Raised by apes, the young Ras Tyger lives an idyllic existence as the lord of the jungle. He spends his days gleefully hunting prey and chasing women. But when his very identity is shattered, Ras begins to question everything he believes to be true. As the shocking reality of his world begins to unfold, the savage prince is plunged into an incredible quest for truth.
Hello readers and fellow devotees of the weird and terrorific,
Today I am pleased to introduce Sean Lee Levin’s review of Lord Tyger, by Philip Jose Farmer.
Levin is a self-proclaimed Farmerphile, and I can think of no other minion of ours more suited to the task of reviewing this critically underrated book.
But you all know by now that I like to keep my intros brief, and let the work speak for itself. So without further ado, please enjoy Sean’s thorough and enthusiastic review of this new release of Farmer’s innovative spin on the classic Tarzan stories.
Fans of legendary science fiction author Philip José Farmer (the present reviewer’s favorite author of all time) know that one of his favorite characters was John Clayton, Lord Greystoke; aka Tarzan of the Apes. Farmer used the jungle lord in a number of his works, the most famous of which was Tarzan Alive: A Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke. This fictional biography was built on the premise that Tarzan was a real person whose true adventures and life were just embellished by Edgar Rice Burroughs. This book also introduced the concept of the Wold Newton Family, an interconnected family tree including Tarzan, Doc Savage, Sherlock Holmes, The Shadow, The Spider, The Avenger, Bulldog Drummond, A.J. Raffles, Professor Challenger, Nero Wolfe, Allan Quatermain, James Bond, Dr. Fu Manchu, and many others. Most of the Wold Newton Family can trace their remarkable qualities to their ancestors’ exposure to a meteor that landed in the Yorkshire village of Wold Newton on December 13, 1795. (This incidentally, is a very real occurrence, upon which Farmer grafted his delightful and fascinating pretense). Farmer also wrote an authorized entry in the Tarzan series, The Dark Heart of Time: A Tarzan Novel. There are other appearances by the ape-man in Farmer’s work as well, though few of them use the name “Tarzan” directly.
Recently, Titan Books has begun reprinting a number of classic works by Farmer. While many of these have been books that draw upon the Wold Newton mythos, Lord Tyger is the first entry in their “Grand Masters” series of Farmer reprints; featuring works that do not have explicit links to Farmer’s Wold Newton writings. It features an excellent foreword by Paul Spiteri. Lord Tyger is one of Farmer’s best takes on Burroughs’ creation, and is justifiably considered by many of the groundbreaking author’s fans to be one of his best works in general.
Ras Tyger, the protagonist of Farmer’s novel, is as different from Tarzan as he is similar. While Tarzan’s jungle upbringing was due to fate, Ras’ was quite calculated. Both men had many questions about the beings they respectively called “God,” but only Ras received any definitive answers. While Tarzan was fairly chaste prior to meeting his true love Jane Porter, Ras had an active libido, and did not let his sexual partners’ race or species deter him. Indeed, there are some quite heated and extremely well written sexual passages in Farmer’s novel, somewhat similar to his incredibly controversial novel A Feast Unknown (also reprinted by Titan) which featured a pastiche of Tarzan called Lord Grandith in battle with Doc Caliban, an obvious analogue of Doc Savage. However, these passages are not as ingrained in the plot of Lord Tyger as the similar scenes in A Feast Unknown, and thus the former has never quite achieved the notoriety of the latter. Of course, the fact that Lord Tyger was published by Doubleday, a “reputable” company while A Feast Unknown was originally put out by Essex House, a publisher of pornographic novels, may play a factor in the unfortunate stigma. In some ways, Farmer’s novel is truer to the reality of what would happen if the child of British nobles grew up in the jungle, apart from so-called “civilization.”
Final Thoughts: Ever since reading about the Wold Newton Family online lead to me reading Tarzan Alive ten years ago, I have been amazed by the late, great Phillip José Farmer‘s literary ingenuity. Lord Tyger is no exception to this rule of thumb. This realist take on one of Farmer’s most beloved fictional heroes is fascinating, provocative, and unique. Like many of Farmer’s legion of loyal fans, I am thrilled that Titan has made many of Farmer’s best works widely available once more. It gives me great pleasure to grant this topnotch novel 5 out of 5 tentacles.
Sean Lee Levin, Minion/Reviewer