Wordy Wednesdays – “A Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs

I Liked: how Burroughs sets up the world; some of the fantasy ‘technology’ presented.

I Didn’t Like: Carter himself isn’t likeable; the pedestrian nature of the novel’s “Carter is an American superman who has arrived to dominate all of Mars.”

Overall: I wouldn’t recommend this, unless you really love old fantasy novels – and I mean old. Burroughs wrote A Princess of Mars in 1917.

A Princess of Mars is the first book in a long series of books by Burroughs. It’s a Disney film now – you’ve probably seen the ads.

I read this book in preparation for the movie, John Carter. I love sci-fi books and movies. I wanted to see what the book was about before I checked out the film.

Then I made the mistake of reading reviews about the John Carter film. Now I think I might skip it. But on to the book!

Now, this book is an odd mix of science fiction and fantasy, while not really falling into either category. It’s more fantasy than sci-fi, really.

So John Carter, southern gent, ends up on Mars. He’s a superman there – increased agility and strength, leaping about like Spiderman. It is also very much a novel of its time. Carter doesn’t try to understand the inhabitants of Mars because, as an American, he already knows how everyone, everywhere, on all planets, should live.

The Tharks, for instance – they’re the four-armed green Martians you may have seen in the trailer. To Carter, they are savages, cruel and uncaring. The book gives only the barest nod to the fact that they may appear this way to Carter because of how they must live – Mars is a dying planet, and the Tharks are on the bottom, living in the dried-up seabeds, moving as nomads from ruined city to ruined city.

This is a poster for the film. Looks like Carter came to Mars to take names and fucking kill aliens - and he's all out of names?

Even as the hero, Carter isn’t terribly likeable. While he looks down on the Tharks for their cold-hearted culture, he doesn’t turn down the accolades they give him for his acts. He kills a chieftain, which means he gets all the possessions of that chieftain – slaves included.

Carter mostly ignores them, but he doesn’t noticeable improve their lot, either. Then again, on Earth, Carter had fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. Maybe he just doesn’t give a shit?

Carter’s journey is very much the fantasy arc. He is immediately friends with anyone who is a good guy. The bad guys are all conniving jerks who hate Carter. An alien dog immediately loves Carter, for no particular reason other than Carter is the best at everything ever. So-so book.


About seansynthetic

"...so I says the the guy, I says to him, 'No, YOU ain't allowed back into this Chuck-E-Cheese.'"

Posted on March 14, 2012, in Wordy Wednesdays and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’ve never read this book, but have seen your views about the book echoed by other folks. I did just see the movie last night, and I think John Carter as a character has been appropriately changed. From what you wrote it doesn’t seem like he has much of a “character arch” in the book, but the movie is different. I really enjoyed the flick, and would recommend it even if you didn’t enjoy the book. I guess it’s significantly different from the book, but it seems like that may have been for the better. The movie is a big, fun, rollicking adventure that rarely makes it’s way to theaters these days. Much better than I had anticipated.

    • Oh damn, I just put off plans to see the movie with a friend because of some of the reviews I’ve seen! Haha! I’ll have to check it this weekend – it certainly looked colorful and adventurous, which I like.

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