A Princess of Mars

John Carter hits movies theaters on March 9th. For those of you who don’t know, the movie is based on the book A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The Kindle eBook version of A Princess of Mars is available for free on Amazon. Having read it, I can tell you it may be worth your time to read, even for a 100 year old story.

A Princess of Mars was first published in 1912 as a serial in The All-Story magazine. At the time, the story was called Under the Moons of Mars. It wasn’t until 1917 that the story was published as a book and titled A Princess of Mars. Regardless, this is a story that shows the age of it’s time with some clunky, heavy narration. It’s also heavily geared toward a male audience. That said, this is a tale that holds up pretty well, and if your willing to dive in, you’ll find a timeless story waiting for you. This is the journey of a Virginian named John Carter and how he wound up on Mars amongst alien races and became a hero for all. John Carter’s journey is violent and fantastical. For sci-fi fans, this is a book well worth reading.

First let me give you a little background on what Mars is like in this book. The entire planet is covered with a soft moss and water is scarce. The gravity is weaker on Mars so when John arrives, he is much stronger than the other martians. He can also jump incredible distances and heights. There are two primary types of martians: the reds and the greens. The red martians are basically humans with a red tint to their complexion. They are more intelligent than the greens, fly aircraft, and concern themselves with matters of science. They also operate the atmosphere plants on Mars which keeps everyone alive. The green martians are more primitive. They are also remarkable different in appearance. The greens are about 15 feet tall, weigh around 400 lbs, and have and extra pair of arms. Both species live lifespans lasting up to a 1,000 years. Both species also have a taboo toward clothing and lies.

There are other species and creatures on Mars, but John primarily has to deal with the greens and the reds. The basis of the story is his infatuation with the red princess Dejah Thoris. John finds himself in the typical setup: he sees a beautiful princess in distress, falls in love, and tries to rescue her. However the story is not so simple as to rely entirely on such an overdone plot line. The tribes of green men live in constant war, and John finds himself deep in their political-military squabbles. In fact the conflict with the green men provides a very interesting intellectual thread in the story. Furthermore there is a conflict between the green men and the red men which John has to deal with. All of this comes to a nice climax, yet Burroughs tossed in another element afterwards that gave the story a wonderful ending that was non-typical.

When I started reading this book, I had a hard time with the initial prose which was heavy on narration. It was rough, but it wasn’t terrible. As the story move on, I found it a fun read, but it didn’t really kick into high gear until about halfway through. At that point the story does a reveal that adds great depth to the book and gives the main character some purpose. It also gives the reader something to root for. All the fantastical elements add a nice touch, and as a male reader, I did enjoy the battles. John Carter is not a squeamish hero and he’s certainly no pacifist. By the end of the book, he’s killed his fair share of foes.

All in all, this is a wonderful little story with action, depth, and imaginative elements. I’m eager to see if the film will live up to the novel. As for the hype that without A Princess of Mars there would be no Star Wars, that is a statement I can’t see holding any ground. There are hardly any direct ties that you can point to and say “Ha! George Lucas definitely borrowed that idea.” However, I think it’ll be fun to see the film and their Star Wars interpretation of it (as they are obviously playing up on the princess part and a Geonosian-like arena scene). If you have the time, I recommend giving A Princess of Mars a chance.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

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