Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Eternal Savage

We've had a good run, but The Eternal Savage marks the end of my Edgar Rice Burroughs summer: this is my seventh Burroughs novel of the year, and probably the last. Granted, I might still track down and read the last of the Pellucidar novels, but I'm badly feeling that there are far too many better worlds for me to spend time in that Burroughs'.

It's not the fault of The Eternal Savage, particularly, even though its plot is thoroughly silly, its evolutionary science absurd, and its characters stereotypic. That's what you get with Burroughs, more often than not, and it's a mistake to expect otherwise (Back to the Stone Age notwithstanding). This one's worse than your average Burroughs, but it's far from the worst you'll get from him.

Part one of the basic set-up: the beautiful Victoria Custer, and her devoted brother Barney, visit Lord Greystoke's estate in Africa. (You remember that Lord Greystoke is Tarzan, right?) Victoria has yet to settle on a husband, though one Curtiss is very keen on her, because of persistent dreams she has been having -- for years and years -- about a seriously impressive warrior she's never known in real life, who's mostly naked, thoroughly savage, and white (naturally). No modern man can compare, so she seems doomed (doomed, I say!) to live and die alone.

Oh, and she's terrified of earthquakes, including landforms that show signs of large-scale or abrupt seismic activity.

While the Custers are in Africa, there's an earthquake, and Victoria faints. Meanwhile....

Part two: Nu, son of Nu, lives a hundred thousand years ago in what will eventually become Africa. The woman he loves, Nat-ul, daughter of Tha, swears she will not mate with him until he brings her the head of Oo, killer of man and mammals -- we know Oo better as the sabre-tooth tiger. Off goes Nu to find and battle Oo, and just as Oo breathes his last, there's an earthquake, and Nu is trapped inside Oo's lair, a cave in a cliff. Nu eventually forces his way out of Oo's cave, only to find himself (drumroll, please), in modern Africa.

Did I mention that Nu, a seriously impressive warrior, is mostly naked, thoroughly savage, and white?

And that's where the novel really gets rolling.

The twist ending after the twist BEFORE the ending is pretty good, but still: while there's some oscillation between the two timeframes, for fun but ridiculous reasons, the novel basically follows two Burroughs-style male savages chasing each other around for a couple of weeks, with two Burroughs-style female savages proving just how much more worldly they are than modern women, with their perfumes and petticoats and whatnot.

Mind you, it's not uninteresting to watch Burroughs try to delineate just what it is about his imagined Stone Age men and women that he finds so impressive. As an object for study in terms of its cultural politics and sexual politics, The Eternal Savage would certainly prove interesting -- but I think I'm done with Burroughs.


Fraze said…
Possibly because your thews are insufficiently manly?
Fraze said…
Not that I have even a single thew.
richard said…
I seem to have misplaced my thews. Perhaps a Craigslist lost/found post is in order.

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