John Carter of Mars

by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Series: Barsoom 11
Reviewed date: 2006 Nov 23
Rating: 2
167 pages
cover art

The final Barsoom book is a collection of two independent stories written in the early 1940s. It is the weakest book in the series, and is a disappointing conclusion to a fantastic series.

John Carter and the Giant of Mars: Dejah Thoris is kidnapped by Pew Mogel, who plans to conquer all of Barsoom. He has a mighty army of intelligent white apes mounted on flying malagors, and a unique superweapon: a 130-foot tall giant. John Carter manages to rescue his princess, and then he defeats the army of Pew Mogel, which had besieged and nearly conquered Helium.

The bad:

  • Edgar Rice Burroughs did not write the story. His son did, and the difference in quality shows.
  • It is written as a juvenile, so the plot is childish and the prose is deliberately simplified.
  • There are inconsistencies with the established level of technology on Barsoom. This is the first and only story in which the Barsoomians have radio and television.
  • The story needs some copy editing. For example, the characters often refer to Mars rather than Barsoom; the moons of Barsoom are referred to as Deimos and Phobos rather than Cluros and Thuria.

The good:

  • The type of warfare described is unlike anything seen in any previous Barsoom story. In all the Mars books, the city of Helium has a navy of floating airships. Whereas in previous stories Burroughs describes a kind of warfare modeled directly on navy battles, John Carter and the Giant of Mars features modern tactics: blitzkrieg bombing runs, anti-aircraft artillery, and a recognition that "without supporting aircraft," the infantry can accomplish nothing. In the previous stories, Burroughs talks mainly about airships; here they are called aircraft, and even occasionally planes. Unsurprisingly, this is the first Barsoom story written after the start of the second world war, in which Nazi Germany proved the necessity of air superiority.

The verdict: It is a poor installment in the series, and probably should not be considered canon.

Skeleton Men of Jupiter: The inhabitants of Sasoom (Jupiter) are the Morgors, and they wish to extend their dominion to other planets. To prepare for their invasion of Barsoom, they capture John Carter and Dejah Thoris, from whom they expect to extract information regarding the defenses and weaponry of Helium. However, John Carter escapes from his prison cell on Sasoom and sets out to rescue Dejah Thoris. Then the story ends. It was meant to be a four-part serial, but Burroughs never finished it.

John Carter and the Giant of Mars is out of copyright in Australia but not the United States. You can read it online at Project Gutenberg of Australia.

Skeleton Men of Jupiter 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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