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A Princess of Mars is the first of eleven thrilling novels that comprise Edgar Rice Burroughs' most exciting saga known as The Martian Series It's the beginning of an incredible odyssey in which John Carter a gentleman from Virginia and a Civil War veteran unexpectedly finds himself on to the red planet scene of continuing combat among rival tribes Captured by a band of six limbed green skinned savage giants called Tharks Carter soon is accorded all the honor of a chieftain after it's discovered that his muscles accustomed to Earth's greater gravity now give him a decided advantage in strength And when his captors take as prisoner Dejah Thoris the lovely human looking princess of the city of Helium Carter must call upon every ounce of strength courage and ingenuity to rescue her before Dejah becomes the slave of the depraved Thark leader Tal HajusExcerptHer oval face was beautiful in the extreme her every feature finely chisled and exquisite her eyes large and lustrous and her head surmounted by a mass of coal black waving hair caught loosely into a strange yet becoming coiffure Similar in face and figure to women of Earth she was nevertheless a true Martian and prisoner of the fierce green giants who held me captive as well


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    Some years back David Bowie asked the musical question Is there life on Mars? Had he read A Princess of Mars he might have known the answerBack in the early 60’s I fell in love Not with a girl well there were one or two cracks opened in that young heart but we do not speak of that now but with reading And the brazen hussy that led me down that path was none other than Edgar Rice Burroughs Of course there were others all vying for my immature attention Arthur C Clarke Isaac Asimov HG Wells Robert Heinlein Jules Verne and plenty from that gang of idiots I remember the glee I felt when a parcel would arrive the soft packaging that sprinkled to the floor if you opened the pull tag a little too energetically Lift the treasure to your nose and inhale deeply No wiseass no glue involved No glue actually needed Paperbacks Ace and Ballantine mostly This was the way I got one of my first scents of the lifetime of reading that awaited It was intoxicating Prime among the treasures to be found in those bags were the Barsoom novels of ERB I followed the adventures of John Carter the way readers of a certain detective followed his exploits in issues of The Strand Reading ERB as a kid was one of the best things about being a kid So one might imagine the anticipation bubbling up when I learned that a film was in the offing Good bad or mediocre this was must see territory And to prepare it seemed that fifty years after having first encountered Barsoom through books it was worth giving at least some of the books a second lookTaylor Kitsch as John Carter in the filmJohn Carter a soldier Civil War veteran mercenary and apparently occasional miner begins on Earth He is trapped in a cave by hostile forces when he wishes himself pretty much to Mars the god of his profession The film of course had to come up with a better excuse than that He is taken prisoner by a group of Tharks a race of six limbed twelve to fifteen foot tall green warriors think taller thinner ancestors of Klingons led by one of their less bloodthirsty sorts a fellow named Tars Tarkas Tars Tarkas from the filmTT was most impressed by JC’s fighting prowess and his ability to leap tall building in a single bound a benefit of having muscles adapted to the much higher gravity on a different planet ERB’s hero appears twenty years before that Kal el character and Jerry Siegel has said that JC was indeed influential in the creation of that better known super guy Tarkas and Carter find common cause eventually and thus begins a beautiful friendship TT had put a guard dog actually a Shetland size many tusked critter called a calot in charge of JC But as the locals treat their gigantic ferocious domestic critters rather harshly it turned out to be receptive to JC’s kinder treatment so we add a loyal to death pet with the blood curdling name Woola for our hero Can the girl be far behind? Not a chanceWoola from the film What a cutieAfter the Tharkian horde does battle with a race of human like sorts they take a prisoner a female Dejah Thoris is princess of the city state of Helium and no she does not speak with a silly high voice and of the book title and is notable for her regal bearing smokin’ looks and courage under duress The film pads her resume with some science credits Having established his warrior cred by kicking several Tharkian butts JC has some wiggle room among Thark society and manages to learn a fair bit He is naturally curious about the new residentLynn Collins as Dejah Thoris from the filmOh there is one other item missing from the checklist the baddie Well there are several a crude Thark leader monsters aplenty but most of all a professional sneak thief liar betrayer of a Thark named Sarkoja who does all she can to foil TT and JC in whatever they might want to do All she lacks is a broom and some striped socks The film includes her but substitutes a different evil doer for many of the story’s later intriguesOk so this is not exactly great literature Sweden will not be calling any time soon