Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Burroughed in

I finished Tarzan the Terrible, which was, I think the eighth Tarzan book I've read (listened to) in a row.
 In a series of rip-roaring adventures, this was the rip-roaringest of all. Tarzan takes on the entire German Army, makes peace among warring peoples (and it's not an accident that one tribe is black and the other white), first becomes D'Artagnan and then Jesus, finds Jane, reunites with Jack (or, as he's known here, Korak the Killer- never Boy), and then finally rides off into the sunset on the back of a triceratops. Yep, there are dinosaurs.

There are something like fifteen more books in the Tarzan series, and as much fun as I've had with Lord Greystoke and his handsome invincibility, I thought I'd take a break from the jungle, and head to Mars.
Or, as Burroughs hilariously calls it, Barsoom. If it was odd that I had not read any Tarzan books before entering my dotage, it's even weirder that I missed out on the John Carter books, since I spent much of my youth gobbling up science fiction. But though I knew of John Carter (and the beautiful Red Martian Princess, Dejah Thoris)(and as a side note: the Kindle text to speech reader thinks that the inhabitants of the fourth planet are Marshy-ans), A Princess of Mars was my first exposure to yet another handsome, honorable, strong, invincible hero.

There are many similarities between John Carter and John Greystoke (all women want them, all men want to be them, all societies, except for the most Evil of the Evil, respect and admire, nay worship, them), but there are also some major differences. John Carter is American, or at least he pretends to be American, living in Virginia and Arizona right after the Civil War, though we find out fairly soon that John Carter does not remember his birth, nor does he remember any of his first thirty or so years, though he can remember several hundred years after that. We're not given any explanation for his amnesia or longevity, though I have some sneaking suspicions.

John Carter also is not quite as naive when it comes to women- when he sees one he wants (the beautiful Dejah Thoris catches his eye), he goes after her, and of course, wins her heart.

Burroughs' Barsoom follows what was then the prevailing thought about Mars: that the canals did hold water, that there could have been civilizations of intelligent beings there, and that it was a dying planet. John Carter finds himself on Mars (no explanation is given for that either), smack in the middle of giant green, multi-armed nasty types, and from that moment, it's one battle after another (much like a certain Jungle Dude).

This first-person tale confused me a bit though- it's more sloppily plotted, there are even more coincidences than in Tarzan (which overflowed with them), powers and skills are mentioned briefly and then forgotten until they save the day (one in particular had me yelling at the Kindle Reader, as though it was his fault, poor thing). In general, the book just wasn't as good as any of the Tarzan Tales, though I understood better when I learned that A Princess of Mars was Burrough's first novel.

Still, it was entertaining, and I've moved on to The Gods of Mars... which John Carter in a dress and a goofy blond wig and tiara, hanging off the side of an airship while a strange being points a pistol at him, is not the silliest thing happening. Good times.

1 comment:

John Hein said...

Well, I have to concradulate you on finding the John Carter series. I litereally read this series until I had to buy new books as the bindings wore out. I would be thrilled to hear your thoughts on the John Carter movie in the making.