Tarzan at the Earth's Core
Series: Tarzan 13/Pellucidar 4
Reviewed date: 2019 Aug 16
Tarzan joins Jason Gridley, Wilhelm von Horst, and others on an expedition to Pellucidar. They travel in an experimental airship, the O-220, and reach Pellucidar by means of a polar opening in the earth.
Pellucidar, for those who have not read the previous books in the series, is a world on the inside of the Earth's crust. The earth is hollow (as we all know) and the interior surface is a primeval, primordial jungle teeming with gargantuan beasts straight out of prehistory. Pellucidar is lit by a tiny sun at the very center of the Earth, and thus there is no nighttime. In Pellucidar it is perpetually noon.
Pellucidar is a prime setting for a Tarzan tale. It puts Tarzan into his natural element--the jungle--but the jungle of Pellucidar is just different enough that Tarzan is at a disadvantage. With no night and the sun perpetually overhead, there is no way to tell direction. The moment Tarzan ventures too far and loses sight of the O-220, he is lost. Tarzan is lost. Second, Tarzan knows nothing of the beasts in this savage primordial jungle. And these beasts are enormous: bears the size of elephants, pteranodons the size of airplanes, and dinosaurs of truly titanic proportions.
Plotwise, this is a standard Tarzan adventure with various separate groups moving about the jungle, crossing paths fortuitously at just the most convenient times. It's unbelievable but it's so much fun. Tarzan is a hero, of course. Jason Gridley steals the spotlight and is the most intriguing character; he falls in love with Jana the Red Flower of Zoram. And Muviro and the Waziri warriors show up to save everyone from a tight spot. I wish Muviro were given the chance to be a lead character in his own right.
My only complaint is the treatment of Robert Jones, a black man from Alabama who joins the O-220 expedition as a cook. He is played for laughs. He speaks in dialect, he's superstitious, and most of all he's stupid. This is contrasted pointedly with the intelligent and brave Waziri warriors, whom Robert admires. The edition I read removed a few of the most racist lines spoken by Robert, but it's still a disappointing and completely unnecessary addition to the book.