The Wizard of Venus
Series: Venus 5
Reviewed date: 2009 Jan 14
The last Venus book is a slim 86 pages long. It doesn't feel complete. Carson Napier leaves Duare and goes with Ero Shan to test out a new anotar (flying machine) he has built. As chance would have it, they get lost in the thick Venusian clouds and are forced down in a strange land ruled by a sham wizard who cows the people with parlor tricks. The wizard, named Morgas, has the poor people convinced that he can transform them into zaldars, a swine-like animal.
Carson and Ero Shan must defeat Morgas and retrieve their anotar before they can return home. The book is really just a vehicle for Burroughs to let Carson Napier run wild with his mental powers of projection. If you recall, the storytelling device in the Venus series is that Carson can mentally project images even across interplanetary space. Carson projects an image of himself to Edgar Rice Burroughs, who is writing Carson's story. Astute readers might wonder why, if Carson has this extraordinary power, he never uses it in his stories. (The reason is because it's a storytelling device.) In The Wizard of Venus, we discover that Carson has refrained from using the power until now because he prefers not to violate the mental sanctity of others. Except, oddly, in this story he suddenly overcomes this objection and makes profligate use of his powers to get himself and Ero Shan out of a tough spot, and to set himself up as a powerful wizard and defeat Morgas.
It is forgivable maybe for Burroughs to use this mental power of Carson's as a storytelling device but to never have Carson use it in his adventures. It's not forgivable for Burroughs to suddenly switch the rules on us and have Carson start using his remarkable abilities. It makes all his previous adventures inconsistent--there's no way Carson would have refrained from using such a power when faced with certain death, or with the specter of Duare's death.
The Wizard of Venus is mercifully still under copyright, so you can't read it for free online.