Friday, May 3, 2013

Book Review: The Master Mind of Mars

The Master Mind of Mars retreads the "super brain at the expense of everything else" vs. "average at everything (but really super brawn)" theme from The Chessmen of Mars.[1] In that book there are creatures, called kaldanes, which are little more than large-brained heads that can switch bodies (which they call rykors) at will. The kaldanes didn't care what gender of rykor they assumed; it just had to be humanoid. In this book, a mad scientist has been experimenting with swapping brains between the bodies of different creatures, but he has no reservations whatsoever—a woman's brain into a man's body, a man's brain into an ape's body, two halves of different brains into the body of a third, and so on. An Earthman (not John Carter, this time [2]) discovers this scientist and helps him with his gruesome work for a while until he falls in love with one of the female subjects. He inevitably defies the mad scientist and the rest of the novel ensues.

My verdict: The kaldanes and the rykors of The Chessmen of Mars didn't bother me; but I found the indiscriminate brain-swapping in this novel rather revolting. I could've forgiven this, though, if Burroughs had found some clever way to have the protagonist, Ulysses Paxton (a.k.a. Vad Varo), defeat the mad scientist using brain-swapping. But really it just functions as a MacGuffin for the love/adventure story and for Burroughs to reiterate that his opinion that being too smart is a bad thing. Unfortunately Burroughs had nothing to add to the theme that he hadn't already expounded in The Chessmen of Mars. He also takes another stab at organized religion, though this time it has the advantage of being amusing, not just simplistic.[3]


[1] Read my review here.

[2] I'd say it's nice to finally get away from the Carter family, but Vad Varo (a.k.a. Ulysses Paxton) is the same character, just with a different backstory and a different name. He had far too easy of a time winning people to his cause, even though they all warned him that it was impossible.

[3] For his previous attempt, see my review of The Gods of Mars, here.

Image attributions:

Volcanic Rocks on Mars is by Mars Exploration Rover Spirit (NASA) and exists in the public domain. It is available at feature 645.html.

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