Monday, June 25, 2012

Book Review: A Princess of Mars

My main interest in reading this book was because of the movie which recently came out. I haven't seen it, yet, but I was intrigued by the trailer.[1] which I first saw when I went to see The Phantom Menace in 3D.[2] I can recall seeing this book on the shelves of the public library I attended growing up. That particular edition had a painting of an unclad woman on the cover, so I could never bring myself to check it out.[3] But I did read the summary on the back cover and I was intrigued by the descriptions of the adventures of John Carter.

This is more space opera than science fiction. The science is a little hokey (e.g. capturing an "9th color" out of white light to generate oxygen and fly), but forgivable given that the book was written nearly a century ago. Burroughs was one of the earliest sci-fi writers and the depth of his Martian creations is impressive.[4] All of his books that I've read, so far, can be summed up thus: Man meets Woman and they inevitably fall in Love, while striving to defeat the Villain. The men are always noble, virtuous, sagacious, athletic, and daring. The women are always dignified, beautiful, and fierce. The villains are always devious, underhanded, and deformed (in character, in form, or in both). Despite the mythic qualities of the characters, they are still confronted with personal mistakes and failures, which is somewhat redeeming. However, the plot isn't about overcome personal weakness, it's about triumphing over a wicked world and/or fate which sets itself against them. The writing is engaging and has a surprisingly high level of diction. Both Tarzan of the Apes and this one have made me feel angst for the main characters' love plights. So, while Burroughs has his detractors, I think he's excellent at emoting.

As for this particular edition, you could do better. A Princess of Mars is in the public domain.[5] Barnes and Noble lumped this together with The Gods of Mars [6] and The Warlord of Mars [7] (also in the public domain), slapped a public domain image of Mars (from NASA) on the cover (the same one I used for this post), threw in an intro, and published. But then they have the gall to throw the following claim in the front cover:
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher.
I'm sorry, Barnes and Noble. But that little disclaimer only extends to the intro. Since the rest is public domain, I can copy and distribute it all I like without violating anyone's rights. However, I'm sure there are better copies out there to access. This one is full of typos (be for he; me for the; etc.) that should've been caught.


[1] See

[2] Read my review here.

[3] The edition I bought just has a depiction of the planet Mars on the cover. The text, though it doesn't go into explicit detail, does mention that none of the creatures on Mars (or Barsoom, as they call it over there)—including John Carter and the human-looking Martians (Barsoomians)—are clothed.

[4] See, for example, this painting of the creatures he created for Barsoom.

[5] Read it here at Project Gutenberg.

[6] Read my review here.

[7] Read my review here.

Image attributions:

Mars is by the Viking 1 Orbiter (NASA) and exists in the public domain. It is available at Valles Marineris EDIT.jpg.

1 comment:

  1. Those typos are annoying. One I read was talking about a man waiting by the spot his wife had just teleported from; he was afraid to move lest he accidentally enter the spot "recently frequented" by his wife. Should have been "recently vacated".