It starts to feel a bit of a chore to keep going with this series. They're still irreverent, campy, fun. But, Burroughs really seems to struggle for aIt starts to feel a bit of a chore to keep going with this series. They're still irreverent, campy, fun. But, Burroughs really seems to struggle for a new plot device. Each time our hero is in love with a beautiful – but unavailable – woman. She gets kidnapped by hitherto unknown baddie (or entire hitherto unknown species of baddies) and our hero has to go on a lengthy quest to save her (possibly realising he's not in love with her after all). Coincidence and repeated set pieces abound, but you're tempted to forgive him because it's still clearly enjoyable. And you can't claim you didn't know what you were getting into, you've read six of them now already after all....more
With the fifth book in the Barsoom series, much like Burroughs ability to recycle his stories, I thought I could just repost my review of book four –With the fifth book in the Barsoom series, much like Burroughs ability to recycle his stories, I thought I could just repost my review of book four – Thuvia, Maid of Mars – as it pretty much still applies to this novel too. Burroughs again recycles his damsel in distress (of course she's gorgeous), his introduction of two new species of Barsoomians (surprisingly close to Helium to have gone unnoticed), the courageous rescue (by a spurned suitor). It could, again, so easily be the same novel with only the names changed: this one is, after all, about John Carter's daughter – Tara – rather than his son from the previous novel.
But, while it still is derivative and repetitive, it's a lot more fun than the previous novel. Burroughs seems more comfortable with this non-John Carter novel format (although he still manages to sneak him in as a soft of removed narrator). Tara, as a Carter herself, gets to be a little more feisty than Thuvia was allowed to be. Although she gets herself into plenty of scrapes, she's not waiting to be rescued necessarily and is happy to give orders when her would-be rescuer does turn up. I enjoyed the rather silly twist where she fails to recognise her rescuer as the man she'd spurned only a few days before – sort of like the Superman/Clark Kent glasses – once Gahan takes off his platinum straps he is unrecognisable.
The new races are something of a break from the norm too. The Barsoomians of Manator aren't so unique, but their ritualised games of chess to the death are certainly interesting. But the Kaldane are the more interesting idea. A race of Barsoomians who have advanced their intellect to such a level that they are devoid of emotion and have developed physically to mere brains with little spider-leg appendages to be able to scuttle about a bit. On top of that they've developed a sort of symbiotic relationship with another sub-species who are bodies with no heads. They have no intellect of their own and graze randomly until paired with a Keldane who acts as their head and brain. The Keldane are, of course, pretty much universally evil dudes (those damned intellectuals) until one of them is able to reconnect with his emotions....more
Eventually every good series needs to be put to bed. Drawn to a close. Wound up. Killed. In spite of that Burroughs is soldiering on with his storiesEventually every good series needs to be put to bed. Drawn to a close. Wound up. Killed. In spite of that Burroughs is soldiering on with his stories from Barsoom. The first three books focussed on John Carter and his beloved Dejah Thoris as she repeatedly got into scrapes and he repeatedly had to rescue her. The fourth book completely changes everything and instead focusses on their son, Carthoris, and the woman he has fallen for: the titular Thuvia of Ptarth. This time it's Thuvia's opportunity to get kidnapped and Carthoris's opportunity to run around Mars to rescue her (and clear his name as the assumed kidnapper). Only the names have been changed to make it seem like a brand new book.
It does feel very derivative of the previous three novels. Thuvia is an unobtainable beauty, promised to somebody else. She is kidnapped by a jealous Jeddak and taken to a new area of Mars that we've never been to before. Our hero, Carthoris, is both blamed and also the only one actually capable of finding and rescuing her. The odds are as insane as ever as he goes up against two full clans of barsoomians and a whole new race. Oh yes, of course there's a new race. Every book has to introduce at least one new race of barsoomians to us. This time an even older race who believe they are the only surviving barsoomians. They have the power to create mental projections of their own kind and over time these are able to take on physical form.
Eventually, of course, no matter how insurmountable the odds they will be beaten; no matter how convincing the charges they will be proven false; and no matter how unobtainable the damsel, she will be unable to resist the charms of the son of John Carter. And no matter how contrived and repeatable the story, it does still have something of a "boy's own adventure" charm to it....more
Continuing the series with the third of Burroughs's pulp-science-fiction 'romance' novels, Warlord of Mars follows on immediately from The Gods of MarContinuing the series with the third of Burroughs's pulp-science-fiction 'romance' novels, Warlord of Mars follows on immediately from The Gods of Mars. Having torn down the Martian's false religion, and rescuing several damsels in distress, he is rewarded by one of them dragging his beloved Dejah Thoris into a revolving dungeon (that not only happens to be open at just that time, but also doesn't open again for a whole Martian year) all because he wouldn't return her affections. Talk about being a babe-magnet, the women would happily lock herself in dungeon for a year in order to stop him being with anyone else.
