As a young pulp fan, I’ve found myself both really enjoying and keeping a watchful eye on the development of the Swords of Eternity Super-Arc. The series represents more than just a continuance in the ERB narrative and more distinctly the Tarzan narrative. To me, it has also been a litmus test for future developments in the pulp world going forward. As many avid pulp readers know, the genre continues to struggle in finding new ground amongst the modern world despite being the arena of literature that has arguably influenced American culture and narrative formation the most- goodness knows pulp set the bar for tropes and archetypes in western media. As such, the Swords of Eternity Super-Arc is not merely just a sequel in a long line of Tarzan/ERB books- it’s the dusky beginnings of a new era in pulp, ushered forth through the estate of one of the genre’s forefathers. Needless to say, I for one am quite excited to witness this revival.
The novel starts off strong, continuing ERB’s narrative trend of convincing the reader that these characters do indeed exist. Personally, I love this trend- not only is it immersive, but it is quite authentic to the pulp genre in totality as well. I enjoyed watching Victory’s backstory get woven into the plot of the novel, as we learn more about who she is and the world/family she is coming from. No, Victory is no token female character created only for the purpose of diversity as some reviewers continue to argue- she’s a fully flushed out independent protagonist who continues to become an active heroine in her own right. While I enjoyed the story’s plotline on its own, I appreciated learning more about Victory and watching her character develop canonically before her main novel’s later debut.
Eckert, like Bett’s earlier novel, is effortlessly true to the style of ERB. The story’s imagery and ambiance seems to come alive around the reader. Notably, Eckert adds dashes of commentary and witty self-awareness within the plotline and characters- and element of classic pulp I’m living to see carried on in the Swords of Eternity arc. Too many pulp novels forget the importance of banter and comedy- but Eckert shines at this especially within his character’s dynamics.
On that note, I was pleasantly happy to see Tarzan developing as more of a ‘family man’. On the contrary to prior criticisms, the development makes complete sense. Not only has Tarzan grown with his family for many decades now, but he’s also come face to face with extensive wars and damage of the 1900s canonically- of course he would hold on tight to his family while dutifully protecting the ones he loves. Is that not one of the heroic aspects of Tarzan that readers have loved the most throughout history? In this vein of thought, I loved watching the Clayton family develop, and even as a reader I felt at home amongst their world. I adored seeing Korak and Meriem in the plotline (I will consistently go on rants about how I’d love to see more Meriem) as well as Jana and Jane. I alas would have loved to see more of our Lady Greystoke/Clayton in the plotline, but I deeply appreciate the Jane-authored letter sent out with limited addition copies of the book- quite immersive as an experience! I loved watching Eric von Harben and Gretchen von Harben re-enter the narrative (and help contextualize Victory’s story more in doing so) and the expertly named Frederich Wilhelm Eric von Mendeldorf und von Horst (got to love ERB getting paid by the word to originate that name!). Finally, I was ecstatic to see some Murivro mentions as well! I’m glad the cannon has not forgotten about our dutiful Waziri warrior.
A standout character in the novel for me was Suzanne, and I loved watching her generally kick major Mahar butt and conduct some well-deserved antagonizing of Nazis. Suzanne taking on a Nazi discussing the insanity of Aryan racism was a personal favorite scene of mine, and I think it added a breath of well-needed antiracism to the Tarzan cannon. This continued to be thoughtfully carried out and I appreciated theme throughout the novel as well.
I loved learning more about Opar’s relations to Interius Thule, especially the connections between Queen Yarla and La. I was excited to see some mention of La at the end of the novel- as a fan of the Tarzan originals, I do hope we’ll be seeing her in the arc at some point beyond just the Khokarsa series. I was excited to hear more development on Atlantis and the cannon’s theories about Opar’s (and now Pellucidar’s!) relations to the lost city. The cultural and anthropological thought put into the narrative was noticeable and appreciated.
In totality, Eckert’s novel is a welcomed contribution to the new ERB arc and shows great promise for the future of the Tarzan cannon, debuting some miraculous modernization. It is well developed and has an uncanny ability to cater to both the traditional fans of the series as well as new readers. With a younger generation that craves modernization, representation, and diversification of literary media, Eckert shows that there is a future for the Tarzan literary cannon that meets the desires of today’s young readers.
Originally posted as a Goodreads review on January 29th 2021. This review is based off an advanced reader’s copy.