Monday, June 25, 2012

Book Review: The Warlord of Mars

There are several different races on Barsoom (Burroughs's name for Mars): white Martians, black Martians, yellow Martians, green Martians, red Martians.[1] They are all humanoid, but the green Martians are least similar in appearance to the Homo sapiens of Earth. In the first book [2], John Carter encounters the red Martians and the green Martians. In the second book [3], he encounters the white Martians and the black Martians. Now there is only one race left (the yellow Martians), so it's inevitable that he'll meet them during this travelogue.

My verdict: This was definitely the least interesting of the three books about John Carter. Matai Shang (a white Martian) and Thurid (a black Martian), who were both defeated in the previous book by John Carter, conspire to kidnap, rape, and kill Dejah Thoris—all to exact revenge on John Carter. But even though they are presented with multiple opportunities to do so, they never do. They just keep running away and then resting on their heels once they think they've lost John Carter. So why not say from the beginning that they merely planned to kidnap her and keep her away from John Carter? Just once in the previous book John Carter gets lost and we have to read about the many wrong turns he takes. But in this one, during his endless chase after Matai Shang and Thurid, he gets lost multiple times and Burroughs goes into great detail each time. I can't help but wonder if this was a case of dischism.[4] The first half of the book involves John Carter chasing after his enemies and repeatedly getting lost or stuck. It got boring after a while. Furthermore, each fight that John Carter engages in is the fiercest he's ever fought and each battle is the bloodiest he's ever been in. This serial exaggeration quickly became droll.[5] Not only that but many of the scrapes he gets into he gets out of by fate, luck, or Providence—which doesn't make for compelling storytelling. It's not until they reach the North Pole (where the yellow Martians live) that the plot gets interesting again. I'd definitely recommend that you read the first Barsoom book but skip the next one and this one. They're just not worth it.

As for the Barnes & Noble edition, there are more typos: me instead of the (again); redoubted instead of redoubled; honors instead of horrors; etc. If you do decide to read The Warlord of Mars, rather than put up with this sloppiness, get the book somewhere else.[6]


[1] The red Martians are supposedly descended from the white, black, and yellow Martians.

[2] Read my review here.

[3] Read my review here.

[4] See the Turkey City Lexicon (here).

[5] If you look at a picture of Edgar Rice Burroughs (e.g. this one) you'd be surprised to think that this man was so obsessed with hand-to-hand fighting and derring-do.

[6] e.g. you can read it here at Project Gutenberg.

Image attributions:

The Victoria Crater as seen from Cape Verde, Mars is by the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity (NASA) and exists in the public domain. It is available at Crater, Cape Verde-Mars.jpg.

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