Category Archives: book review

Review of Tarzan of the Apes and The return of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Many people are more familiar with Disneys animated version of Tarzan, and the original tv series staring Johnny Weissmuller with his iconic jungle call. If they read the book they would be in for a surprise. 

The two books follow the life of John Clayton, named Tarzan by the apes who adopt him as a baby, through his childhood in the jungle and his journey to becoming a ‘civilised’ man. Burroughs does a credible job in the first book ‘Tarzan of the Apes’ making a hostile jungle existence believable and explaining some of the nagging questions that have dogged me about Tarzan. The main one being why he has no beard. I enjoyed the descriptions of the African jungle, the beauty and the danger. It truly is a savage garden. Tarzans jungle existence is brutal and while Burroughs writing isn’t as graphic as some of todays authors, he portrays the darker sides of humanity effectively. Cannibalism, torture, murder, betrayal, and greed are ever present in both books but Burroughs balances out these vices with plenty of virtues, honour, self sacrifice, friendship and love which makes the whole a pleasent read and not depressing.

The second book ‘The Return of Tarzan’ is more like a series of short stories. If you read it like a periodical once a month then it’s probably very exciting.  Read all at once and it gets repetative. 

Lets remember these books are pulp fiction from the 1910s. Lock your political correctness in a cupboard, put your brain in neutral, and enjoy an adventure from a bygone era where men were either heroes or cowards and women spent their time fainting or falling into danger!

Burroughs novels are full of evocative descriptions of the African continent, fast paced action and adventure, and provide a fascinating insight into social attitudes during the beginning of the 20th century.

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The Martian by Andy Weir- book review

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I enjoyed this book. It was an easy book to read. I don’t read sci-fi, they can get a bit too ‘technicy’ and I get lost among the photons and thermal anodes instead of getting lost in the story. With this book I was on Mars.

The Martian is not just a sci-fi novel, its also an adventure. Mark Watney, a NASA astronaut, is presumed dead by his crew mates and abandoned on Mars. With limited food, water, and life support systems he has to survive until the next Mars mission which is 3 years away. It sounds implausible. NASA doesn’t declare a astronaut dead without good cause only to for him to be resurrected, even I know that, but the author creates a plausible explanation and keeps the science simple. How accurate it was I don’t know, I’m a writer not a scientist.

The whole story is told through log entry’s, interviews, snippets of conversations and messages. I like this style of writing. Some people don’t. There’s not much room for lengthy descriptions or in depth character back stories but I still like it. I can read it in short bursts without losing my place or having to read to the end of a chapter. Great if you have a busy week and only 10 minutes to spare.

The author keeps the pace up throughout the novel as one problem after another crops up for our hero Mark Watney. I didn’t know if he was going to survive. I really wanted him to live, he’s a funny guy. His humour and optimism in the face of dire situations made him likable and brought him to life. I wish I could say the same for the other characters in the book, I think the author divested everything he had into his main character. The characters at mission control all sounded the same and were interchangeable. Without name tags I had no idea who was who. Mark Watneys crew mates were marginally better but I couldn’t connect to them, maybe because they didn’t get much ‘page time’ till the end.

I did enjoy this book but I don’t think it would be one I would read again and again. Some books have hidden depths which emerge with each reading, I don’t think this is one of them. But that doesn’t stop it from being a good read. I’d give it 3.5 out of 5.

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The Night Horseman by Max Brand – audio book review

I’m a big fan of Western films. I like the black and white corny classics of the 30s, the big screen Technicolors of the 50s, the spaghetti westerns of the 70s; I even liked the recent and very strange movie ‘Cowboys and Aliens’. So it’s surprising that I haven’t read any western novels. Having a pile of unread novels waiting by my bedside I decided to try some free audio books.

This is the first book I’ve listened to by Max Brand, the other two were by Zane Grey but I think Max Brand is the better storyteller. The Night Horseman is the second book in a series but it works well as a stand alone book. Its a complex story with many layers and subplots all centred around the main character Dan Berry. It begins with Dr Byrne attending the sick bed of old Joe Cumberland, the man who raised Dan Berry, and his subsequent advice that Dan Berry should be brought home to see the dying man. An event which would be both a blessing and a curse.

The novel is very Gothic mixed with a traditional western style story, but it is the range of secondary characters and the subtle wit which I really enjoyed. My favourite character must be Dr Byrne and his gradual character progression from ‘bookworm’ to ‘participant of life’. I also liked Buck Daniels as a person and the difficult decisions he has to make. The author did a good job with the female lead character, Kate Cumberland by not making her pathetic or weak, even though she had all the sense and reason of a woman hopelessly in love with the wrong man. The main character of Dan Berry isn’t a complex one but he is surrounded by mystery and his motives are sometimes hard to understand. This is probably the authors intention as he is portrayed more like a wild animal then a human being. I’m not sure if I like the main character Dan Berry, but maybe Ive known too many wild men with glowing yellow eyes!

Overall I really enjoyed this novel, for me it had the right mix of adventure, drama, love and human spirit topped of with a gothic atmosphere and witty dialogue and I’m looking forward to reading more of Max Brands novels.

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