Carson of Venus

by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Series: Venus 3
Reviewed date: 2008 Jun 23
Rating: 2
276 pages
cover art

I didn't put much effort into reading Carson of Venus, but that's OK. Burroughs didn't put much effort into writing it. I skimmed it.

In this tedious installment of the Venus adventures, Carson Napier defeats the evil Nazis--I mean, the Zanis. He defeats the evil Zanis. Actually, Burroughs's version of history is more heartening than the reality: the Zanis are brought down by a popular uprising against the brutal Zani leadership rather than by a war of attrition ending in occupation and a Cold War. Amtor is an idyllic fantasy world where even war and atrocity have happy endings.

Carson Napier is a bungling fool, as usual. Burroughs writes him poorly. Napier is purportedly the antithesis of John Carter: Carter is the best swordsman on two worlds; Napier is average at best. Carter relishes a good fight; Napier prefers to turn tail and run. Carter is noble and brave; Napier is, well, sort of noble and sometimes brave. Unfortunately, Burroughs is unable to break free of his usual tropes. When Napier confronts the arch-villain Muso, he challenges Muso to a swordfight rather than just shoot him dead with a ray gun. But of course, Napier is a poor swordsman and he begins to lose the duel.

I expected to fall dead, but I did not. Instead, Muso slumped backward across the table and then rolled off onto the floor; and as I looked around, I saw Nna standing with Muso's pistol still leveled in her hand. She had robbed me of my revenge, but she had saved my life.

Why Napier would choose a swordfight is a question Burroughs never answers. It's not in Napier's character. It does make sense for Napier to escape with his life through no act of his own, but it's not satisfying. It is satisfying when John Carter tests his mettle in a swordfighting duel with the head villain. It would be satisfying if Carson Napier had shot the head villain dead with a ray gun. It's not satisfying when Napier throws away his advantage and then is saved by the quick thinking of a hardnosed young girl. We want to read about heroes, not about boobs who have to be saved by the damsels in distress that they are purportedly rescuing.

Carson of Venus is out of copyright in Australia but not the United States. You can read it online at Project Gutenberg of Australia.

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