In previous posts, I've expressed my extreme unhappiness with the critical reaction to Disney's terrific John Carter film. Aside from the fact that most of the critics who panned the film have the combined intellectual capability of a tree trunk, the Disney studio did almost ziltch when it came to marketing and promoting the film properly. (People have told me they were surprised that the movie was based on a series by "that Tarzan guy", Edgar Rice Burroughs, a fact an extensive advertising campaign would've promoted to the hilt.)
However, to be fair, Disney, through their publishing arm, did at least reprint all eleven books (ten novels and a collection of two novellas) in the Carter/"Barsoom" series (albeit in slightly heavy "omnibus" editions containing 3-4 novels per volume, and available from us), most of which haven't been available in over a decade. For making the rest of the series, including Thuvia, Maid of Mars (which I'm reviewing in this blog post, hereafter referred to as TMoM) accessible to both ERB's fans and the general public again, I can cut the studio some slack.
(Here's the cover of the 1975 edition I read years ago.)
Available in volume 2 of The Collected John Carter of Mars (click here to reserve our copy), TMoM is set some years after the events in the previous novel The Warlord of Mars (reviewed here). Carthoris, the young, now fully grown adult son of John Carter (who was made Warlord of Barsoom in the last installment) and Dejah Thoris, is a prince in the Barsoomian city of Helium. He's also fallen in love with Thuvia, who helped the elder Carter get Dejah Thoris back from the villains in the last book.
Unfortunately, Thuvia, a princess of the Barsoomian city of Ptarth, has been promised in marriage to Kulan Tith, Jeddak (ruler) of Kaol. As Carthoris tries to wrap his head around the situation, the nasty Astok, Prince of Dunsar, who's also smitten by our heroine, kidnaps Thuvia and sets off a chain of events that leads Carthoris on a exciting cross country (cross Barsoomian?) journey to rescue her. Meanwhile, John Carter (who's pretty much on the sidelines this time) tries to prevent war from breaking out between Helium, Ptarth and Kaol over Thuvia's abduction. (That fink Astok arranged the mess so it looked liked Carthoris snatched Thuvia, thereby causing friction among the cities, with Dunsar taking over what's left after the fighting's over.)
An exciting, swashbuckling adventure from start to finish, TMoM features some nice additions to the Barsoom series. Carthoris and Thuvia discover the savage green race of the Torquasians (a nastier variant of the Tharks) and the Bowmen of Lothar, the latter actually holographic creatures created and used by the evil Lotharians Tario and Jav (who also go nuts over Thuvia). The Lotharians themselves are creepy enough, especially with their abilities to create illusions and mentally control other humans.
One of the Lotharians' creations is the intriguing Kar Komak, who manages to break free of their control and, now a sentient, independent being, becomes Carthoris' pal and companion. (No, Kar Komak doesn't fall in love in Thuvia like the other guys and lose it.) As this story was first published in 1916 as a serial in All-Story Weekly and collected in book form in 1920, this is probably one of the first times a "virtual reality" concept or character like Kar Komak ever appeared in print.
Thuvia, Maid of Mars is an entertaining thriller with nice imaginative bits like the Bowmen concept and a propulsive writing style that never lags. Check it out! And thanks Disney, for making this book available again.
Next: The Chessmen of Mars!