The first published book by the creator of Tarzan of the Apes that introduced the world to intergalactic Civil War soldier, John Carter.Two years before Edgar Rice Burroughs became a worldwide celebrity with the publication of Tarzan of the Apes and its twenty-two sequels, which together have sold more than 30 million copies, he published the futuristic sci-fi romance, A Princess of Mars. A Princess of Mars tells the story of John Carter, a Civil War veteran who inexplicably finds himself held prisoner on the planet Mars by the Green Men of Thark. With Dejah Thoris, the princess of another clan on Mars, John Carter must fight for their freedom and save the entire planet from destruction as the life-sustaining Atmosphere Factory slowly grinds to a halt.A Princess of Mars is the first in Burroughs’ eleven book Barsoon series, following the continued adventures of John Carter.
What does one do if one wishes to have their words last a lifetime? WRITE IT DOWN! In the early 20th century, a new genre in literature was in its infancy and little did anyone realize that this certain genre would redefine books forever. Science Fiction is where the true dreams dwell and dare to go into the unknown. They use this world as an escape from reality and are able to stretch and even break the limits of this world as their world is limitless. When someone speaks to me of Science Fiction and its early beginnings, three names instantly come to mind; H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Edward Rice Burroughs. H.G. Wells is well known for penning ‘War of the Worlds’ and Jules Verne is probably to be considered the father of Science Fiction. His book ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ is one of if not the first Science Fiction tale. Both of these men were pioneers and helped to usher in this new genre into the limelight, but I have always been a fan of the obtuse and the offbeat. That might fit Edward Rice Burroughs to a T. He is probably most well known for ‘Tarzan; King of the Apes’, but it is his Martian Tales Saga that really seemed to cement his legacy, at least in this man’s opinion (Be honest– a man in a loincloth swinging from vine to vine, obsessed in a weird and perverse quasi sexual way about a woman named Jane OR a badass former Confederate soldier that gets mysteriously transported to Mars and falls in love with a gorgeous princess all while jumping around higher than an olympic pole vaulter. Who would you go for?)
Since this book was written many years ago, its writing style was vastly different than most other things I have read in a long time. It was not poetic ala Shakespeare but it was unique in its own way. For instance, the book was mostly exposition for a good thirty plus pages until there was actual signs of dialogue between characters. That is an impressive feat for two reasons: it shows the writers strength in being able to carry on a storyline without human interaction and it also signifies that he is able to develop the story in a unique brand. When the dialogue did occur, it was not ‘Oh hello Alexa. Do you wish to shake on it?’. It was instead very formal and regal. Prim and proper is perhaps the best way to describe the writing style of this novel. It was not written in a human context as I have yet to meet two people carry on a direct line of conversation involving the words ‘hark’, ‘fear not dear maiden’, or ‘damn the gods for my eyes shan’t see no more beauty’ (ok so maybe those are not direct quotes from the book but I believe my point has been made).
Aside from my objection in regards to the writing style, I found the book itself to be teeming with life. It was chocked full of fresh characters (I WANT TO OWN WOOLA. Good puppy..creature…thing) and a glorious, arid alien world known as Barsoom (Mars to you plain folk). I could only imagine what Dejah Torhis looked like. Was she as radiant and decadent as John Carter made her out to be? Well thanks in large part to the movie, I found this to be true. She is a fox! She is no Alexa Kalas but she is still mighty fine . The world of Barsoom was vibrant even if it is a dry land. It was rich and powerful in its scope and ERB made good use of his vivid depictions of the 4th rock from the Sun. The story itself did seem to jump around at points, which I suppose would be another drawback of this book. I had a hard time focusing in on the actual storyline and instead focused in on the world around the characters and action. I am unsure if it was how the dialogue was permitted or if it was just the writing style itself but I did find myself rereading portions of passages and flipping back to figure out what exactly I might have missed.
In a brief side note, some of you might be aware that this novel was translated into a film ‘John Carter’. It spent many years in developmental hell and the end result was a bit lackluster at points. The story was vastly different from the book and only had glimmers of the actual source material. It might be considered a loose adaptation or instead it was inspired by this novel. It turned out to be one of the biggest cinematic flops but then again, it was listed with a budget of a quarter of a billion dollars. It would have had to pull out huge numbers just to cover its costs before even thinking about turning a profit. Check the film out and let me know what you think.
All in all, the book was not a homerun for me nor was it a flop. It was decent. Like I previously stated, I fell in love with world and not so much the storyline. I will give the second chapter a shot though. Might as well. It came in a bind up .