After the long exile on Earth, John Carter finally returned to his beloved Mars. But beautiful Dejah Thoris, the woman he loved, had vanished. Now he was trapped in the legendary Eden of Mars -- an Eden from which none ever escaped alive.
The Gods of Mars is a science fantasy novel by American writer Edgar Rice Burroughs, the second of his Barsoom series. It was first published in The All-Story as a five-part serial in the issues for January-May 1913. It was later published as a complete novel by A. C. McClurg in September, 1918.
Excerpt: For moments after that awful laugh had ceased reverberating through the rocky room, Tars Tarkas and I stood in tense and expectant silence. But no further sound broke the stillness, nor within the range of our vision did aught move.At length Tars Tarkas laughed softly, after the manner of his strange kind when in the presence of the horrible or terrifying. It is not an hysterical laugh, but rather the genuine expression of the pleasure they derive from the things that move Earth men to loathing or to tears.Often and again have I seen them roll upon the ground in mad fits of uncontrollable mirth when witnessing the death agonies of women and little children beneath the torture of that hellish green Martian fete-the Great Games.I looked up at the Thark, a smile upon my own lips, for here in truth was greater need for a smiling face than a trembling chin.
Rolling ochre sea bottom of long dead seas, low surrounding hills, with here and there the grim and silent cities of the dead past; great piles of mighty architecture tenanted only by age-old memories of a once powerful race, and by the great white apes of Barsoom.
If anything, Edgar Rice Burroughs is the founding father of the guilty pleasure. No, these books aren’t literary masterpieces. No, these books are not politically correct. But damn they’re fun to read!
There was a brief and futile effort of defence. Then silence as the huge, repulsive shapes covered the bodies of their victims and scores of sucking mouths fastened themselves to the flesh of their prey.
Over the top Sword and Planet fare… this is the stuff that pre-teen dreams are made of. Gods of Mars is fairly violent, even for this kind of thing, and there is a lot of “cleaving” and “crushing” filling the pages. Robert E. Howard and the other pulp writers no doubt drew a lot of inspiration from here.
What was that! A faint shuffling sounded behind me, and as I cast a hasty glance over my shoulder my blood froze in my veins for the thing I saw there.
The religious theme (or theme of deception through the abuse of religious belief) present here is interesting. This kind of thing is commonplace in Science Fiction today, but it doesn’t strike me as ERB’s style. Could be worth further investigation…
I put the thought of death out of my mind, and fell upon my antagonists with fury that those who escaped will remember to their dying day.
Burroughs did seem to rehash some plot events every now and again. There are things happening here that I could have sworn I’d also read in one of the many Tarzan novels. Typical example: door slams shut behind protagonist, plunging him in darkness… followed by maniacal laughter. The feelings of Phaidor toward John Carter, and the circumstances under which they occur, also mirror the relationship between La (of Opar) and Tarzan. To a tee.
Sparks flew as steel smote steel, and then there was the dull and sickening sound of a shoulder bone parting beneath the keen edge of my Martian sword.
As campy and old school as this is, I struggle to find it in myself to entirely dislike it. It is the product of an era, and it’s only fair that it be treated as such. Expect any number of coincidences that aid the “good guys” on their way. But hey, nobody said this was high literature. In the end, the baddies are all fodder and John Carter lives to fight another day, and another, and another. No, this isn’t a spoiler, unless you’ve been asleep under a Martian stone.
Back and forth across the room we surged, until the floor was ankle deep in blood, and dead men lay so thickly there that half the time we stood upon their bodies as we fought.
Better judgment has no place in this review. Four stars.
Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs is a fun book.
Taking up where A Princess of Mars left off, it is the story of John Carter’s second visit to Barsoom and chronicles his encounter with an ancient religion that has deceived Martian culture.
Entertaining, imaginative and even a little allegorical it also displays Burroughs knack for weaving a cliffhanger, as every other chapter finds the characters in some trouble they cannot get out of. Even the ending is designed to make the reader want to buy the next installment.
Ten years (at least on Earth) after the events of A Princess of Mars, John Carter returns to Mars and discovers new places to journey to and new enemies to fight. He soon runs into his Green Martien friends Tars Tarkas who is under attack by the white apes and the planet me. Through Tarkas, we learn that the Red Martians and Green Martians, especially John's beloved Dejah Thoris, how long mourned John's disappearance from Barsoom. John desperately wants to see Dejah again, however the therns of the White Martians and Issus, deranged pretend goddess of the First Born Black Martians seek John's head on a platter. Both use their own religious beliefs to decide a pecking order among all Martians and both will not stop till John is dead. Hopefully, John's newest allies, even those most unlikely to be allies, can help John save the day.
