The Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs
Edited by Mike Resnick and Robert T. Garcia
Cover Artist: Dave Seeley
Review by Nick Sauer
Baen Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781451639353
Date: 01 October 2013
List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs is a collection of eleven stories by modern authors set in the various fantastic worlds created by the early twentieth century master of the adventure story. The title is no exaggeration as every one of Burrough's series, including some of his later and lesser known ones, are represented in this volume. As a result, there is certainly something for fans of any of Burrough's writings to be found in this volume.
With Tarzan being Burrough's most successful character, it is hardly surprising that three of the stories feature him. While I'm not a huge Tarzan fan myself, I have read enough of the books to get a reasonable grasp of the character and feel that all of the authors successfully captured his personality. "Tarzan and the Great War" has him dealing with espionage in Algeria and "Tarzan and the Martian Invaders" is an alternate universe story as these invaders are clearly not of the Barsoomian variety. "Tarzan and the Land That Time Forgot" takes him to the world more commonly known as Caprona. This last story is an indirect sequel to Tarzan at the Earth's Core and was my favorite of the three.
Pellucidar was my favorite of Burrough's fantasy realms so I was pleased to see two stories set within this hollow Earth world. Ironically, both feature Pellucidar's geo-stationary moon somewhat prominently. Mercedes Lackey introduces us to a resident of that moon who has fallen to the inner world. While I love Pellucidar it is fraught with scientific problems, F. Paul Wilson takes on the herculean task of trying to address some of these in his entry and manages to solve about half of them. He specifically addresses the mystery of Pellucidar's moon in a very clever manner that had never occurred to me during all of these years.
Tragically, there is only one story set on Barsoom due, apparently, to the licensing agreement involved with the recent film. It is a reprint of an earlier published and hard to find story by Mike Resnik. Making up for this are a number of stories set on the rest of Burrough's fantasy series. "Scorpion Men of Venus" is a story set on Amtor (Venus) by well known Burrough's biographer Richard A. Lupoff. Towards the end of his life, Burroughs began what would have probably become a new series set on the distant planet of Poloda. Only one of the two stories was published during Burriough's lifetime with the second being released posthumously so, it was especially pleasing to see Todd McCaffrey contribute a new piece to this series. Also, in the lesser known of Burrough's worlds is a trilogy that takes place in the future and set on the Pellucidar-like hollow moon which the natives refer to as Va-nah. Set after the events of the first novel, and contemporary with events described in the first chapter of the second, Peter David contributes a story which uniquely centers on a female character in the form of Nah-ee-lah the moon maid.
Burroughs also did a couple of short non-fantasy series. One featured the infant of a pioneer couple who was adopted by the chief of the Apache tribe who killed his parents. He would go on to become the great Apache warrior Shoz-Dijiji (Black Bear) in a couple of novels. Ralph Roberts continues the adventures of the Black Bear in his entry in the anthology. "Apache Lawman" features a healthy dose of action and, while I very much enjoyed the story, I would have preferred a few more pages worth of setting and character development to make the pacing better match the original novels. The other series is called the Mucker which is an antiquated term that today would be synonymous with thug or hooligan. Billy Byrne is this mucker who undergoes a huge transformation after being shanghaied in San Fransisco. Max Allen Collens and Mathew Clemens contribute a story that takes place immediately after the conclusion of the first book in the series but adds a bit more closure to the novel's somewhat abrupt ending.
I also want to make a special mention of the cover art on the book which features John Carter and Deja Thoris as I feel it is one of the best representations of both characters I have ever seen done by an artist. I was pleasantly surprised at how close this picture came to capturing how I imagined the characters in my mind's eye back when I first read A Princess of Mars all those years ago.
Picking my favorite stories of the volume is really an exercise in choosing my favorite type of chocolate as I found all of the stories highly entertaining and enjoyable. If I had to choose I would say that "Tarzan and the Land That Time Forgot", "To the Nearest Planet", "The Forgotten Sea of Mars", and "Moon Maid Over Manhattan" were my favorites in no specific order.
For those unfamiliar with Burrough's writing I'm not certain how effective this volume would be as an introduction to his many fantastic worlds. I felt all of the authors definitely captured his style of writing while putting some of their own unique spins on it but, being familiar with a good share of his work, it is somewhat difficult for me to say which stories would require less foreknowledge of the original material for a new reader to truly appreciate them. "Apache Lawman" would most likely work as the characters are well introduced and the story is a bit of a new beginning for Black Bear himself. Even passing familiarity with Tarzan should make both "Tarzan and the Martian Invaders" and "Tarzan and the Land That Time Forgot" accessible. To a lesser extent the Barsoom and Amtor based stories might work as well.
It is my sincere hope that this volume is successful enough to be the first of many such anthologies. In the wishful thinking department I'll briefly mention what I would like to see in future volumes. More stories set on Barsoom would be appreciated which may, hopefully, be more likely given that the current licensee seems to have abandoned the property. Further stories in the Poloda series would be a godsend. The Amtor story is readily set up for a sequel and F. Paul Wilson could potentially answer the rest of Pellucidar's scientific mysteries in a further story set in that world. While those are my preferences any new stories set in the highly imaginative worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs would be more than welcome.
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