So I just finished reading The Mucker, and it was…not bad. I may have liked it better than Tarzan, or maybe I should say I liked certain elements better.
[Tasty spoilers ahead]
Ladies first – Barbara Harding was a way better character and love interest than Jane Porter. It kind of felt to me like Barbara was Jane 2.0, actually. They were both wealthy, high-class, well-traveled American women. Both passed up other men in favor of each respective protagonist. But Barbara just felt more virtuous and likable. She was courageous, unafraid to fight beside the men when necessary. And though she, like Jane, abandoned her original beau, to me it felt like Burroughs, having committed gross character assassination on Clayton in order to make way for Tarzan, took a lighter and more believable approach in The Mucker.
Though we all know the real best Burroughs girl is Martian princess Dejah Thoris, all day.
The transformation of mucker Billy Byrne from thuggish third-rate villain to hero was overall well done and enjoyable. Burroughs was careful to show a gradual change, by degrees. It was love that ultimately did it for him and flicked a kind of switch. Other parts of Billy’s change, particularly his swift adoption of Barbara’s genteel English…well, didn’t sell me as much.
Bridge made for an initially interesting sidekick and friend, though by the end of the story he had turned rather generic and unremarkable. I was a bit surprised that Billy absconded with Barbara and her father in the end, presumably leaving an injured Bridge to wonder and piece together what had happened to his friend and the woman he had fallen in love with.
What Tarzan had going for it that The Mucker didn’t was the injection of fantastic story elements. You might be tempted to point to the island of Yoka, but a half-savage offshoot isle of the Japanese empire isn’t SF or F. The man-like Mangani of Tarzan are borderline F. And hey, this is BushiSFF.
I also didn’t particularly enjoy stumbling through all the bastardized English in The Mucker, something Tarzan didn’t make me do.
Overall it was a decent read. I’d give it a 3.5/5, along with a warning that it’s just an adventure story with no scifi or fantasy elements.