Dead Cities of Mars

by David Bruce Bozarth
Series: Barsoom fan fiction
Reviewed date: 2009 Oct 29
275 pages
cover art

David Bruce Bozarth knows Burroughs and captures his style. Dead Cities of Mars is a parody of sorts--Bozarth takes ERB's tropes and flouts them all. It's a great premise, and if anybody could do it well it would be Bozarth. What we end up with is a naughty Barsoom book rife with sexual humor. *sigh*

Tony Martin and his girlfriend Connie Wescott die in car wreck and find themselves on Mars. Naked, naturally. Unlike the diplomatic and highminded Burroughs, Bozarth is explicit about this throughout the book. Tony and Connie can't keep their eyes--and hands--off each others' bodies. They soon meet Kantos Kan and his lover, Clixia. They are all stranded deep in a dry Martian seabed, in a land swarming with wild thoats, savage Warhoons, and ferocious white apes. Kantos Kan and Clixia aren't married because their matching isn't accepted by Barsoomian society--a stultifying Victorian society that John Carter has helped prop up.

The two couples are captured by Warhoons. They escape from Warhoons. They are attacked by white apes. They escape the apes' clutches. They meet Ghek, a kaldane who is out hunting for a new rykor. Eventually they make it back to Helium, where John Carter promptly throws Kantos Kan out of his palace upon learning of his relationship with Clixia. Tony and Connie and Kantos Kan and Clixia decide that they don't need John Carter. They go into business of adventure safaris: giving Barsoomians the chance to fight Warhoons and white apes, explore ancient ruins, and rescue a damsel in distress--who will be more or less grateful depending upon how much the customer pays.

So the book starts with sexual tension between Tony and Connie, and ends with Tony and Connie running a glorified prostitution ring. Awesome. (Not really.) The only thing that surprises me is that Bozarth never put Tony and Connie into a four-way with Kantos Kan and Clixia. He certainly hinted at the potential for swinging, but never followed through. Saving something for the sequel I guess.

OK, in all fairness that book isn't all about sex. There's plenty of other stuff too. But personally, I found the sex to be so unlike Burroughs (or at least, unlike Burroughs's Barsoom) that in spite the way Bozarth gets the style right, it's just not the same Barsoom anymore. Or maybe it's because Bozarth gets the style so right that the sexual content seems so out of place. Well done on nailing ERB's style though. Well done.

Dead Cities of Barsoom is published online at Tangor's Pastiche and Fan Fiction.

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