|Philip Jose Farmer had a lifelong love affair with Edgar Rice Burroughs’ characters, particularly Tarzan. He was to write several books either directly referring to Tarzan or to a character that bore a striking resemblance to Tarzan. He also loved other fictional characters including Doc Savage. This pair of stories were distributed as an Ace Double. The first story has Lord Grandrith (Tarzan) as the main character and the second story has Doc Caliban (Doc Savage) as the main character. Please check out my earlier review of “A Feast Unknown” to further understand these characters’ relationships.
In these two sequels, both Grandrith and Caliban are still hunting the Nine in order to kill them all and free mankind from their manipulations…and, of course, stop the Nine from trying to kill them. The events in both books occur simultaneously but from each man’s perspective.
In “Lord of the Trees,” Grandrith is falling out of an airplane after an attack by the Nine. Although it seems unlikely he’d survive the fall to the ocean or the circling sharks, the Nine is nothing if not efficient. They send backup teams to ensure his demise. After several pages of derring-do as Grandrith fights back and decimates the enemy’s forces against all odds, his luck finally turns and he is captured. In addition to trying to free himself both from the Nine’s minions and the explosive device adhering to his belly, Grandrith also feels responsible for the fate of both Lady Clara, a sometime lover of his when visiting the Nine’s caverns, and the possible last living specimen of The Folk, the subhuman species that raised Grandrith after his parents died on the shores of Africa. Dick had been raised as a homo sapiens and had no knowledge of the culture or capabilities of The Folk; which didn’t make him any less dangerous for his size and strength. The three of them were a mighty force against even the resources of the Nine.
Once he did manage to escape, he was later approached by those hunting him with an offer to join forces. Apparently, once they’d lost Grandrith and were unable to stop him from killing one of the Nine, their lives were forfeit and rather than meekly submit to the Nine, they thought to throw in with Grandrith. It was then that Grandrith learned that the Nine were hunting one of their own, Iwaldi. Iwaldi is characterized as a mad dwarf. Grandrith sees an opportunity to kill many of the Nine as they gather for a funeral rite for one of their own. So he and Caliban plan to meet up at
. A great battle ensues with much superhuman feats of savagery.
In “The Mad Goblin,” the narrative is from the viewpoint of Doc Caliban. He has recovered from the horrendous wounds he received in “A Feast Unknown,” and he and his cronies are in the
hunting one of the Nine Iwaldi. They find and enter his castle but the place is heavily booby-trapped with strange and outrageous devices. After several pages of an Indian Jones-like journey through the bowels of the castle and the ancient caverns below it, Caliban and his men along with two archaeologists they rescued eventually emerge back into the daylight. One thing that confused Caliban was the evidence that more than two groups were battling inside the castle; someone else was hunting Iwaldi!
Once out, Caliban continues the search for Iwaldi; eventually capturing him and discovering the secret that caused the Nine to turn against him. His secret is one that he was willing to share with his fellow Nine members but only at the cost of the whole human race. Iwaldi craved a return to a more ‘natural’ world, the one he grew up in that had a lot less humans and technology. The Nine still had uses for the humans and didn’t want to change the status quo. Iwaldi escapes and Caliban tracks him to the secret meeting at
for the funeral of the dead Nine, XauXau. Iwaldi plants a bomb to destroy everyone at the meeting and Caliban disables it in the nick of time.
These are wonderful over-the-top old-fashioned action yarns. There is little plot, no world building, just lots and lots of dialogue and action. Both Grandrith and Caliban are bigger than life and capable of the most heroic deeds. They are both more and less than human. These wouldn’t be the stories I’d read for profound concepts, I read these purely for escapism. They are wonderful parodies of all those type of books that were written for young men but with a nasty and carnal bent. The gentle readers may wish to look elsewhere for their excitement; there is much in here that is not for the squeamish. ~~ Catherine Book
And now: test your knowledge of Farmer’s Tarzan stories in our new Trivia Contest. Click here.