Book Review: Lord Tyger / Author: Philip José Farmer / Publisher: Titan / Release Date: July 27th
Lord Tyger (the latest in Titan’s reissuing of Philip José Farmer’s works) is perhaps one of the better books to start with, as it's not part of any on-going series which makes it a lot easier to get into.
Submitted for your consideration is a man of great agility and strength, raised by apes and embodying the spirit of the jungle. That description could either be Tarzan or the book’s protagonist Ras Tyger, and that’s kind of the point. Lord Tyger is Farmer’s experiment in Tarzan; the lord of the jungle depicted as if he were an actual person. Ras Tyger puts the “savage” into “noble savage”, showing that when you raise a child in a vicious environment outside of man’s interference, his primal drives for lust and violence will take over. No family-friendly pack of apes or Disney musical numbers here (the closest he gets is bonding with a lion called Janhoy – let’s just say he doesn’t get ahead in life).
Make no mistake – this is not just a typical take on the Tarzan mythology that can be appreciated by those of all ages. It’s a tremendously violent and sexual take on the “feral jungle child” myth, showing that he would need subtle interference in his life not to turn out a mute moron. However, interference may have taught him to talk and to hunt and so on but it didn’t make him civilised. He takes whatever woman he wants and kills anyone who gets in his way.
Part of the book could be interpreted as an attack on religion, primitive superstitions and charlatans who use that to get what they want. It’s up to the individual reader to decide how okay they are with that, but it felt fitting as it lends the book the air of a “Boy’s Own” pulp novel, in which they would look at a tribe’s way of doing things and pass it off as “savage tribal rituals”. The writing can get a bit difficult to understand and a bit flowery but if you stick with it, there’s a gem in there.
It’s an intriguing work with a powerful and well executed premise, and Farmer is clearly an excellent writer, but if you’re looking for an easy read you will not find it here. Having not read the original Tarzan stories, it’s impossible to say if this is better or worse than those. However, if you can set aside the time to read it, it’s well worth a look.