Rafeeq O.'s Reviews > The Warlord of Mars

The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
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Edgar Rice Burroughs' 1914 The Warlord of Mars brings the conclusion of the original Barsoom trilogy. At the beginning of the book, John Carter's beloved wife, Dejah Thoris, is still locked with Thuvia of Ptarth and the jealous and vengeful Phaidor of the Therns within "the hateful Temple of the Sun" (1981 Del Rey paperback, page 7), whose great central pillar slowly rotates once per Martian year and hence allows access only during that brief time when the great door lines up with its corridor. Or...

Well, or does it? That is, despite the legend of the once-yearly opening, might there be another secret way in?

In classic pulp cliffhanger style, the last glimpse John Carter had had through "the narrow[ing] slit" before smoke blinded him completely and the last inch of portal ground closed was "the beautiful face of Phaidor...distorted with jealous rage and hatred as she sprang forward with dagger upraised" against Dejah Thoris, and Thuvia "leap[ing] forward to prevent the hideous deed," while after "the single shriek as the knife fell" (page 7) he could no know more. The black "First Born" who "for ages had worshipped Issus, false deity of Mars, had been left in a state of chaos" until the Earthman granted the position of jeddak to one of their most honorable former princes (page 8), and "the nobles and the people" of great Helium itself have "lifted their voices in a long cheer of approbation" (page 9) at the temporary ascension to the throne of Carthoris, son of Dejah Thoris and John Carter, but still the fighting Virginian must return to the South Pole with his faithful, savage ten-legged pet, Woola, to discover the fate of his princess.

Yet despite what was, essentially, the Reconstruction of the south of Mars, still there is treacherous intrigue from former enemies--one of the haughty black First Born and members of the former white priestly class--and John Carter will follow them through the dark with all of his cunning, and with all the quivering senses of the huge-fanged Woola. So is there a way to enter the Temple of the Sun prior to a full Martian year's wait? Well, let us just say that John Carter will find out, one way or another.

And, one way or another, through chance meetings and mishaps, through swordfights and cliffhangers and proud declamations, through improbably missed clues and lucky reprieves, with faithful brave companions and alone, John Carter will fight his way from one pole of Mars to the other, for love and for honor. Modern and nuanced and subtle it ain't, but Burroughs' The Warlord of Mars, taken for what it is, and from when, remains an entertaining 4-star tale of century-old science fiction that not only led to the fiction of Leigh Brackett and Ray Bradbury and a host of "sword and planet" adventures but even was beloved by hard-SF author Robert A. Heinlein and astronomer Carl Sagan alike.

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Reading Progress

May 31, 2021 – Started Reading
June 4, 2021 – Finished Reading
June 5, 2021 – Shelved

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