Thursday, July 26, 2018

Book Review: Lord Tyger

Book Review: 'Lord Tyger' by Philip Jose Farmer

3 / 5 Stars

‘Lord Tyger’ was first published in 1970; this Granada / Panther books paperback was published in the UK in 1985. The striking cover illustration is by Richard Clifton-Dey.

At the time he wrote ‘Lord Tyger’ Philip Jose Farmer was engrossed in composing adventures for the old pulp heroes he so treasured, so ‘Tyger’ can be seen as thematically belonging to the series comprising A Feast Unknown (1969) and Lord of the Trees (1970). ‘Tyger’ also can be read as something of a companion volume to Farmer’s 1972 book Tarzan Alive: A Definitive Biography of Lord Greystroke, which is arguably the ultimate Fanboy Discourse on Tarzan.

As ‘Tyger’ opens our protagonist, Ras Tyger (‘Ras’ is Arabic for ‘Lord’) is perched in a tree and taunting the men of the Wantso tribe as they huddle in their fortified village, and scheme of a way to capture and kill this white-skinned, black-haired, gray-eyed jungle dweller yelling at them from just out of spear range.

It transpires that Ras Tyger likes the village’s women – who in turn are happy to reciprocate, since the practice of circumcision has rendered the Wantso men not only sterile, but Poor Performers. This village-wide cuckolding has left the Wantso men in an unpleasant mood.

Succeeding chapters detail Tyger’s conflict with the Wantso, as well as his increasing dissatisfaction with the explanations for his upbringing and the world around him given by his foster-parents Yusufu and Mariyam. Among the continuous stream of questions asked of them by Tyger are: Where did Tyger’s biological parents come from ? Why is there no one else in the jungle with white skin like Tyger’s ? What are the giant birds that occasionally fly above the jungle, with what appear to be angels riding inside the birds ? Why is there is a 1,000-foot tall stone pillar that rises to the skies from the lake in Tyger’s jungle realm, and why do the giant birds apparently nest atop this pillar ?

It’s not disclosing any spoilers to say that Ras Tyger is the unknowing participant in a massive experiment, one that promises all manner of revelations as he gradually learns the truth behind his seeming imprisonment in a massive terrarium carved out of the African wilderness……….

I finished ‘Lord Tyger’ with mixed emotions. The first half of the book is a slog, as author Farmer sparingly doles out the smaller revelations while exhaustively detailing Tyger’s war against the males of the Wantso tribe. The narrative does pick up more momentum in the second half of the book, although it is reliant on a regular dose of contrivances, some more eye-rolling than others.

While not a work of pornography like A Feast Unknown, ‘Lord Tyger’ does feature episodes of splatterpunk-style mayhem related in the same deadpan, almost droll prose style Farmer used in Feast. As well, being written in a politically incorrect era, it is highly likely that more than a few passages in the novel will be found to be misogynistic and racist by modern readers and critics. In my opinion, these two features of ‘Lord Tyger’ were what gave the book an edgy, transgressive character that made reading it worthwhile despite its other faults.

Summing up, ‘Lord Tyger’ is not as entertaining as A Feast Unknown. But those with a fondness for the Tarzan character, or Farmer’s reinterpretations of the classic pulp heroes, may find it worth acquiring.

1 comment:

HEH said...

Years ago, I read Lord Tyger. It was okay. I was a big PJF fan, collected his books, and eventually met the man. He signed my copy. Not sure if I still own it. I should try reading this one again someday. I'm enjoying your blog.