The Moon Maid
Series: Moon 1
Reviewed date: 2008 Nov 26
Nothing else compares to the Barsoom books, but The Moon Maid is a good story.
The Great War begins in 1914 and rages continuously until 1967. When peace reigns at last, men turn their sights outward to the planets. The International Peace Fleet outfits an expedition to Mars. The spaceship is named Barsoom. She is powered by engines invented by Lt. Commander Orthis, the brilliant engineer who isolated the rays of propulsion. Orthis hopes to command the Barsoom, but that distinction is given to our hero Julian the 5th. Orthis and Julian's rivalry goes back to their days as cadets, with the virtuous Julian always emerging the victor over the reprobate Orthis. Orthis cannot stand this final indignation; he sabotages the ship's engines. The Barsoom crashes down to the moon.
The outer surface of the moon is barren and lifeless. But the moon is hollow, and the interior surface teems with life. Julian manages to guide the Barsoom down an ancient crater and into the hollow core of the moon; he sets the Barsoom down beside a stream. Then Julian meets the denizens of the Moon, kills some of them, falls in love with a princess, fights a war, and emerges victorious. Well, not quite.
Julian and his crew are captured by the Va-gas, a race of intelligent quadrupeds. Here Burroughs treats us to a brief discussion of language. The language of the Va-gas (and of all the moon inhabitants, apparently) is tonal. The words are short, with three syllables or less. Each syllable has a pitch; there are five pitches. It's not a contour tone; rather, each syllable stands on its own with its own pitch. Julian learns the language rapidly.
The Va-gas eat meat. They are such good hunters that they have wiped out every other edible animal, and as a consequence they prey mostly on each other, and upon the other intelligent lunar race: man. They supplement their diet with vegetables, but these are insufficient for sustaining life.
The Va-gas hold Julian captive and try to persuade him to lead them to Earth, which is filled with tasty meat animals. Julian refuses, but Orthis cooperates. And of course Julian meets his princess: the Va-gas capture Nah-ee-lah, an U-ga (human) princess from the city of Laythe. Julian falls in love with this exquisite woman; he later escapes with her and they head for her city.
The citizens of Laythe are good and noble. Laythe stands alone; all other U-ga cities are dominions of the Kalkars. The Kalkars are dirty communists, who eschew hard work, enterprise, private property, and all good and righteous things. Their unrighteous philosophy destroyed a great civilization, and Laythe is the last bastion of freedom on the moon.
Sadly, Laythe falls to the Kalkar hordes. With Orthis's help the Kalkars storm Laythe. Despite a valiant defense by Nah-ee-lah's loyal guards, the masses of the people turn against her and aid the invaders. Julian and Nah-ee-lah escape with their lives, but all else is lost.