Much like A Princess of Mars, The Gods of Mars is a fun old sci-fi adventure, though it is burdened by some uncomfortable things. Edgar Rice Burroughs' eugenics can be seen here; the divisions between each of the Martian races becoming more and more palpable and the description of the Black Martians' antagonism being quite vicious. Nonetheless, there is a continued theme of all the races coming together despite their differences, and as John points, both the White Martians and Black Martians are equally terrible here. Issus, the Black Martians' goddess, has White Martians enslaved and tortured and sacrificed to her, however, when Phaidor a princess of the White Martians describes how awful this is John points out that the Black Martians are only responding to the violence and slavery the White Martians initially inflicted on them. It's still a messy and problematic thing, but by the end of the book the Black Martians end up being more virtuous than the White Martians, especially John's new friend Xodar. Still, I'd refrain from calling Burroughs progressive of any form.
That aside, I do think that this book was an improvement upon A Princess of Mars. The flow of the writing is much better and less clunky, especially the battle scenes. The pacing towards the end of the book gets much faster too. I also enjoyed the newer characters that The Gods of Mars brought with it. Thuvia, a young Red Martian woman, had some spunk with her; she was able to control the various creatures within the thern prison, allowing her and John to best the White Martians. Like I said, I love her spunk, just wish we saw more of her. Xodar, a Black Martian who starts out as John's enemy but then becomes his ally, was also a welcome cast member. Through him, John learns just how different Mars is for some other people. There's also Carthoris, John's son who he never got to see be born (or hatched rather) after the events of the previous book. A good kid with a good heart, much like his dad. Wish we could've seen more of him too.
One of my favorite things from the previous that still remains is John's gentleman behavior. Once again, despite the outdated parts of the book, I am surprised at the depiction of masculinity in these books. Yes, the story is still one of those macho adventures and every woman falls for John though his one true is still Dejah whom he never cheats on, but it is still so surprising to see how soft (for a lack of a better term) John is. When he hugs his son, he cries but does not care that he cries. He even cries in front of Dejah and doesn't feel shame that a woman is seeing him cry (I know that sounds ridiculous, but that was a thing men were expected not to do). He admires the courage, strength, and fighting abilities of those around him, even his enemies. Most strikingly, he platonically admires the muscular bodies of his fellow men. Like, not throughout the entire book, but still, it happens quite a bit. Given this was written in 1913, I guess there was no anxiety over doing that yet--I assume, at least. John only kills when absolutely necessary; thanks to this ideal, we get to see him and Xodar become friends. John also cannot bring himself to kill women, even when they're someone as vile as Issus. Which...I respect the ideal, but she was literally torturing and sacrificing people, so I think chivalry could've taken the bench on that one.
The battles flow a lot better in The Gods of Mars and go by so quick. Seriously, the ending snuck up on me. Speaking of the ending, I did not expect a cliffhanger. After going through so much--fighting so many people, going to new places, being imprisoned--John and Dejah are briefly only to be separated again. I'm kind of peeved, but I guess Burroughs had to shake it up a bit.
Edgar Rice Burroughs is the master of the adventure story. His stories move at a lightening shot, but he somehow manages to cram extensive, imaginative, world-building into the 200 page count. Having watched the movie from 2012, and reading the first book, I assumed ERB would take his already established world and throw a couple new whoozits or whatchamacallits in there and make anther rip-roaring action/adventure novel starring the green and red men of Mars. Instead, he decided John Carter would plunk down in another part of the planet, then go check out the underworld, all the while learning a whole new mythology of Mars. Needless to say, I was enthralled.
One thing I couldn't stop thinking about was how science fiction/fantasy books of today quite obviously borrow from what's come before. Maybe you read a book that has warp drive in it, but it wasn't Star Trek, or whatever. But whom did Burroughs have to borrow? He may have borrowed from the greats in his later works (the Caspak trilogy and Pellucidar books come instantly to mind), but for something like the world of Barsoom . . . how did he blaze that trail? The book was written in 1913, so it must have melted the brains of anyone who touched it.
Sure, the character of John Carter could probably use a little more fleshing out. As it stands, he's just this guy who knows how to swing a sword, moving the story forward with every slash while searching for his lost love (predates Conan, for those keeping track). But I guess there's only so much you can do in 200 pages. But those pages are all magic.
If you know someone who needs to start reading for fun, who is around the ages of 6 to 15, do him a favour and give him a Barsoom book. Or if you want quick, imaginative escapism yourself, send yourself to Barsoom.
3.8 stars--after a deduction for the cliffhanger ending.
John Carter returns to Mars after a mysterious 10-year absence! he appears in the vale of the Plant Men and the White Apes! you better run, John Carter, run! uh oh, John you are running right into the clifftop lair of the dreaded White Men of Mars! and then into the subterranean lair of the dreaded Black Men of Mars! think fast and carry a big sword, John Carter!
