Many of you some of you a couple of you might have seen the Disney marketing disaster that was John Carter. I caught it on Blu-ray a few weeks ago. While not a bad film, it certainly doesn’t soar to any level of greatness. It was a fun little adventure with some cool aliens. The same description applies to A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ first work of fiction and the book on which the film was loosely based.
A Princess of Mars tells the story of Civil War era southern gentleman John Carter as he adventures his way across the Martian landscape. How does he happen to find himself on Mars? Well, there’s really no concrete explanation. Suffice it to say he wanders into a desert cave in one instant and finds himself mysteriously transported millions of miles away in the next.
Due to the gravitational and atmospheric conditions on Mars, Carter finds himself imbued with super strength and the ability to leap great distances in a single bound. Sound familiar? These traits make him more or less indestructible.
Carter quickly falls in with a group of six-limbed, be-tusked, green Martians, and a lot of time is spent explaining and exploring their culture. We learn that green Martian society is uber-violent, and Carter finds himself quickly rising through the societal ranks by overcoming a series of brutal conflicts with his fellow Martian tribesman.
At some point a beautiful red Martian woman is thrown into the mix. Red Martians look like humans but with very nice tans. He falls in love with her and his quest to be with her drives most of the novel’s plot points.
I say plot points because there really isn’t any overall plot to speak of. The story was initially serialized in The All-Story magazine in 1912, and it reads that way. Carter travels from one impossibly dangerous situation to the next, overcoming each by either punching someone or stabbing them real good. Sadly, many of these moments are glossed over with something along the lines of, “There were four men against me. We fought for twenty minutes, and at the end of it, they were all dead.”
The novel ends with a cliffhanger (to a more recent plot point anyway) leading us on to the next episode. Same Carter time. Same Carter channel.
Overall, I liked A Princess of Mars. It’s boring at times, and repetitive, and you know Carter is never in any real danger, but it is still a fairly fun, old timey, swashbuckling, high adventure, pulp story. There are aliens, monsters, swordplay, guns, battles, dungeons, escapes, and some good old fashioned rescuing.
Huge literary influence and inspiration aside, it’s a fun if harmless story.