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A 21st Century Legend
Cover ~ Opening Pages ~ Reviews
A Review by Elizabeth de Jager
MyFavouriteBooks.com ~ July 6, 2011
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 Briggs' 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.
Author of Tarzan: The Legacy of Greystoke
Interviewer: Elizabeth de Jager
MyFavouriteBooks.com ~ Thursday, July 07, 2011
After reading Tarzan: The Legacy of Greystoke I was burning to chat to Andy about bringing one of my childhood heroes up to date and am so grateful to him for agreeing to this fantastic Q&A with MFB. I cannot recommend reading the T:TLoG enough - it's well written, superbly pacey and packed full of action and adventure. It will suit boys and girls who are looking for more meaty reads and it might entice reluctant readers too, especially as the action is very cinematic and it will definitely make them feel like they have experienced the book, rather than just read it.
But, I'll calm down now and let Andy chat to us instead:
1. How did it come about that you got the opportunity to reboot the Tarzan franchise and bring it up to date for contemporary readers?
I was a huge Tarzan fan and simply noticed that he didn’t appear to be around any more. I approached the ERB (the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate) who own the rights and explained my idea of bringing the classic character back to life for a whole new generation of readers. They liked it and the whole project was suddenly a go!
2. What was it like going back and looking at these books now that you were an adult? Did you feel nostalgia at all and were you concerned that your vision for Tarzan would somehow change your own memories of the books?
I had a very firm memory of the old books so I wasn’t too concerned that my own version of Tarzan would have altered my opinion. My biggest memories of Tarzan are the TV shows and movies which were always on TV when I was off school - so it was a great chance to regress back to those times when it was a bank holiday or summer holiday and Tarzan allowed me to escape into the wilds of Africa...
3. How many books will there be in the series?
There is TARZAN: THE LEGACY OF GREYSTOKE which is out now and next January there will be TARZAN: JUNGLE WARRIOR. We are looking to get at least one more out next year and after that, who knows?
4. When I devoured your new reboot of Tarzan, I was struck by the setting of the jungles of Africa and I wondered if this was somewhere you’ve been yourself as I honestly felt as if I was there, experiencing the heat and the rain with the characters?
That’s great to hear! I took the opportunity to travel to Africa to experience as much as the wild as I could. Some areas of Africa are real no-go areas, so I also travelled to the jungles of South America to soak in that experience. Regarding the gorillas, I was lucky enough to work closely with the keepers at Bristol Zoo who helped me with the finest details of living with the wild apes.
5. Tarzan remains such a strong central character, only slightly civilised, with this very focussed perception of what is right and what is wrong in his world. Did you find it difficult to portray at times?
I found Tarzan surprisingly easy to write. His morals and beliefs are black and white. He leads a simple life without the complicated baggage we all carry. Robbie and Jane, being modern teenagers, have such a more complex perception of right and wrong, which inevitably leads them into trouble of their own creating. They were more difficult to write as they had to come across as modern teenagers living in a remarkable environment.
6. Jane Porter, the “Jane” character is a thoroughly modern young teen, addicted to her iPod and hating her dad for dragging them into the jungles of Africa. I understood where Jane’s prickliness came from but I struggled to identify with her at first. Was she a difficult character to write / to get into her mindset?
I think she is a difficult (and prickly) character as she starts out as a very resentful person who dislikes here current situation. She is clinging on to the ideas of civilized life and that’s what she misses... until she starts to embrace and accept the new world around her. She also has to be an equal to Tarzan, while that’s impossible physically, Jane is his moral compass and allows him to see reason on a different level. I think she would be equally difficult to write if she was boy. Jane was always a character who slowly draws you in, rather than somebody you immediately identify with from the outset - hopefully Robbie will do that for the reader.
7. Did you have to do a lot of research, not just into animal and gorilla behaviour but also political research into the area and various factions that are currently vying for control in the region you’ve set Tarzan?
I was lucky enough to travel to Africa to get some firsthand experience of life there. The areas of jungle I wanted to explore are in politically volatile regions, so I also travelled to the jungles in South America to get a feel for the seething humid landscape. It was terrific fun. Researching the history and politics of the DRC and the surrounding countries was fascinating. There is so much to use, yet Tarzan would only be able to scrape the surface of it all. However, it makes the Congo a more thrilling canvass to have adventures on that I would have thought possible.