John Carter wears an excited yet contemptuous expression while slaughtering his enemies! he's a man's man! he laughs at danger then runs right towards it! and yet he has no problem shedding tears at the thought of women and children in danger! awww!
the White Men of Mars are cannibalistic theocrats who eat the Red and Green Men! they think they are better than everyone else and so they don't mind eating "lower life forms"! jerks! apparently their genetic heritage is so fucked that the men are all frail and can't even grow hair on their heads - so they have to wear wigs! ha, ha! ugly, wimpy cannibalistic White Men! John Carter spends some time with a princess of the White Men named Phaidor, but she turns out to be a bloodthirsty bitch!
the Black Men of Mars are cannibalistic theocrats who eat the White Men and kidnap White Women to turn into slaves! they worship an old bat who calls herself the Goddess Issus! i think she is spelling that incorrectly! John Carter describes the Black Men as having features that are "handsome in the extreme" and says "their bodies are divine"! he practically swoons while gazing at the tableau of a bunch of them hanging around in nothing much except beautiful jeweled harnesses! he notes that it may seem odd for a Southerner to think that the Black Men's ebony skin "adds to rather than detracts from their marvellous beauty"! um, awkward comment!
John Carter makes two new friends! Thuvia the Red Maid, who loves him so much she wants to be his slave! and Xodor the Black Pirate who is pure awesomeness and the best character!
John Carter has a 10-year old son! his name is Cathoris! that name sounds like some kind of illness to me! yuck! bad name!
Edgar Rice Burroughs got a little giddy while writing this one! a little over-the-top! it made me snicker a bit! purple pulp prose goes POP! POP! POP! but still, it was enjoyable!
Edgar Rice Burroughs must have really hated organized religion! he makes a point of showing how the religion of the Red Men and the Green Men is an utter sham! Phaidor describes her White religion and it is totally repulsive and offensive and moronic! Xodor describes his Black religion and it is totally absurd and bizarre like out of some classic pulp scifi novel!
the depiction of the complex and layered and fascinatingly intertwined faiths of Barsoom was the best part of the novel for me! Burroughs sure had an axe to grind and i loved watching him grind it! grind, Edgar, grind!
With this second installment Burroughs really cut loose his wild and vivid imagination to flesh out the fantastically diverse world of Barsoom. Even more so than A Princess of Mars it is brimming with all manner of exotic settings, bizarre creatures, treacherous villains, strange men and their mysterious secrets. He reveals much of the long and ancient history of the Martian peoples, the structure of their societies, and uses Carter, an outsider, as a wrecking ball to destroy some of their most closely held beliefs concerning death and religion based on outlandish superstitions and insidious deceptions.
SFF grandmaster Jack Vance considered Burroughs one of his earliest and most significant influences. The Gods of Mars makes this readily apparent, both in terms of the richly imagined alien world, and especially in the actions of the lone protagonist in rebelling against the races of the effete and arrogant lords. Surely one of Vance's favorite themes, and one that recurs throughout much of his writings, though of course Vance's heroes are hardly John Carter like swashbuckling supermen.
Believe me, no one is more surprised than I am that I actually LIKE the Barsoom books so far and I'm warming even more to them.
Have no doubts. It's a PURE adventure. If the first book was more cowboy meets indians, the second is lambasting the elites in usual old-school American take-no-shit from anyone.
Of course, the action progresses nicely from exploration to getting entangled with "godlike" "noble" aliens (with plenty of commentaries) to grand escapes, an even grander WAR that was frankly kind of awesome.
The one thing I kept noticing as I read this quite old SF tale was how well it pulled off ALL the grand Steampunk ideals. Of course, the opposite is more true. The entire movement of Steampunk owes almost ALL of its thanks to Burroughs.
If any of you folks out there need to top off the steam in your tanks, you REALLY ought to go to the real source. :)
Although I've reviewed Burroughs' series opener, A Princess of Mars, here on Goodreads, I've never reviewed this sequel; and the recent John Carter movie and resulting uptick of interest in the series suggested to me that I ought to. IMO, it has many of the same strengths (and weaknesses) of the first book, so much of what I wrote in the earlier review (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... ) would apply here too. And the first book should definitely be read before this one; you need the grasp of the characters and setting that comes from the first one to fully appreciate the sequel. Also, one of my Goodreads friends suggests that book 3 of the series, The Warlord of Mars (Barsoom, #3), is virtually the second half of this book, and that you shouldn't read the one unless you can start the next one immediately. Of course, I've never read book 3; but from my general reading about the series in secondary sources before reading even this one, I already knew how the cliffhanger ending here is resolved. But if you don't, the advice to have book 3 handy is well taken; no spoilers here, but the cliffhanger is a MAJOR one!
Obviously, this volume begins with John Carter returning to Mars (astral projection is utilized yet again). Plenty of the author's trademark action adventure ensues. One plot development here stretches the long arm of coincidence unbelievably drastically, even for Burroughs; and there are again details to his world building that aren't particularly credible. But his strong points are in evidence as well, and some of these are particularly notable for the period in which he wrote. For one thing (both here and elsewhere in his work) Burroughs is not a sexist writer; several of his female characters are strong, proactive personalities, and his Martian women can be fighters just as much as the males. He's also not racist (or at least not nearly as racist as many of his contemporaries, if at all). Here, we encounter a couple more of the Martian races, a white and a black one. The white race is not a collectively noble and benign apex of virtuous civilization; and the black race isn't depicted as inferior in its moral and intellectual attainments to any of the other Martian races. Xodar, one of the black leaders, is definitely a strong sympathetic character. The implications of this, in 1913, are fairly obvious, and to Burroughs' credit.