Carter finds himself in a seemingly endless series of battles large and small People are captured People fight People flee Friends help friends Baddies behave badly No one really changes much Oh they rise in rank and esteem and prove their mettle and some character is revealed in time but really nothing is told about these people that we did not know very early on There is silliness and many shortcuts are taken ERB makes use of deus ex machina so much he must have had a mechanic on call Carter learns that a large amount of Martian communications occurs via telepathy and bingo he is telepathic too What luck Also Martian language has devolved to mostly a single tongue No really And he learns it in a twinkling with the help of a kindly female Thark named Sola Whenever someone needs a rescue there is always a rescuer either now or eventually The cavalry comes riding over the hill a bit too often to avoid eye rolling The fights are pretty much pro forma with almost mandatory nods to the honor and skill of the thousands of opponents after of course Carter knocks them out or kills them with a single blow to the chin Puh leez Edgar Rice Burroughs image from BritannicaIn between Burroughs offers bits and pieces of his vision of life on Mars We learn how Thark children are joined with parents get some info on Barsoomian visions of death and afterlife consider a bit the problem of scarce air and may wonder at the ancient human ruins now occupied by other species They have some nifty tech on Barsoom as well having discovered a special 9th ray of light that is used for energy Radium is a useful power source as well Airships of all sizes speed about but seem to function mostly as boats with negative draft There will be swashbuckling There are some elements in the book that do not travel well through the years The women have some wonderful qualities but there is little equality to be found Also slavery is still a very active element of Martian society and while ERB shows sundry characters shackled to those chains and does his best to free those he does not seem all that upset about the institution In one commentary on communistic elements of Tharkian society ERB notes Owning everything in common even to your women and children has resulted in your owning nothing in commonThis was published in 1912 so a quote like this might not have stuck out so much back then Of course there are many much ancient items that seem quaint today such as You shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his manservant or his maidservant or his ox or his ass or anything that is your neighbor'sI guess ownership is in the eye of the beholder Social systems seem to be widely of the royal persuasion although combat figures large in determining leadership in some groups And just as girls have been led to hope for a prince to come to the rescue so here our hero is not panting after any ordinary female Dejah is a bona fide card carrying princess Then there are some elements that might stand up rather well Carter applies his knowledge of animals to persuade the locals to treat their beasties much better The moral superiority of races is not at all determined by color or in this case even sentient species Honesty motherhood and I am certain that if the ingredients grew there apple pie would come in for some ERB support Courage is also a highly valued trait Physical prowess in battle is paramount here Frank Schoonover's cover illustration for the first book version from WikipediaOk so bottom line This is a very dated book It is after all over one hundred years old It contains antiquated sometimes offensive notions Many of the characters are pretty thinly drawn But this was not intended to be a thoughtful adult novel It is pulp fiction literally as Barsoom made its first public appearance in All Story Magazine in 1912 and its focus is on three things action action and action Burroughs was appalled that people got paid to write the trash that appeared in such publications and said “I could write stories just as rotten” If that is ok with you then A Princess of Mars is a fun read a buddy movie with a bit of love interest no real sex although a fair bit of nakedness a lot of fighting capturing and being captured and escaping a nifty vision of a faraway place Overall good fun It helps to be a ten year old boy Look at those cavemen goEXTRA STUFFThe home page for Edgar Rice Burroughs the corporation where you will learn that A Princess of Mars was originally published as “Under the Moons of Mars” under the pseudonym Norman Bean in All Story Magazine as a six part serial February through July 1912 He had first submitted it to All Star as Dejah Thoris Martian PrincessYou can read A Princess of Mars on GutenbergHere is another hyper texted version which includes links to other such volumes in the Barsoom seriesOr listen to an audio version here102516 National Geographic is producing a documentary series about our favorite red tinted neighbor no not the lady across the way who got too much sun Put those binoculars away NOW Coverage in the latest issue includes a whole passel of things Martian Enjoy Mars Inside the High Risk High Stakes Race to the Red PlanetFrom the August 2017 National Geographic This Is What a Martian Looks Like—According to Carl Sagan By Natasha DalyPainting by Douglas Chaffe from the above NatGeo article