Synthetic Men of Mars

by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Series: Barsoom 9
Reviewed date: 2006 Aug 6
Rating: 3
160 pages
cover art

Synthetic Men of Mars is the ninth book in the Martian tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs. It is not one of the great books in the series, but it has a solid story and no serious flaws. It has some internal inconsistencies that should have been caught by a copy editor, but I was so engrossed in the story I never noticed them. More persnickety readers will be duly aghast.

Dejah Thoris has been injured in a flyer accident, and lies crippled with a broken back. Only the skill of Ras Thavas can restore her to health, but his whereabouts are unknown. John Carter and his friend Vor Daj set out to locate Ras Thavas, but are soon kidnapped and taken to a secret island in the middle of the Toonolian Marshes.

There, in the Toonolian Marshes, John Carter and Vor Daj discover a horrific evil that threatens all of Mars: Ras Thavas has isolated the "life principle" in living organisms, and is able to grow synthetic men from tissue in vats. The synthetic men, called hormads, are Frankensteinian monstrosities of low intelligence, but they can be turned out in vast quantities and make eager warriors. Ras Thavas had not intended to use them for evil, but a few of the smarter hormads have wrested power from Ras Thavas, and now hold him prisoner. They force him to produce millions of hormads in preparation for a hormad conquest of Mars.

Vor Daj falls in love with Janai, a beautiful woman whom the hormads also kidnapped. While John Carter escapes and makes his way to Helium to call for help, Vor Daj stays behind to protect Janai and hopefully help her to escape. After a variety of adventures and fights and near brushes with death, Vor Daj and Janai are finally rescued by John Carter, who has returned with the mighty fleet of Helium. The hormads are utterly defeated. Ras Thavas restores Dejah Thoris to health, Vor Daj marries Janai, and it is a happy ending.

Synthetic of Mars 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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