Burroughs explains the origins of the Martian races in Darwinian terms; this isn't, in the context of his times, when belief in theistic evolution was more common among both Christians and non-Christians than it is now, necessarily to be regarded as an attack on Christianity. (Burroughs' own attitude to origins was probably at least compatible with that of his geologist character in the Pellucidar series, Abner Perry, who's both a Darwinist and described as a devout Christian.) Some readers might read the basic theme of this book, however, as more directly anti-Christian (since Carter discovers the pagan religion of Mars to be a sham, manipulated by a clerisy of charlatan priests and a bogus goddess for personal power and profit). But that reading, IMO, would be equally misguided; Burroughs' message doesn't come across to me as being blanket anti-religion or anti-theistic propaganda in general, nor anti-Christian in particular. The Martian cult as he depicts it has no recognizable similarities to Christianity, unless one assumes that any and all "religions" are essentially similar (and vile) just because they're religions --sort of a "Mother Teresa, Aztec human sacrifice, whatever, same thing" fallacy. There's really nothing to suggest that this is an assumption Burroughs makes, however, much less argues for. To the extent that he consciously intends to send a message for this-world application, I think he's simply warning (and validly so!) that religion CAN be used as a cloak for some people to enrich and empower themselves at other's expense, and that blind bowing to tradition and unsupported superstition aren't the smartest guides to spiritual truth. (Those are actually points the Biblical writers would have been comfortable with --and sometimes make as well.)
Fun, a whole lot of heroic, cheesy fun. That is the best way I can think of to describe the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs. This is not great literature and there are some attitudes towards women and minorities that need to be overlooked as a sign of the times. But there is also adventure and thrills on almost every page and John Carter is a larger than life good guy.. I didn't like this quite as much as the first one, in part because they are structured almost the same and so a bit of the newness has worn off. I still really liked it and plan on reading more of the series.
This might be my favorite book in the series. Now that Barsoom has been established, ERB can really go to town -- the creatures are scarier, the settings more exotic, the villains more villainous and we get the single biggest engagement between aerial navies in the entire series. Again, coincidence plays rather more of a role than it probably should, but the narrative moves so quickly and so forcefully that you hardly notice the creak of the rails.
Burroughs, to our modern eyes, is a mixed bag. On the one hand, his stuff is blatant sensationalism, complete with purple prose, laughable melodrama, and cliched plots and characters. On the other, his work offers an astoundingly fresh creativity - even after all these years. His worldbuilding is beautiful and detailed and just plain fun. This may be pulp, but it's good pulp.
Most of the first three-quarters of this book are one exhausting battle scene after another or the capture of the protagonist and his friends and their escaping. Repeatedly. They battle, they are captured, and escape several times. That is the basic plot. In the last quarter, they really do escape and there is a tiny amount of plot development that results in, yes, their captivity again. The ending is another big battle. There is some relief when protagonist John Carter meets a character who he has not met before but with whom he has a deep connection. This connection is apparent from their first page together, but it occurs to neither of them until several chapters later when it is treated as a big revelation. Thus the author makes these two characters much dumber than the readers. There is also a Martian character who knows nothing of earth who compares a Martian animal to an earth animal. Let's not get started on the coincidences. These are examples of the author being dumber than the reader. His arcane style, not his typical style, feels phony too. Let’s put this another way. This is a tedious and terrible book. Cast your eyes elsewhere.
This is only half of the 2d book in the Barsoom series. Yes, I know the next one is called book 3, but he cliff hanger that this book leaves us on should be a shooting offense. Before starting this book, make certain you have The Warlord of Mars (Barsoom, #3) & you carry it with you when you get close to the end of this book. If not, you will almost certainly die of massive frustration. ;-)
It's another quick, fun read by one of the masters of the action pulp era. You really should read A Princess of Mars first.
The Gods of Mars is another exciting installment in the John Carter/Barsoom series. This one picks up from the cliffhanger that ended the first book of the series. John Carter returns to Mars after being on Earth for 10 years. Eager to be reunited with his Martian princess (assuming she still lives and moreover hasn't moved on romantically), he unexpectedly finds himself transported to the Martian version of the Garden of Eden... a place from which there is no return. And there Carter immediately faces the proverbial "trouble in paradise." The action starts from the first chapter and the momentum builds chapter after chapter, never letting up.
The ride is a lot of fun. Some of the action sequences epitomize the pulp genre; suspenseful, imaginative, and described with a flair for the dramatic ("my seething blade wove a net of death around me"). The same could be said for the book as a whole. Just when things are looking up for our hero John Carter, there's a twist and all seems lost. And just when all seems lost, by chance things begin to look up. It's not unpredictable, but it's fast-paced pulp-ish fun.
