Review: Korak at the Earth’s Core

Author: Win Scott Eckert
306 Pages
Published: 4/2/2024 by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc

I was never a Tarzan fan growing up.

Let me correct that. As a kid I loved Tarzan movies, the TV shows, and the comics. I was an avid reader of just about everything Edgar Rice Burroughs had written, but was never motiviated to spend my reading time on Tarzan. I was more interested in heroes mysteriously transported to other worlds, facing strange monsterous animals, and meeting exotic and strange civilizations. As far as Tarzan went, I kinda felt like I knew it all already.

And of course, I was terribly wrong about that. It wasn’t until I was fully in my adult years that I began to actually read some of the Tarzan novels, finding Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a complex character with an unexpectedly broader background that most civilized folks, made sure he was extremely well traveled, and put hin into some of the most fantastic situations of any a pulp hero. Wow, I had been misssing out.

But as much as I had wrongly dismissed Tarzan, I would have to admit that Korak the Son of Tarzan, got even less of my interest.

I will blame this in part on the fact that Korak gets relatively little spotlight time in the Tarzan novels. And his background is both simple to read, and complex when you think about it. There was obviously more to Korak than Burroughs ever got around to writing.

Luckily, we have Win Scott Eckert.

Eckert is a pulp historian, analyst, and archeologist. His Crossovers books for example clock in at nearly 1000 pages of pulpy facts and revelations. His writings on the Burroughs’ Tarzan stories and history are exhaustive. And, a proven author of Burroughs connected stories and articles, and many other pulp series, he’s the perfect resource for ERB Inc. to tap for a continuation of the tales of House Greystoke. He proved that four years ago with his novel Tarzan: Battle for Pellucidar, and does again with Korak at the Earth’s Core.

When discussing this novel you have to wonder at the lifetime of research and thought that has gone into it. More than any other ERB related creation, the connections to that Universe both in location and history here are monumental. As an avid Burroughs reader I could write pages about the blatant and nuanced “Easter Eggs” Eckert has laid out among the jungle grasses awaiting discovery by excited fans. I will not speak long on these surprises, because finding them is most of the fun. And if you don’t discover them, they’ll still make sense and contribute to the pleasure of a rip roaring adventure.

I will make a few comments that fall short of being spoilers to help justify my recommendation of this book.

Korak is not Tarzan. Burroughs knew he already had a fully realized Tarzan, and didn’t need to create a “travel sized” Tarzan-2. With an origin unlike Tarzan, filled with singular trauma, Korak has to deal with his own personal demons. He fought in World War I and is an apparent victim of post tramatic stress disorder. With so much inherent conflict invested in a character, the meat of many great stories, it’s surprising Burroughs eventually spent relatively little time with Korak.

As an aside, it’s worth noting that 100 years ago we really didn’t try to understand mental disorders and the lasting effect of trauma. No doubt Burroughs was writing from experience, not from analysis. It’s encouraging that today we can read stories where the hero is struggling with such issues, heroically.

It is also worth discussing the writing, then and now. We have to acknowledge that not everyone has had an appreciation for Burroughs original writing style. It was true to it’s time, the original era of pulp fiction, and is undeniably a prose written purple.

For most fans, that’s really part of the fun. And it’s easy to see that Eckert is a fan, but is also a fine writer. I can’t put my finger on a specific passage or method here, but as I read Korak I kept flashing on my experiences reading prior Burroughs novels – there was just so much ERB here. That’s a pleasant surprise because when you’re trying to resurect old series for new readers it’s important to modernize the writing. People are expecting perhaps a bit more from their time spent with a book. Eckert has successfully kept a foot in both worlds. This is a finely crafted novel that shows his continued growth as a writer, with just enough of a purple umbra hanging around the prose for the long term fan. He’s a worthy inheritor.

Of course, everyone knows about the family of Tarzan and Jane. Up to a point, as far as the trope goes. However, these were not casts of characters frozen in time. (How old are the kids in Family Circus?) The Greystoke family tree had already grown a few new branches within Burroughs two dozen Tarzan novels. That tradition continues as Korak and his wife have an adult daughter now. (There is this thing about an elixir that keeps the family youthful over a hundred years later. Not a spoiler, that’s in the original series.)

The cast of the book includes almost every major character from the Pellucidar series. Thats an extensive crew as this stone-age world at the core of the Earth had already been featured in 10 prior novels. Eckert adds to that by drafting a few characters from stories not set in Pellucidar itself, human and otherwise, but again no spoilers.

As far as story connections go we are pleased to see characters and events from the recent authorized additions to the ERB Universe come delightfully into play. We don’t actually see Victory Harbin, the focus of the first Arc of new ERB Universe novels. But we do get a fun surprise in a short included novella Dawn of the Deathslayer, by Christopher Paul Carey, introduces Darva the Shadow another surprising addition to this growing Universe.

So, this is a big story. The novel does not end with a cliff-hanger, but there is definitley unfinished business. It’s just the beginning of a new trilogy; The Dead Moon Super-Arc.

And yes, I’ll be pre-ordering the sequels the moment they’re announced.

Highly recommended.

Ric Bretschneider
San Jose California
March 20, 2024

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