The Chessmen of Mars

by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Series: Barsoom 5
Reviewed date: 2005 Aug 17
Rating: 3
221 pages
cover art

The Chessmen of Mars is the fifth of Edgar Rice Burroughs's Mars books. I suggest reading at least A Princess of Mars first, as it will provide the necessary background for this excellent novel. The Chessmen of Mars is considered by many to be the best of the Mars books. I do not entirely disagree.

Like all Burroughs's books, this is full of action. Princess Tara of Helium, daughter of John Carter, is lost or kidnapped. Gahan of Gathol sets out after her, determined to rescue her and return her safely to Helium, but just as determined to win her favor and her heart. In the course of their adventures they encounter the symbiotic species of intelligent bodiless heads (the kaldanes) and dumb headless bodies (rykors).

Interesting as is the nature of the kaldane-rykor symbiosis, more intriguing still is the game of Martian chess played in the city of Manator. The game is jetan, a game similar to chess played on a ten-by-ten board with twenty pieces for each player. The game is played on a giant board with living pieces, and strategy requires knowing not only the rules and tactics of the game, but also the qualities and strengths of the men who are your pieces. In jetan a piece is not merely taken as in chess; rather there is a fight to the death to see which piece shall occupy the square.

All in all it's a fun story and highly recommended to anyone who enjoyed A Princess of Mars.

The Chessmen of Mars is out of copyright. It is freely and legally available online: The Chessmen of Mars.

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