Finally,nearly two years after I started rereading Edgar Rice Burroughs' Martian novels, and almost a year after posting my review of the tenth installment of the series, Llana of Gathol, here's my review of the the eleventh book, John Carter of Mars.
Anyway, John Carter of Mars, a collection of two novellas credited to Burroughs was published in 1964, some fourteen years after the author's death. The first story, "John Carter and the Giant of Mars" had already been published as a children's Big Little Book story in 1940 possibly ghostwritten by ERB's son John Coleman Burroughs. It was reprinted, with about 6,000 words added by father and son, in a 1941 issue of Amazing Stories Quarterly.
This revision is what's offered here, with Carter off to rescue his wife Dejah Thoris from the clutches of the evil and disfigured synthetic man Pew Mogel. Pew Mogel plans to conquer all of Barsoom (Mars to you and me) with his army of white apes and the mindless but deadly giant Joog. Needless to say, Carter stops him.
"Giant of Mars" moves fast, but is no classic. The overly simple plot and the bland characterizations, plus the lack of ERB's usual witty tone, betray the story's Big Little Book origins. Strictly for kids, though Pew Mogel does get one of the most goofiest death scenes I've ever read.
Much better is the second novella, "Skeleton Men of Jupiter", written solely by ERB and originally published in Amazing Stories in February 1943. Here, John Carter gets kidnapped by the warlike, skeletal-looking Morgars of Jupiter (AKA Sasoom by the residents) whose leader Bandolian intends to attack and take over Barsoom.
The projected first part of what would've been probably the last Carter novel, "Skeleton Men" is a blast, with exciting battle scenes and ERB's snarky commentary ob the Morgars' way of life. The narrative drive is strong and compelling, and I wish ERB had finished it properly. But what we got is still pretty good.
One good story and one so-so one, John Carter of Mars is a nice finish to this great series.
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