I really enjoy Burroughs's world-building, with fleets of flying battleships floating above the alien Martian landscape ("under the glorious rays of the two moons we sped noiselessly across the dead sea," and, "Below us lay a typical Martian landscape. Rolling ochre sea bottom of long dead seas... with here and there the grim and silent cities of the dead past; great piles of mighty architecture tenanted only by age-old memories of a once powerful race"). In a few sentences Burroughs can paint an alien vista that's a feast for the imagination. Admittedly his prose is wordy, but then like other pulp authors he was being paid by the word.
There may not be a lot of deep literary value here (Burroughs himself admitted as much) but the influence of the Barsoom series can't be disregarded. This book series launched an entire subgenre of fantasy/sci-fi that's popularly called "planetary romance" or "sword and planet", in which interplanetary romance, swashbuckling space-based action (lightsaber duels, anyone?), and battles between "sailing ships of the skies" became a mainstay. Barsoom inspired young readers like Bradbury, Clarke, and Heinlein, all to later become science fiction luminaries. Barsoom even has the dubious distinction of being one of the first sci-fi stories with its own alien language (i.e., "Klingonese" nearly five and a half decades before Star Trek of the late 1960's).
And although the hallmarks of Barsoom -- like other pulp series -- may be action sequences and two-dimensional characters, it doesn't lack for social commentary. On Mars the races are divided into four classes: red Martians, white Martians, black Martians, and green Martians. The whites are the holy leaders that live in the Garden of Eden, the reds are the more ordinary folk (builders, scientists, craftsmen, soldiers), the greens are a four-armed "savage" tribal race, and the blacks are the pirates of the skies that "pride themselves upon their idleness" and prey on the lower orders "who live merely that [the black pirates] may enjoy long lives of luxury" and whose leader is feared throughout Mars as a vindictive goddess. Add to this bisexual, mindless, man-eating plant men and the giant white apes and you have a panoply of colorful races via which Burroughs is able to draw his analogies concerning skin color and racism. As an example, John Carter amasses a team of sidekicks of a variety of races, about whom he says, "In that little party there was not one who would desert another; yet we were of different countries, different colours, different races, different religions -- and one of us was of a different world." Furthermore, the "savage" green Martians turn out to have more heart and soul than they are originally given credit for by the other Martian races. These are some progressive ideas for 1913.
Mars, as Burroughs defines it, is a dying world and its social fabric is shaped by the existence of very limited resources that rest in the hands of a very few. This of course lends itself to further socio-political commentary (although this occurs more overtly in the first book of the series, A Princess of Mars). As one example, the green Martians have set up a communal society in which everyone owns an equal share in everything, and concerning this Burroughs expresses (via the voice of his narrator) doubts about the efficacy of a Marxist system.
More than anything else, however, this entire novel is a parable about the dangers of corruption within organized religion. Please do read the novel to see why, but here are a few quotes about the religion of Mars which obviously describe Burroughs's sentiments about religion in our own society. Speaking of the black Martians (the "idle elite") and white Martians (aka, the "Holy Therns"), one of John Carter's Martian companions has the realization that, "The whole fabric of our religion is based upon a superstitious belief in lies that have been foisted upon us for ages by those directly above us, to whose personal profit and aggrandizement it was to have us continue to believe as they wished us to believe." In regards to the Martians in general, John Carter observes: "I knew how strong a hold a creed, however ridiculous it may be, may gain upon an otherwise intelligent people," and, "it is very hard to accept a new religion for an old, no matter how alluring the promises of the new may be; but to reject the old as a tissue of falsehoods without being offered anything in its stead [as John Carter emplores the people of Mars to do] is indeed a most difficult thing to ask of any people."
In summary, I enjoyed this book even more than the first in the series for its pacing, world-building, social commentary, and cliffhanger ending. I'm looking forward to reading the third in the John Carter trilogy.
Finally, I should mention that this book, as well as those immediately preceding it and following it in the series, are available for free in electronic form on Amazon thanks to a team of volunteers that have transcribed it to ebook format for all of us to enjoy.
First book was interesting enough for me to carry on with this, and glad I did as the opening of this one alone is memorable as John Carter ends up teleporting himself into the Barsoom Afterlife... and it's really something, and a shame that the film franchise never kicked off because it's something very great to visualise, and not somewhere you'd want to end up.
A lot of the book following this goes into some generic hacking and slashing through various environments, but then ends in a similarly bizarre and memorable locations which is this weird temple of rotating pieces that only rotates into the correct position once a year.
John Carter returns to Mars, and discovers a TERRIBLE SECRET. A terrible secret that will keep you up late reading, and that's on top of the big question of whether or not he and Dejah Thoris will be reunited! Fun stuff!
John Carter goes on a further adventure to Barsoom. He is in the land at the end of the River Iss where Barsoom people go to die. A sort of Elephant's graveyard. A place from which no one returns. Land of the dead. A world Barsoom people believe the afterlife continues with renewed splendour. It all sounds wonderful and fine. When the people of Barsoom decide they are too old, the pilgrimage along the River Iss begins. They will never be seen again once entering the Valley Dor.
