have kidnapped her. Robbie sets out on a rescue mission - unaware he is being watched ...
Are the rumours of a feral man raised by wild apes true? If so, can the mysterious untamed savage be trusted to help them?
On the Saturday I received my copy of Tarzan, by Andy Briggs, I lay myself down on the couch, after breakfast and tidying the house and shelves and got reading. At around 2pm, Mark started complaining about starving but I ignored him, deaf to the world and his plea of malnutrition.
I was having this incredible adventure and I really didn't want it to stop until I had read every single word. I'll fully admit to not expecting to like Tarzan's new updated adventure. I was quite attached to the older stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs and of course, my true love was the Christopher Lambert Tarzan in Greystoke: Legend of Tarzan Lord of the Apes.
But I completely fell for Andy Brigg's updating of this timeless legend. He's created a Tarzan very much in line with the original, focusing on the savagery of living in the jungle, without really making it overly dramatic or unbelievable.
Robbie, one of our main characters is a nice kid. He's run away from home and found himself in the Congo, having joined an illegal logging operation. It sounds really bad and I was worried that Robbie's reasons would be a bit dodgy and that the whole thing would be unsavoury but instead we've got a very plausible reason for it all. We even learn the very mundane reason for Jane's dad to be part of the illegal logging operation and the risks he's decided to take to make a better life for him and Jane.
I liked that their reasons were legitimate but that the means they go about it, was wrong. It really did make you war with yourself and your own perceptions of the right and the wrong of it.
Jane's character is far more disagreeable than Robbie's. She comes across as spoilt and indulged and a bit of a brat. She's forever sulking and quite nasty to those around her, including Robbie. I admit to not liking her at all, at first. I could see completely where Andy was coming from, having created her to be our actual window into this very different dangerous and foreign world.
The logging operation basically relies heavily on local guerillas to not interfere with them. They pay them a stipend to prevent attacks and raids on their camp, yet the workers in the camp are continuously finding items missing or broken and of course, they blame unhappy spirits and the gorilla fighters for these. There is also a rumour of something else out there, something watching the encampment.
Between Robbie and Jane we get a comprehensive idea of what it's like being in the jungle, living and working there. In a place that no one could prepare you for, you have very little to rely on, except for yourself and your forward thinking.
When, during some heavy rains, Jane disappears everyone goes a bit crazy. Jane's dad isn't around, as he's gone off with his friend to confront the rebels about sabotaging the camp. Things are left in a bad way with the gorillas and when they return to the camp and discover that Jane's gone, seemingly "taken" they are thrown into turmoil.
Jane in reality is swept away by the river as she tripped and fell, trying to get water to the burning outbuilding. By the time she wakes up she is in the middle of nowhere with no recognisable landmarks, except for the jungle, all around.
This is the point we get to meet Tarzan. And he's not urbane or charming. Instead, he is very much part human and part a product of the jungles. He helps Jane to his lair which he shares with some real gorillas - the animal kind - and Jane does her very best to not run away screaming.
But slowly and surely, she comes to realise who Tarzan really is - he is the mysterious watcher everyone in their camp talks about. He's the one sabotaging the machinery and scaring the workers away. She also discovers more about him, how he got to be in the jungle and slowly pieces his story together. She is however horrified when he brings her bloody meat to eat and quite happily tears into himself, eating like an animal. When she refuses to join him he shrugs and later on brings her fruit and nuts that he gathered from the jungle.
Tarzan reveals that he hates the people who come into his jungle to poach animals or steal the forest away. He does not understand their reasons and sees everything in a very simplistic black and white way. I liked that. He is a super simple creature and it is Robbie and Jane's point of views that are made up from various colours of grey.
I won't say more except to say: it is a bloody good book. It really remains true to the original works in spirit and adventure. I started out not liking Jane but by the end of the book I really appreciated her stubbornness and her spirit. I also like that her character underwent the biggest development arc and how the ensuing story affected her. Robbie also grows rapidly as a character and I think he comes to realise that acting out of loyalty and friendship is not always the best of things.
I'd recommend Tarzan: The Greystoke Legacy to confident readers from 9+ upwards. There are some mature themes though and some of the descriptions of battles and violence had me biting my lip in anxiety as they were quite stressful! But this is a great book for younger (and more mature readers) and it has not been sanitised at all for the modern audience, which I think is fab. It holds true to the original novels in its sense of scope and adventure. It's underlying eco-message is there if you look for it and it does drive the story, in a way, but I think Mr. Biggs has managed to not be pontificating so without really realising it, the reader is shown far more than she may realise and that, people, is what good books do.
Tarzan: The Greystoke Legacy is out now from Faber & Faber. This is Andy's great website. Be sure to pop by tomorrow, when we've got a great interview with the author himself.