Monday, February 28, 2011

Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1917)

Though I went through a pretty long science fiction and fantasy stint in my reading history, I never did read one of the classic SF authors - Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950.) My audio book store had a row of his books prominently displayed, so I thought I would try one. Pretty good. I had no idea that the man wrote so long ago. He started writing stories for adventure magazines, and his first story was about Mars. Though he published his first book in 1914 on Tarzan, his most famous series, but returned to write 11 books about Mars. This is the first one.

John Carter is an Arizona, where he enters a cave chased by Indians, sorta passes out, and finds himself naked on Mars. There he meets the huge green Martians, and later more human-like red Martians. I kept wondering if Burroughs was the first to create a visual image of Martians for us. Will have to research that, if I ever have time. Then he turns out to be a skilled fighter against these huge beings, earns the right to be a chieftain among them, falls for a Martian princess that he ends up saving from enemies numerous times, teaches one of the chieftains about friendship, and changes the face of Mars in the 10 years that he is there. All just a great adventure story. I don't mind the damsel in distress scenario, taking into consideration that this was written almost a 100 years ago. I enjoyed his description of what Mars would look like, the issues with breathable air and water. Obviously he was fascinated with the beginning experiments with flight, as he has large flying ships and small one person crafts, though he used some mysterious force to give them flight instead of the physics and engineering really needed. I was also interested in some of the other numbers and scientific accuracy of the times.

As pointed out in Contemporary Authors, though very popular, academically Burroughs is considered a pulp fiction writer of little merit. But I like the quote in Contemporary Authors: "Writing in Esquire, Gore Vidal claimed that, although Burroughs 'is innocent of literature,' he nonetheless 'does have a gift very few writers of any kind possess: he can describe action vividly.'""

Not a priority to check out the rest of his books, but not bad for light reading. Glad I picked it up.