Christopher Lambert in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes
8. Did you ever watch any of the Tarzan movies, as part of your research? And what did you think about the differences between the original source material and the movies?
I read as many Tarzan books as I could and watched every film and TV show I could lay my hands on. The books and the films are very different and there have been no real faithful adaptations (the Christopher Lambert Greystoke movie was the closest, and even the latter half of that movie meandered).
The public's image of Tarzan comes from the movies more than the books and I wanted to capture the best parts of each and distill it into a “super Tarzan” that would appeal to older fans as well as new readers.
9. What was it like, sitting down to update the Tarzan books and his adventures to be more contemporary? What did you find were your biggest stumbling blocks?
Times have changed since Tarzan’s first appearance, and so have social and racial attitudes - however, Africa is still a huge adventure playground for any writer and I don’t think we have lost much of the magic that was inherent in the old stories.
The only real stumbling blocks were fans that complained that Tarzan couldn’t be updated - despite the fact they would happily watch contemporary Tarzan movies and forget that when Tarzan was written in 1912, it was a contemporary story.
10. Were you ever concerned that showing the savagery of Tarzan's life in the jungle might concern new readers who might not have read the earlier works and thought it would be quite a “sanitised” look at the King of the Jungle’s adventures?
Not at all! I think most people who delve into the world of Tarzan expect some level of “tooth and claw” violence. There’s even some dark savagery in the Disney cartoon. I probably could have gone further with the level of “violence” in my book, but I am quite happy to leave it to the reader’s imagination - in my book most of that happens “off the page”, or I quickly gloss over the details, and you are left filling in the gory blanks yourself. I think a sanitized version of Tarzan would have been an injustice to the character.
11. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers out there?
We need writers! I look forward to being entertained in the future by other people, so you all better get writing! The key piece of advise I can give is “don’t give up”. Another piece of advice comes from the wonderful move, “Throw Momma from the Train” - it’s simply: “A writer writes, always.”
4. Book Review
Recommended by the
UK Book Trust Site
Tarzan: The Greystoke Legacy
By Andy Briggs
Published by Faber Children's Books
The Congo jungle is inhabited by strange creatures: endangered mountain gorillas, okapi, lions, elephants, poachers, pygmy tribes, illegal loggers, rebel soldiers and a mysterious ape-man called Tarzan.
Teenager Robbie Canler has fled a murder in New York to become a logger. His boss’s daughter Jane is his only friend. Mysterious saboteurs keep attacking their camp - their message is clear – leave the jungle alone. But when Jane disappears and the loggers are beaten, then imprisoned by thuggish rebels, it seems that Tarzan is their only hope.
A classic with a 21st century twist, this riveting adventure overflows with suspense, danger, brutality and beauty. An action-packed thriller from the opening line, it leaves the reader wanting more.
Reading age: 9+ ~ Interest level: 9+
5. Book Review
Book Trust Childrens Books
TARZAN: a must-read this summerBook Trust Childrens Books ~ August 1, 2011: Andy Briggs' chart-topping children's thriller TARZAN: THE GREYSTOKE LEGACY has been placed in the Booktrust's Summer Reads top 20 list of books that mustn't be missed now that school's out!
The reworking by Briggs will have Tarzan as far 'edgier and more feral' than the original [sic], and deeply concerned about the destruction of his environment in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His Jane is also decidedly modern - her father, Archie and his friend Phil, who in Burroughs' version are a couple of amiable academics are now involved in illegal logging. Jane hates what her father is doing and she and Tarzan plot to stop it.
Praise for TARZAN:
‘Wow! All the things I loved about the original Tarzan books rebooted for modern-day Africa, with a plot that will whisk you off your feet and swing you through the trees at breakneck speed.’
-- Roderick Gordon, author of TUNNELS
‘Tarzan is back with a bloodcurdling roar! An epic re-book of the classic series.’
-- Eoin Colfer, author of ARTEMIS FOWL
‘CRACKING jungle adventure with the one and only, all- time best eco-warrior, Tarzan.’
-- MG Harris, author of THE JOSHUA FILES
‘A white-knuckle adventure worthy of Burroughs at his best. Andy Briggs’ Tarzan is a stunning achievement.’
-- William Hussey, author of WITCHFINDER
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