Edgar Rice Burroughs' "A Princess of Mars": The First Appearance of John Carter

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johncarterposter.pngBack in August 2010, I reviewed Edgar Rice Burroughs' first novel A Princess of Mars, which is the source material for the upcoming John Carter movie opening this Friday.  Here's what I had to say about the book.


 

 

johncarterbookcover.pngIn 1911, Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950), a failed businessman who had been working in a series of various dead-end clerical jobs and was desperate to feed his family, submitted a story to the then-popular pulp magazine All-Story under the pen name of "Normal Bean" (changed by somebody in editorial to "Norman Bean").  The story, originally titled Under The Moons of Mars, was picked up and serialized by All-Story in 1912 and became a popular hit with readers, resulting in a successful literary career for Burroughs (whose third novel was Tarzan of the Apes in 1914, having also been serialized in All-Story two years before). Under the more familiar title A Princess of Mars, Burroughs' first story also inaugurated the popular "Martian" series of adventures when first published in book form in 1917. 

Even without all that background, A Princess of Mars is still an exciting (if scientifically inaccurate and somewhat politically incorrect) action-adventure/fantasy tale. 

Beginning in 1866, Civil War veteran and prospector John Carter, while escaping from Indians, is inexplicably transported, apparently serveral hundred centures in the past, to the planet Mars.  Falling in with the green-skinned, four armed warriors the Tharks, Carter (who discovers that the natives' name for their planet is "Barsoom"), finds he's developed amazing strength and abillities due to the planet's atmosphere and quickly proves his worth as a fighter and eventually, with help by Tharkian Tars Tarkas, rises in the group's hierarchy. 

However, the Tharks' capture of a beautiful red-skinned, human princess named Dejah Thoris gets Carter all inflamed by passion. Carter frees Dejah while making their escape from her captors and then becomes imbroiled in palace intrigue between the Red Martians of Helium and the Tharks as well as battling the forces of neighboring Zodanga. Eventually Carter settles down with Dejah and becomes Prince of Helium.  But then, just as things look good...

A good old-fashioned swashbuckler (Carter and the various Barsoomians use swords because...well, read for yourselves) romance, A Princess of Mars (click here to reserve a copy) was and still is an influencial work of the science fiction/fantasy genre.  It also has a terrific "sweep" style of storytelling, with Burroughs constantly moving Carter and the other characters from one situation to the next with barely a chance to breathe.  Burroughs also masterfully succeeds in creating  fantasically detailed backstories and customs for the Barsoomians. And the nail-biting cliffhanger ending is Burroughs at his best. 

Aside from the first two sequels The Gods of Mars and The Warlord of Mars, Burroughs's other Martian novels are currently out-of-print.  Here's hoping the upcoming Disney film adaptation (due in 2012) changes that situation!

Looks like the situation did change.  Click here to see what I mean.and look at the other movie-related titles we carry here.  In the next few weeks I'll be reviewing the other installments in the original series. 

3 Comments

Been a fan of this series since 1975. When I first picked up the book "A Princess of Mars". I will be there today the 9th of March to see this film. Hopefully it will remain true to the Burroughs book.

Hope you enjoyed it Bean!

-Ed

I FIRST RED PRINCESS OF MARS AROUND 30 YEARS AGO. I WAS FASCINATED WITH THE STORY BECAUSE IT STIRRED YOUR IMAGINATION. BACK THEN THE IDEA OF THIS STORY BEING MADE INTO A MOVIE WAS CRAZY ALTHOUGH I THOUGHT SOMEDAY WITH THE TECHNOLOGY WE DEVELOP THAT IT WOULD
BE POSSIBLE TO MAKE A MOVIE OUT OF HIS BOOKS. LO AND BEHOLD IT IS HAPPENING. I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE THE MOVIE AND RECOLLECT THE STORY. HOPE IT CONTINUES SUCCESSFULLY

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This page contains a single entry by Ed published on March 8, 2012 9:16 AM.

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