This story picks up almost immediately and Carter's not happy. Luckily a series of unlikely coincidences mean that he'll be able to gain access (although not in time), chase her across Mars (although never quite catching her up), rescue her (only to lose her again) and eventually meet the fabled Yellow Martians – yes, another new colour of Martians, the ones that were heavily foreshadowed in the previous book and I predicted would make an appearance here. Coincidence follows coincidence but at each turn Carter is always just a little to late and Thoris slips through his fingers.
The goodies are good, the baddies are bad (although some of them are redeemable), the damsels are in distress mostly, and Martians love to fight. Luckily John Carter likes to fight too. Especially if his chosen damsel, Dejah Thoris, is singing to cheer him on. Some minor variations in this book, instead of Carter being mostly chased he's mostly doing the chasing; instead of being introduced to two new colours of Martians we're only introduced to one. Ultimately though it's the same book as the previous two – a boys-own adventure in space – but it is fun to read. This seems to tie-up the first three novels into a happy ending. Let's see what bad luck and new races can befall them in the fourth novel......more
Ten years have passed since the events of A Princess of Mars. John Carter has finally found a way to return to Barsoom, and hopefully to his wife, PTen years have passed since the events of A Princess of Mars. John Carter has finally found a way to return to Barsoom, and hopefully to his wife, Princess Dejah Thoris. As with the previous novel the exact method of this transportation is completely ignored - presumably because Burroughs couldn't think of a convincing way to achieve it. Again, the style of narration is unusual - there is an introduction from Carter's nephew that explains that the book is his presentation as a novel of Carter's memoirs which he found after his return to Barsoom. A third-person narrative, but one-person removed. To all intents and purposes though, the main body of the novel is third-person and the one-person removed facet doesn't distract at all.
This novel delves into the Barsoomian religions, and how those religions are transposed over the planet's obvious racial tensions. The green and the red Barsoomians (who we were introduced to in the first novel) believe in a physical afterlife in another region of the planet. As they reach the end of their lives they take the pilgrimage to the Valley of Dor. Nobody returns from this place, and the few who have are killed as blasphemers upon their return. John Carter finds himself returned to Barsoom in the middle of this valley, and is immediately set upon by the two wild species that inhabit the valley. As John Carter tries to escape the valley we start to discover that the Barsoomian religion is not quite what it appears. Both white (the Holy Therns) and black (the Black Pirates) Barsoomian races are introduced to us - secretive species who control the religions of the lower colours to ensure a slave class for each of their own races. Of course, Carter reacts angrily to this injustice and determines to destroy the religious structures and ensure that the green and red Barsoomians are no longer subjugated by the 'higher' races. Interestingly, a fifth race of yellow Barsoomians is mentioned, but not introduced - I guess that's something for the next book.
The novel uses lots of the same plot devices as the previous one. John Carter is always physically, intellectually and morally superior to the Barsoomians. He is again struggling to be united with the princess Dejah Thoris. The level of coincidence that operates of Barsoom is incredible - the right people always just happen to appear at the right time when John Carter needs them, or to have just departed the day before John Carter arrives to meet them. Again, John Carter repeatedly lets us know that he's not a ladies man, while multiple Barsoomian beauties repeatedly throw themselves at him. We are repeatedly witness to John Carter's reckless pursuit of freedom and fair play for the slightly backward species of the Barsoomians. He is, after all, destroying their religion 'for their own good' - there are elements which certainly seem to parallel western colonial history, as well as elements which attack religions which use their hierarchy to exploit those not in their inner circles. And, finally, he will of course bring the Barsoomians another step closer to a more civilised state and end up separated from his beloved Dejah Thoris in some way that will set up the cliff-hanger for the next novel. Phew.
Ultimately though, The Gods of Mars is a riotously fun boys own adventure, told through pulp science fiction. Burroughs continues to sit at the top of that pulp category however, as the writing and characterisation is certainly better than the simplistic and repetitious plot devices might suggest....more
Pulp science fiction classic and pretty much the book that created the niche sub-genre of interplanetary romance. It's hardly chic-lit though. John CaPulp science fiction classic and pretty much the book that created the niche sub-genre of interplanetary romance. It's hardly chic-lit though. John Carter, the protagonist, doesn't spend much time sitting around examining himself, the object of his affections, or their relationship. He's far too busy running around fighting for her attention. Fighting Green Martians. Rescuing the Princess, multiple times. Fighting Red Martians. Then Fighting Green Martians again.
It's an adventure yarn for boys, a romp across Mars where Carter gets to win the girl through his physical prowess. While fun, the book is littered with cliché and coincidence. Putting aside the entire lack of explanation as to how he gets to Mars (or back again), it's lucky that Carter has almost Superman like powers on Mars which appears to be a planet where physical ability and combat form the basis of the power structures. Even luckier, Carter seems blessed with the uncanny ability to immediately spot the bad Martian races over the good Martian races, as well as meet the only Martians who are questioning their planet's macho culture.
Take it for what it is, which is a dated, pulp adventure. And not what it isn't - high literature - and it's thoroughly enjoyable. With the planned movie coming out later this year, I wanted to get a head start on the book before I saw the movie. How many of the Barsoom series will be transferred to the silver screen remains to be seen......more