A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs is a science-fiction book published in 1912. This is Burroughs’ first published book and stars John Carter.
Carter, a Civil War Confederate veteran, finds himself projected to Mars. Discovering he has enormous strength and agility due to the lower force of gravity, Carter rises to a high position in the Tharks tribe. The Tharks are nomadic green Martians who have six limbs.
Soon the Tharks capture the Princess of Helium, Dejah Thoris who is a member of the red Martians which are a humanoid race. The red Martians live in city-states and control Mars’ canals and agriculture. John Carter saves Dejah Thoris but becomes embroiled in Martian politics.
Eventually, Carter leads a horde of Tharks against Zodanga, a city-state of the red Martians and historic enemy of Helium. This act of valor wins John Carter the hand of Dejah Thoris and he becomes Prince of Helium. The happy couple lives joyfully for nine years when a breadown of the Atmosphere Plant threatens to destroy all life on Mars. Carter uses a telepathic code to enter the factory with engineers who can restore it to working conditions. However, Carter soon becomes asphyxiated and awakens back on Earth, wondering what happened to his beloved and his people.
A Princess of Mars is Edgar Rice Burroughs’ first novel. While the novel is good, it feels like a first novel and I’m glad Burroughs continued to write and get better each time.
What impressed me about the book was how imaginative it was compared to other science-fiction stories of the time. While Jules Verne concentrated on the science aspect of his stories (see my review of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) and H.G. Wells’ science fiction stories were more about social commentary (my thoughts on The Invisible Man), Burroughs concentrated more on the story aspect, but instead of taking place on Earth, he set it on Mars.
The book is an escapist fantasy, and enjoyable tale which, if set on earth, could have been easily been classified as pulp fiction. A Princess of Mars is very imaginative with lots of action, alien culture, romance and chivalry.
While I certainly enjoyed many of Burroughs’ later novels (Tarzan of the Apes comes immediately to mind), this book is on a different level entirely. While I found Tarzan of the Apes to be complex, involving and even philosophical, A Princess of Mars is a silly joyride, full of action with wonderful narrative.
I know what you’re saying to yourself: “he read this just to capitalize on the release of the new movie.”
And I’d say: “good observation, Captain Obvious.”
I did read this book because the movie is coming out, and I hope you do too. I’m glad Disney decided to rejuvenate this old series, bring Burroughs back into the spotlight and have a new generation of readers enjoy his tales.