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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Reading: A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs Part One


Forward and Chapter One: On the Arizona Hills

Because of the John Carter movie coming out, I decided to do a Re-read of A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Burroughs is not one of my favorite authors because of reasons. I have tried reading the original Tarzan books and have not been able to do that because Tarzan in the stories is a massively annoying tool. (I did like some of the old Tarzan movies and also the cartoon, but I hate the stories.) John Carter is also a massive tool but is somehow more readable to me than Tarzan.


First, let’s talk about planetary romance, because that’s what A Princess of Mars is. Planetary Romance is science fiction that has a focus on the setting rather than on technological developments and extrapolation. More specifically the setting is some kind of alien environment or planet. (You can have planetary romances set on Earth, but they will be in some kind of wild fantastical hidden landscape.)

Burroughs is good at the wild fantastical landscapes! He puts all of the derring in do! He buckles all the swashes!  And all of his cliffs are very well hung! His manly characters are manly and his girly characters are curvy! There is a great deal of mindless fun to be had with Burroughs writing. I should warn you though, if you go to see the movie, this will totally look like you’ve seen it before, because you have.   

The set up for this book is a self-insert of sorts where Our Writer claims a connection with Our Hero John Carter. Our Writer claims that this story is in part a journal or memoir written by John Carter about his adventures on Mars, known as “Barsoom” by the natives of that planet. Our Hero is a former Confederate soldier! And he also has a very mysterious past! Our Writer considers Our Hero to be extremely awesome and thinks we should think he is awesome as well. (I do not think he is awesome, for reasons which should be obvious.)

Captain John Carter of Virginia finds that he is at very loose ends at the end of the Civil War. He goes off to seek his fortune with a friend named Powell. While prospecting they find an extremely awesome amount of gold. Powell, who was an engineer, determines that they do not have the right equipment to continue working on this vein of gold. He heads off to “civilization” to purchase said equipment.

Unfortunately, going off alone is very dangerous! Because of the random Apaches who randomly kill white people for the fun of it. (And not, you know for other reasons that might have to do with white people making their lives a hassle. And also not for reasons similar to why white outlaws might attack a prospector. No, they have to be doing it for the fun of torturing people.) John Carter becomes aware that his friend is in danger, and heads off to render assistance.

He is not able to offer much in the way of assistance, as his friend has already been captured and stuck full of arrows. Our Hero is understandably upset by this, and does something very stupid, which is rush forward to retrieve the body. He gets the body and barely manages to escape the Apaches by running into the cave. Once entering the cave, he takes leave of his senses and attempts to revive someone who is very clearly dead.  When he recovers, he attempts to explore the cave, but soon finds that he is too sleepy to do much of anything but take a nap.

Chapter Two: The Escape of the Dead

Our Hero wakes up, but finds that he can’t move. After a while the random Apaches find his hiding place. They look inside the cave and apparently see something that shocks and amazes them. Then there is a weird sound from deeper inside the cave. The noise is apparently so creepy that they decide to get the heck out of Dodge. Our Hero is also freaked out by the scary noise, but there is not very much he can do about it, since he seems to be paralyzed.

He hears more spooky and creepy noises, and continues to be unable to move. With an immense striving of will, Our Hero manages to have an out of body experience. (To be more specific, he managed to bilocate himself. He is physically in two bodies, and the one that can move around is not wearing any clothes.) He hears the weird noise again, and he continues to be freaked out by it, finding it immensely threatening. He heads outside at speed, not even bothering to put on some clothes or grab a weapon.

Once he gets outside the cave he sees the planet Mars. Our Hero feels a deep and spiritual connection to the planet Mars. (He also feels a strong connection to the god.) This immense spiritual connection caused Our Hero to be drawn to the red planet, and he goes flying up into the aether.

In the next installment, John Carter bounces around as if his bottom was made of springs and takes candy from strangers. (Okay, it’s actually a bracelet, but still.)