Rafeeq O.'s Reviews > A Fighting Man of Mars

A Fighting Man of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
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Edgard Rice Burroughs' 1930 A Fighting Man of Mars, seventh in the eleven-book Barsoom series, gets off--after a "received manuscript" narrative frame Foreword that ties in with Burroughs Pellucidar series--to a rather weak start to my taste, and yet it actually picks up and turns out into quite a decent tale.

Earnest young Tan Hadron of Hastor comes from "a family...not rich except in honour," so, "valuing this above all mundane possessions," he chose military service with the navy of great and noble Helium, as had his father (1981 Del Rey paperback, page 1)--classic Burroughs "fighting man" schtick. Also classic is the fact that his father is not just some random old sarge but by now "commands the largest ship of war that Hastor has ever contributed to the navy of Helium, accommodating as it does the entire ten thousand men of the 1st Umak, together with five hundred lesser fighting ships and all the paraphernalia of war" (page 1). And, oh, yeah--his "mother is a princess of [neighboring] Gathol," too (page 1).

Thus though on one hand Hadron is just a po' boy of low rank, on the other hand, "[w]hat with [Hadron] being of noble lineage...the palaces of the twin cities of Helium [are] always open to [him]" (page 1), including that of famed Virginian fighting man John Carter, Warlord of Mars (page 2). When Hadron first meets Sanoma Tora, the icily beautiful daughter of his "lax" (page 3) and rather grasping (pages 1-2) superior officer, she whose "gorgeous beauty...differs from that of Dejah Thoris as the chaste beauty of a polar landscape differs from the beauty of the tropics, as the beauty of a white palace in the moonlight differs from the beauty of its garden at midday" (page 2), he is awestruck. She, however, after a discerning glance at his low-ranking insignia, "vouchsafe[s] [him] but a condescending word"...whereupon of course he thus falls in love and "is determined to win her" (page 2).

As Hadron attempts to woo the stuck-up rich girl, he laments to himself that has "nothing to offer but [his] great love, which is perhaps, after all, the greatest gift that man or woman can bring to one another" (page 6). Funny coincidence, that, because Sanoma Tora agrees--on the first point, anyway, though not the second. With a laugh she explains "haughtily" that her daddy's "wealth and power are but little less than those of the royal families of Helium," and she has "suitors whose wealth is so great that they could buy [Hadron] a thousand times over" (page 7). Now, this crap would kinda do it for me, but you know how pulps are, so...

So that very night, when a mysterious raiding party in a flyer whose "peculiar-looking guns" somehow can disintegrate Heliumite patrol craft (page 11) abducts Ms. Haughty-Pants--and after a thoroughly enjoyable little showdown with the "soft fop" (page 11) of a jealous rival who happens to be both a coward and a liar, and who during their midnight stroll had, as a faithful old slave recounts, "fled into the concealing shrubbery of the garden" rather than stand and fight (page 12) --Hadron of Haston dashes out in another flyer to find and rescue his unrequiting beloved.

Perils ensue. Naturally, Hadron's flyer is brought down in an inopportune and enemy-haunted place--through his own rather implausible inattention, really--and he ends up first rescuing a different girl, the boyish, pixie-cut Tavia, who is "perfectly cool and collected" and assures him that she can use a sword (page 44). Through many adventures she becomes, he obliviously tells us countless times throughout the book, a great "friend." Oh, yes-- And it happens to be mentioned, completely apropos of nothing, that she had been abducted from the same kingdom as the faithful old slave who had witnessed Sanoma Tora's capture back in Helium...

Of the first seven books in the series, this is at least the sixth to feature a missing girl who must be searched out and rescued from what will surely be Something Unspeakable but which somehow is delayed for months while the agonized suitor hunts the cruel red globe over. I exclude The Master Mind of Mars, the previous in line, from this list, by the way, since in that tale the hero already has the girl--well, her kind and noble brain in the wrong body, anyway--and is "only" seeking her stolen, predictably lovely flesh so he can reverse the bad switcheroo. My point is that the "abducted girl hunt" is far from an inventive starting point here.

Yet A Fighting Man of Mars indeed is good, though. Although ethically upright, martially talented, but emotionally uninvestigative Tan Hadron of Haston cannot see the hand in front of his face, love-vs.-friendship-wise, through chapter after chapter after chapter, we know that he'll learn by the end, don't we? In fact, when he does, it actually is rather touching. Moreover, remember that weird disintegrating ray that the abductors had used with impunity in the very capital of the greatest empire of Barsoom? Well, that whole issue will need to be addressed, too, for either a cackling villain or a craven king armed with that breakthrough weapon could destroy the entire world. And along the way there are rousing chases and swordfights and captures and fleeings, including a daring rooftop escape that, as I saw it coming, made me literally chuckle, "Yes!" aloud. Burroughs' seventh installment of his famous Barsoom series thus is, for connoisseurs and investigators of the early days of the science fiction genre, an enjoyable 4-star read.

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Reading Progress

June 19, 2021 – Started Reading
June 24, 2021 – Finished Reading
June 25, 2021 – Shelved

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