Edgar Rice Burroughs novels are pulp fantasy adventure stories. But pulp adventure done right is breathtakingly addictive and wonderful escapism. This second John Carter of Mars story is a real roller coaster adventure of damsels in distress, noble heroes and colourful villains. It is glorious to be John Carter with his black and white simplistic rules of honour. Plus his superhuman strength on Mars. This enables him to be a warrior of distinction. It is all wonderful escapism.
Ahhhh, Barsoom -- where the red men are the most moral & civilized of peoples, the white men are a deceitful race of cannibals, and the black men are...uh...still a racist stereotype. But not as bad as the white men! That part is really important. After all, both are cannibals, but the Black Martians are the most attractive and powerful of the Barsoomian beings, while the White Martians are (generally) weak and defenseless against them. And John Carter, as our narrator, is fully aware that his antebellum American Southern cultural milieu makes him disinclined to regard the Black Martians positively -- so you understand he's serious about how physically beautiful the Black Martians are. Meanwhile the Green Martians are Mongol-esque bug men and the Blue Martians are anthropophagous eggplant people. Mars takes no prisoners!
Additionally, E.R.B.'s attempted takedown of religion-qua-religion would be far less childish if he didn't make the protagonist an immortal warrior who has lived for centuries, can hop from world to world simply by willing it, and has no memory of a time in which he did not exist... Sci-fi polemics work better when they are not self-contradictory!
This was always my favorite Barsoom novel when I was a kid. Good cliffhanger, compelling world-building, cool villains -- but the anti-religiosity is repeatedly undercut by the supernatural elements! Sort of like Rick Riordan's Magnus Chase being an atheist...despite DYING and MEETING THE NORSE GODS!
So it's not a perfect book, but definitely one of E.R.B.'s best and most ambitious works.
"Go back the way thou camest, to the merciful maws of the children of the Tree of Life or the gleaming fangs of the great white apes, for there lies speedy surcease from suffering; but insist in your rash purpose to thread the mazes of the Golden Cliffs of the Mountains of Otz, past the ramparts of the impregnable fortresses of the Holy Therns, and upon your way Death in its most frightful form will overtake you—a death so horrible that even the Holy Therns themselves, who conceived both Life and Death, avert their eyes from its fiendishness and close their ears against the hideous shrieks of its victims."
In a way, the above quote, so priceless!, sums up all that is wacky and wonderful about this novel and, I assume, its successors. This zany adventure finds John Carter returned to Mars but unluckily he materializes in the supposed Martian afterlife! What ensues is a remarkable and enthusiastic tear-down of all the evils of superstition and religion-used-badly, as John Carter and friends, including Xodar, Black Pirate of Barsoom, proceed to hack-and-slash their way through pernicious, false religious idolatry to topple the ageless and evil rule of the crazy old lady goddess Issus. More meaningful than you'd think at first, and way more fun than a lot of sci-fi currently being written which is weird, because this is just as preachy, but cloaked in such hilarity and fun that you don't notice it so much, quite the achievement for a pulp novel written in 1913!
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, 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.
John Carter returns to Mars. Rather more briskly and with less introduction.
He lands in a waste and soon finds himself in a fight -- and in a fight next to his old friend Tars Tarkas, who reveals him that this is the end of the hallowed pilgrimage Martians take at the end of their lives, this horror of a land. Pressing on through forces of white apes and plant men, they find themselves in the city of therns who habitually enslave and maltreat -- and eat -- the pilgrims. And if anyone escapes to bring back news, the Martians of the outer lands will execute them for blasphemy.
Not that they are unhindered. They are also raided by the black pirates.
His adventures involve blond wigs, a woman who can tame banths (Martian lions, so to speak), John Carter's being enslaved and receiving a slave while one, being forced to look on the "radiant beauty" of a goddess, meeting a young man and a lot of contrived coincidences before he can tell John Carter who his father is, a trial, two young women who tell him they are in love with him, to be rejected as gently as he can, and their two very different reactions to that, and much more.
Warning: this one ends on a cliff-hanger, and not a tacked on one. It's really one story with The Warlord of Mars.
Felt like a transitional short story more than a stand alone novel. I noticed that frequently all the Barsoom novels are packaged together, so maybe others felt the same. Lots of new characters and action, but not as smooth of a narrative as The Princess of Mars.
Dammit!! It's a cliffhanger! But as the third book in what is basically the "John Carter trilogy" - The Warlord of Mars - is considerably shorter, guess I'll dive right into that. Anyway…
Before "Star Wars," before "Avatar," before "The Lord of the Rings" and well before "science fiction" even existed as a genre (such stories weren't even called "scientifiction" until 1926), there was…John Carter of Mars.
Dumb as they are, these stories are also just plain - if totally sexist and generally un-PC - fun, dopey language and all, (and narrator Scott Brick does a great job reading these stories with just the right wink in his voice). As described elsewhere, such books are "long on story and short on plot" - which is a perfect description for these silly tales of a beautiful Martian princesses and her sword-swinging Superman. And I'll say it here too - the much-maligned 2012 Disney film version was a lot of fun too, suffering more from abysmal studio marketing than from being an actual cinematic stinker. The arena fight against the white apes is far better than the similar scene in "Attack of the Clones," and the nicely edited and scored scene that intercuts Carter throwing himself into a hopeless one-man fight against about a million Warhoons and the burial of his earthly wife and child is truly touching.
