Phillip's Reviews > A Princess of Mars

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
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Mar 12, 12

bookshelves: fantasy, literature, science-fiction

"A Princess of Mars" launched the pulp writing career of Edgar Rice Burroughs, literally 100 years ago.

The novel is worth a read if you want to prepare for watching the movie that is coming out today, Friday 3/9/12. I have been looking forward to seeing this movie since I saw the trailer on the internet a few weeks ago. From what I saw in the trailer they got the creature effects right.

Not too long ago the SyFy channel did their version of John Carter of Mars. It is a must miss. Tars Tarkis only had two arms. They spent a lot of time showing the hero eat something that looks like a giant bug. Sometimes the SyFy channel nails a production. I am thinking of "The Lost Room" and "Tin Man", but not this time. I mention the SyFy aversion as a contrast to what I hope will be a high-end production by Disney.

In the trailer the air ships looked right, the creatures looked right, and there was one quotation from the novel. All of these are good signs.

Let us discuss the novel. Burroughs had the talent for creating heroes that you rooted for, in hopeless situations that hooked/hooks the reader so that he or she wanted/wants to see what the hero is going to do next. The hero always meets up with a beautiful woman in crazy-exotic places, she is usually kidnapped, the hero spends the rest of the book trying to get the woman back. I know, it is a pretty thin formula, but Burroughs did it very well about 70 times.

"A Princess of Mars" and the first 3 or 4 of the John Carter novels is one of his good creations. Those 3 or 4 John Carter novels provide a wonderful story-arc that was published, a few years ago, in a single volume by the Oxford press as the first in a series of mile-posts in Science Fiction collection. Being the first volume was supposed to signal the prestige of that work.

"A Princess of Mars" is a lovingly told tale describing an exotic world with great attention to the alien creatures, their cultures, and the adventure itself. Burroughs crafted his piece in a way that made it stand at the top of a limited genre. The thing to walk away with here is that Burroughs provides good writing and good fiction craft.

I once read a statement that no adult would take Burroughs seriously. It isn't that he is going to to be mistaken for serious literature, the stature Shakespeare or Faulkner, but he can be read seriously as solid popular fiction that is enjoyed by people of all ages. That statement was published in the 1970s, long before the "Harry Potter" phenomenon ushered in the practice of adults openly reading juvenile literature such as "The Hunger Games." Adult interest in quality young adult literature lead me to believe that now the time is ripe for readers to take a look at "A Princess of Mars" and the first few of the John Carter of Mars books.
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