I have only read Farmer's story in this anthology, Extracts from the Memoirs of "Lord Greystoke"
, Tarzan of the Apes's firsthand account of his early life. Tarzan dispels errors and inconsistencies contained in Edgar Rice Burroughs' original stories, (not to mention inaccuracies written by Farmer himself in Tarzan Alive
!), and also describes the society that raised him.
These he calls the "n'k", and notes that they are hominoid somewhere between gorillas and humans, albeit closer to the latter, especially with regards to intelligence.
Lord Greystoke/Tarzan describes numerous aspects of their culture, from the precise nature of their language to their sexual mores to their social structure. He also takes the opportunity to mention his confusion at many aspects of human society, and his general revulsion at man's hypocrisy.
Potential readers should avoid this novella entirely if they are unfamiliar with Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes
, as it assumes a knowledge of the work, and even discusses parts of the first sequel, The Return of Tarzan
Moreover, the work is likely to be very interesting only for fans of Farmer's interpretation of the Tarzan character. I absolutely adore Farmer's Tarzan, considering him an astounding, unique pulp hero far, far superior to Burroughs' original conception, but I recognize this is not true of everyone.
Even then, the novella had its strong and weak elements. I enjoyed Farmer/Lord Greystoke correcting the "romanticized" version Burroughs wrote. Burroughs is continually described as a decent, well-meaning fellow who only knew part of the real story, and found other aspects of the story either too salacious or morally objectionable to transcribe. These corrections and anecdotes are consistently amusing, particularly when Tarzan describes seeing himself portrayed in the movies!
Greystoke's explanation for how he escaped discovery by the press was downright ingenious. And the real
story of his first encounter with eventual wife Jane Porter is a wonderfully funny, inspired deconstruction.
When it comes to the n'k, the parts about social status and sexuality were also clever and entertaining.
However, the novella is a bit weak when it comes to Greystoke's criticism of human society. It's very generic and vague, condemning human society as a whole, but never delving into specifics. While I happen to agree, I don't find it particularly interesting or worthwhile, especially on such a surface, cliched level.
Also, being a huge fan of Philip Jose Farmer, I readily observed that the majority of "Lord Greystoke's" beliefs were the author's own. This is a weakness when it comes to a biography of a fictional character, and drew me out of the work.
Lastly, while I admire Farmer's tremendous amounts of research (which is evident throughout both this and Tarzan Alive
), the details about n'k language left me bored. I understand he was trying to tie up loose ends, but it just wasn't interesting.
Overall though, there are far more strengths than weaknesses here. Readers familiar with Burrough's character, and a fan of Farmer's own version of Tarzan will likely enjoy the work, as I did.