COUPLA POINT ON THE STORY ITSELF: A self-professed atheist, Burroughs in this book tears a pretty big chunk out of organized religion, at least the extremist end of the spectrum. And looking at both the modern Christian Right and Muslim fundamentalists, I have to say he's not all that wrong. And while I'm tempted to wonder if his writing here was in any way influenced by "The Great War," this book was in fact published a year before the war began - so unless this was a really convoluted look at the various alliances that would lead to "world war," it was more likely just a synchronistic coincidence, because frankly, Burroughs just isn't that subtle. Case in point: for nearly 100 pages, Carter keeps staring at this young kid who kind of looks like him, is awfully light-skinned for a "red Martian," and both jumps and fights like the superhuman Earthling - and yet he is totally gobsmacked when he finally learns that the kid is his son.
BUT BACK TO THE MOVIE… Obviously had to watch it again after finishing the book, and a few thoughts here as well. The movie actually takes things from both Princess and Gods, in particular the Therns and a bit of the Issus/River Iss mythology, (I think the arena battle with the apes also comes more from the second book.) Disney also made a wise choice in having Deja Thoris be a sword-wielding badass in her own right, as opposed to the "help, save me!" bimbo of the books. And finally, from seeing the film version where it is the Thern's medallion and superior technology that transports Carter to Mars and back, I had forgotten about Burrough's totally unexplained and unsatisfying “mysterious astral projection" which in both books comes off as pretty WTF??
But yeah - fun books and even a descent movie if you're in the right mood. The "making of" extras on the DVD area also pretty interesting; especially for a former graphic designer, I was impressed to see that someone had actually designed individual and unique tattoos for each of the several hundred "red Martian" main characters and extras - yikes!
This book, #2 of 11 in Burroughs' John Carter series, is a direct sequel to the classic "A Princess of Mars," and a reading of that earlier volume is fairly essential before going into this one. "Gods..." was first published in serial form in "All-Story Magazine" in 1913, and comprises one of Burroughs' earliest works. It is amazing how much action the author manages to cram into the book's 190 pages; on just about EVERY page there is some kind of incredible happening or colorful bit. The book really is hard to put down, and yet, at the same time, the end of just about every paragraph could serve as a cliffhanger! The pace of the book is brisk and relentless, and really carries the reader along to another great cliffhanger at the conclusion. In this volume, our hero, John Carter, returns to Barsoom after a decade's absence, and goes to that planet's "heaven." But heaven turns out to be anything but, and our man gets caught up in battles with plant men and white apes, lost civilizations, religious taboos, the plots of an evil "goddess," duels in the arena and on and on. There are two action set pieces that Burroughs really puts over well. One is the slave revolt that takes place halfway through the tale; the other, a bravura, four-way air battle between the forces of the black, white, red and green men of Barsoom. Both of these sections are thrilling in the extreme; better than anything in the first Barsoom novel. It's also nice that Carter, an Earthman on Mars, fights alongside men and women of varied races, colors, and religious beliefs in a common cause; there's some kind of message there--one for tolerance and brotherhood--that we could all avail ourselves of today.
Having said all this, however, I must admit that there are problems in this novel that prevent me from giving it a top grade. These problems mainly take the form of fuzzy writing and internal inconsistencies. Burroughs, in this novel, does not do well in describing geography; his depictions of the Valley of the Therns, for example, are almost impossible to visualize (for me, anyway). A map of this planet (such as the one provided in LeGuin's Earthsea books) would have greatly helped, given Burroughs' inability to clearly set out his world. As for the inconsistencies: Burroughs, the "editor" of the novel, says he first read Carter's manuscript (for Book #1) 12 years previously; but if he had really obeyed Carter's will (that the manuscript not be opened for 11 years), then he would have only first seen the text of "A Princess of Mars" ONE year before! Tars Tarkas is said to be grieving over his kidnapped daughter in one section of this book; then, a few scenes later, he learns of this kidnapping for the first time. Huh?!?! The scene with Carter on the black-pirate cruiser contains many inconsistencies. Carter is said to be fighting five of these men; he kills three of them, and then three are left. Huh?!?! Six pirates are killed, all told, but later in the book, the number is said to be seven. Carter is said to have killed all these men single-handed, although the Thern princess, Phaidor, had helped him. These pirates are all asleep in the cruiser when Carter comes upon them, although they had been sacking the Thern temple scant minutes before. Does this seem likely? Inconsistencies such as this can drive an alert reader crazy. And don't even get me started on the redundant expressions such as "haven of refuge" and "craven cowards" that pop up all the time. Burroughs improved with age, but these early books are rife with problems that a good copyediting should have weeded out. Still, these minor problems are easily overlooked when one is caught up in the sweep of the story, and this story is as exciting as they come. It really is a tremendous feat of imagination, and one that any lover of swashbuckling fantasy should hugely enjoy.
