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Friday, February 17, 2012

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


Chapter Three: My Advent on Mars

As I indicated earlier, I do not like John Carter. He is the squarest of all square jawed manly man heroes and I have never liked the pulpy square jawed hero type. (I generally prefer the snarky sidekicks or the grim yet reliable sidekicks. They are more interesting and I almost never want to hit them with bricks.) I also dislike him because of his being or having been a Confederate, but that’s an entirely different rant.


So! Our Hero arrives on Mars, where he discovers that he has super powers! Okay, no, actually he discovers that the lighter gravity and lower air pressure in combination with earth-gravity muscles equals bottom made of springs. He bounces around like a flea on a red hot skillet, like a rabbit on crack, like a dozen kids bouncing on a bed. He can’t really walk at all.

He does some exploring and comes across a building. When he investigates, he finds that it is an incubator filled with eggs. Some of the eggs have hatched, and Our Hero meets his first baby Martians. They are green, six limbed and have cup shaped antennae instead of ears.

Then he meets the adult Martians who are extremely huge, riding even huger monsters, and extremely unhappy with John Carter. He manages to evade the attack and jumps about thirty feet in the air, landing on top of the incubator. The Martians are understandably astonished by this feat. After ascertaining that John hadn’t hurt their babies, and was presumably unarmed, they proceed to try capturing him. (Because the jumping was really, really cool, apparently.)

John does not high-tail it immediately because they have rifles as well as spears. (Presumably, he felt he could dodge a spear. Dodging a bullet would be something else entirely, that thing being impossible.) So, they are at a standoff. Said standoff is broken when one of the Martians lures John down with a bracelet.

No, I am not kidding.

“Here, see the nice shiny bracelet? Come on, take the nice shiny jewelry...good boy!”   

I believe that was approximately what the Martian in question (Tars Tarkus) was saying to John.

Our Hero takes this as a peace offering and accepts the gift. The Martian takes Our Hero by the arm and has his minions stand back a little so as not to “spook” John. Then they get on the giant riding animals and they gallop off to who knows where.


Chapter Four: A Prisoner

John gives us a rundown of Martian life in general terms. This is stuff he apparently learns while being a captive. Martians in general tend toward the warlike, but Green Men are particularly so. They also torture people for fun, have a sense of humor that tends toward the slapstick (as in, they slap you with sticks and they laugh) and do not so much smile as bare their teeth at you. Among the sole exceptions to these quirks is Tars Tarkus and one other Green Martian.

(Tars Tarkus by the way is a very awesome dude. The writer says a great deal about how awesome Tars is but the writer’s praise only scratches the surface that is the veneer of awesome surrounding Tars. If you can’t tell yet, Tars Tarkus is one of my favorite characters, why I don’t know, because he pretty much ends up being Tonto to John’s Lone Ranger.)

John is taken to a huge building where this tribe of Green Martians has been squatting. After being presented to the head honcho of this particular tribe of Green Martians, John gets poked and prodded by various Martians. He attempts to walks but can’t do anything except bounce and bang himself into things, which the Martians find to be very amusing. After being accosted in a particularly rude manner, Our Hero punches the Martian out with one blow to the Martian’s immense glass jaw. 

Instead of being angry that one of their number was clobbered, they are delighted! The next thing they have him do is demonstrate his mad jumping bean skills. They have him do this many, many times but eventually he gets hungry and he stops jumping and starts miming “I’m hungry.”

After a while, a servant is sent for. She takes John into the building. (The young lady’s name is Sola and is the other Green Martian who is more or less a nice person.) Our Hero notes that this ruined building was not designed by the Green Martians, whom he considers to be “half-brutes.” Once inside the building and situated in one of the rooms she sets a monster the size of a Shetland pony on him as a watch dog.

In the next chapter, John gets a little exploring done and disapproves strongly of Green Martian culture and society.