Christopher's Reviews > Under the Moons of Mars: New Adventures on Barsoom

Under the Moons of Mars by John Joseph Adams
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May 19, 12

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Read in May, 2012


To anyone with only a passing interest in ERB's Martian Tales, I might recommend reading just A Princess of Mars and then the better stories from this collection.

I've starred the stories that I liked and detailed my thoughts below. Regarding the work as a whole, the editing could have been better (e.g. one story has Olovarian when Orovarian is meant; one story consistently misspells Toonolian as Tonoolian; etc.), but the forewords to each of the stories are excellent, and the gazetteer is probably very helpful to most readers.

Strictly speaking, most of the stories take some poetic license with ERB's setting, which I think is great when it works, adding some coherent new perspective or sense of possibilities to it. Simply doing ERB pastiche is also appropriate for a volume like this. I was disappointed to find some contributors hadn't read or reviewed relevant Mars books, and there were a few cases where poetic license may have been stretched to the point of not really caring about the source material while also failing to create a good original story.

But overall, this was a very good collection. Even the weak stories were competently written.

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*Lansdale - good as pastiche; true to ERB but subtly tongue-in-cheek.

*Kirtley - solid exploration of the consequences of meeting/fighting John Carter.

Beagle - Tarzan goes to Mars in scenes cut-and-pasted from Princess and meets John Carter; it's clever and slightly amusing as a crossover/pastiche, but unfortunately, John Carter is badly mischaracterized (more generously, re-imagined) for not very humorous effect.

*Buckell - an episode from Princess retold well from another POV, creating a memorable footnote character.

*Wasserman - tragic continuation of Sarkoja's story; a little over the top, but pretty good.

*Goss - Princess from Woola's POV; a very warm "whatever happened to …?"

Grossman - misses the mark in several ways; voice and characterization are off, but not for any clear reason; not really successful as pastiche, nor parody, nor literary re-imagining, etc. Incidentally, given the well-established Gridley Wave communications between Barsoom and Earth as well as Barsoom having at least two viable spaceships, the big reveal in this story being presented as something momentous suggests the author hasn't read most of the books.

*Modesitt - straight sequel to book 10, though following a new descendant of John Carter like books 4 and 5; good pastiche, extremely like an ERB Mars novel at a more readable 20 pages.

Valentine - the foreword to this story politely avoids mentioning that the Kaldanes have no real connection to Manator aside from being in the same book, so here we have a direct sequel to book 5, perhaps based on no reading of book 5 at all (maybe inspired by cover art or a poor summary?), that also fails to add perspective or invention.

Nix - inspired by Princess's frame story, Nix inserts a no-nonsense miner sidekick with uneven Old West mannerisms into the margins of John Carter's adventures, ineffectively poking fun.

Claremont - Barsoomians come to Earth's Old West; the story packs in too many Earth-historical references and a moral that's not very ERB-ish.

*Stirling - cleverly blends story elements from throughout the Mars novels and also from the Tarzan, Pellucidar, and Moon books; decent pastiche, though fairly dry.

*Valente - delightful re-imagination of the ordinary Thark POV, taking as clues to their inner lives their birth/adoption process, limited telepathy, and grim laughter.

*Maberry - very nice 'red shirt' / grunt POV story reminiscent of heroic, battle-glorifying scenes in books 1-3 where John Carter and/or Tars Tarkas fight atop piles of bodies.

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