Edgar Rice Burroughs (September 1st, 1875 - March 19, 1950) continues the adventure started in "A Princess of Mars" in the sequel, "The Gods of Mars". This novel was published from January to May of 1913 in "All-Story" as a serial, and then published in book form in September of 1918. John Carter returns to Barsoom, finding if he were in time to save Barsoom at the end of the previous book, and searching for Princess Dejah Thoris who he left behind.
As with the first book, this one opens with a foreword written by Burroughs, where he implies that this is a true story and that John Carter is real. The story then picks up with John Carter returning to Barsoom, but to an area which he has not seen before. He is almost immediately forced to fight for his life defending himself and a Green Martian who turns out to be his old friend Tars Tarkas. He soon finds that he has arrived in the Valley Dor, where the River Iss empties into the Lost Sea of Korus, or in other words, heaven. But it is no heaven, it is a place where those who come are slaughtered by the plant men, eaten by the white apes, or by the Therns, who fancy themselves divine, but have their own version of "heaven" which is much the same as that of the Red and Green Martians, and as much of a lie.
Once again, John Carter makes friends and enemies along the way, from Thuvia, a Red Martian prisoner that he frees from the clutches of the Therns; Phaidor, the Thern female who falls for John Carter after he rescues her from the black pirates; Xodar, the black pirate who John Carter captures and who turns the tables on Carter. And, of course, the Goddess Issus, of the first-born. There is also a young Red-Martian warrior (Cathoris) who displays superior fighting skills, and Burroughs teases the reader by hinting at who his father might be, but always interrupting before it is revealed. Other old friends and foes appear as well, such as Kantos Kan, and Zat Arras.
The story is entertaining enough for the reader to forgive the amazing coincidences within. One can certainly ignore John Carter arriving where Tars Tarkas is, even though he had never been there before, because the mysterious travel between worlds is not explained. On the other hand, the escape from Shador and the underground world of the first-born leading the escapees right to where Tars Tarkas and Thuvia are would certainly qualify as an amazing coincidence. Additional coincidences would include the Helium fleet appearing in the nick of time and of course on the opposite side, the re-abduction of Thuvia under their very noses.
Almost the entire book is spent in John Carter's pursuit of returning to Dejah Thoris, and time and again he is thwarted until the very end when he finds her, and then as the reader knows, foolishly leaves her to help his allies, only to find that she has been taken once again. The book ending in a much more obvious cliff-hanger than the first one, which some readers may find unfair.
Overall, this book is not quite as good as the first in the series, but Burroughs does a good job of keeping it fresh and entertaining, building suspense for the next in the series, and of laying the groundwork for future stories as well. As a result, I give this book the same rating as the first in the series, as it doesn't let up very much from the quality of entertainment of the first work.
You look at the enthusiasm of the writing and the completely uncynical, unironic characters and setting, and you wonder if Burroughs is perhaps channeling his inner hyperactive eight year old, who recites over the dinner table the long, rambling day's adventure that took place mostly inside the imagination.
I mean, think about it. The breathless, relentless pace of the action that is one long adrenalin rush; the unmatched superhero plucked from obscurity and who literally cannot be beaten and who picks up boon companions, converts enemies to stalwart allies, and is desired by all the ladies; the unswerving chivalry and black-and-white morality; a four-way airship battle with thousands of combatants; the four-armed cannibalistic white apes.
Four-armed cannibalistic white apes, man!
I think this is the vital difference between Burroughs and his less-successful imitators. I've suffered through many a pastiche (and will again...cough cough LIN CARTER) and very few manage this peculiar alchemy that transforms the Barsoomian-style stilted pseudo-Edwardian language, the weird digressions into nobility titles, and the wide-eyed wonder into this literary form.
That said: I still don't understand how the geography of the Sea of Omean, the Valley Dor, and the Temple of Issus all hangs together.
I love the way Burroughs wrote--his style and even his polite form of English. It's beautiful. This is a story more suited for men since it is mostly about wars, battles and bloodshed. Certainly not my type of story. But the hero is good, brave, clever and a man of great integrity. A great role model for men. The Martian Series themes have that little bit of Earth with its ordinary daily life which gives the reader more of a connection to the characters and circumstances. The names Burroughs created are perfect and, one might say, "fun". You can see from where some of the Star Wars names were inspired. I have always loved reading E. R. Burroughs' writings. They are exciting and conjure great mind images. But it is again the writing style that I do so enjoy. The narrator, William Dufris, is superior. I love his interpretation of John Carter, the hero. He gave Carter an almost Texan, cowboy hero accent. What amazed me was that I could listen to Dufris's voices of the women and actually believe them to be women speaking. That is an amazing feat for a man with a manly voice. Can't wait to read another Edgar Rice Burroughs story. I haven't read the Tarzan series yet. I must experience his wording of the story.