"Like some barbaric Hannibal, Tarzan of the Apes stood balanced on the back of the lead elephant, and watched the primeval gorilla-thing push his way out of the forest."
I don't know what it says about me, but I've always been fascinated by stories which have monkeys in them. There is the old "Planet of the Apes" movie series, of course, which I've seen maybe a dozen times. Watching the "King Kong" remake in 1976 was one of the most memorable experiences of my childhood, and "Tarzan of the Apes" was my all-time favourite hero. As a child I used to imagine stories in which Tarzan travelled to the Planet of the Apes, or battled against the mighty Kong. These kinds of crossovers usually only appear in a child's mind, of course. But I was clearly not the only with these fantasies. Last year, a comic series "Tarzan on the Planet of The Apes" was published and just a few months ago, author Will Murray wrote the novel "King Kong vs. Tarzan".
The King Kong story is well know. A film crew strikes down on Skull Island and soon actress Ann Darrow is captured by natives and is offered as a sacrifice to their god, Kong, who turns out to be a giant gorilla. The crew manages to save Ann and capture Kong, who is brought to New York aboard their ship, to be exhibited as the 'Eighth Wonder of the World'. This novel tells the untold story of what happened on the journey from Skull Island to New York.
The book would have benefited from 150 fewer pager. For about half the book, Kong is asleep. There is a lot of talking and most of it is all about how Kong can be fed on the way to New York. Now the author might have lots of interesting things to tell about Kong's digestive processing, but in all fairness, that's not something I want to read about in an adventure novel. The story starts to gain pace when the Wanderer reaches the African shores and Kong manages to escape. Tarzan first appears well over halfway the book, and he isn't happy with the monster wreaking havoc in his jungle. It has to be said: the author is well versed in the Tarzan lore and he emulates Edgar Rice Burroughs' style very well. Kong lacks purpose, though. In the original story, the giant gorilla is driven and ultimately defeated by his obsession with Ann Darrow. In this book, he seems to have completely forgotten about her (up until the end, that is). He only seems interested in what animal he's going to have for his next snack. More realistic, maybe, but who cares about realism in a story about a giant gorilla? The showdown between Tarzan and Kong is well done, though.
Not exactly a dream come true, but as far as crossovers go, this is a pretty good effort. Still, maybe these kinds of children's fantasies should just stay where they belong: in a child's mind.
Author: Will Murray
Title: King Kong vs. Tarzan
Publisher: Altus Press
Number of pages: 465 p.