Under Crimson Moons

by N. P. B. Barker
Series: Barsoom pastiche
Reviewed date: 2007 May 17
158 pages
cover art

Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote about Mars in its old age, when the Barsoomian seas had dried up and the planet was kept inhabitable only by great atmosphere generators. N.P.B. Barker gives us Under Crimson Moons, a fan fiction novel about Mars in its youth.

The story mirrors A Princess of Mars; an Earthman, Englishman Hector Blake, is transported to Mars, where he falls in love with a princess, demonstrates his prowess as a fighting man, saves a nation, earns great respect, and wins the girl's heart. The plot is so perfectly Burroughsesque that I wondered at times whether Barker had just copied out sections wholesale from the Mars novels; but it isn't so. Barker has a gift for reproducing the pulp style of Burroughs's writing.

Barker's Mars--which he names Kanthor--is younger than Burroughs's Barsoom, and it is correspondingly more vibrant. Brilliant colors abound, even more so than in Burroughs's writing: blue men, red men, green men, twin crimson moons, black-and-vivid-orange beasts. There isn't a single color word in the English language that Barker fails to use. It's a bit overdone, but in a good way.

Because this is Mars in its youth, the creatures, races, and nations of Barsoom are still in the inconceivably distant future. Barker has populated Kanthor with a panoply of colorful creatures and races. Hector Blake spends time among the blue reptilian race of Thoons; he meets the green princess Kara Dea; he fights the blood-red Slithian men who ride on winged snaroths. He fights the tiger-lizard rarnkors, escapes the bear-sized spidery sipperath, and befriends a wild thastak who repays him with canine loyalty.

The people of Kanthor are much like Barsoomians in their views about honor, fighting, and swordsmanship. It would hardly be a story worthy of Burroughs were it to be otherwise. Hector Blake is much like John Carter, except English. In all, Under Crimson Moons is a worthy continuation of the Mars tales. I enjoyed it as much or more than any of Burroughs's books.

Under Crimson Moons is freely and legally available online at Tangor's Pastiche and Fan Fiction.

Under Crimson Moons is available as a Kindle ebook at Amazon.

Victory was mine! Standing ecstatic over the lifeless body of my vanquished enemy, its visage still contorted into an impossible rictus, I was seized by the urge to throw back my head and howl in exultation while beating my breast like a jungle ape.

It was a close-run thing, but I restrained myself, aware that such an ejaculation would ill-become an Englishman.

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