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A Princess of Mars (Barsoom, #1)
by Edgar Rice Burroughs

I read this book for a project for school, a little bit before the movie came out (John Carter). Supposedly, these and the Tarzan books were the great adventure books of the day, a hundred years ago. I’m all for an interesting adventure, but this seemed really shallow. The main character, John Carter, somehow gets transported to Mars, without any explanation how. He doesn’t seem very surprised, but does have to get used to the lower gravity, which basically makes him Mars’ version of Superman. He can jump real high and is super strong. The Martians apparently like going around in the nude, so he joins them in that, but that’s about as sexual as it gets. There are initially two races: the greens and the reds. The reds are humans, but red. The greens have two sets of arms and are twice as tall as humans. They are more barbaric than the reds. John first finds himself among them, who treat him as a pet first, but then honor him because he’s strong. He eventually meets a red princess named Dejah Thoris and they fall in love. Their love is instantaneous, they never are unfaithful, and he has to save her. Aside from some of the interesting creatures, this is pretty uninteresting. There’s no depth that modern readers have come to expect. Even Superman has more depth. Nor is there much humor that I could find. John Carter seems to be invincible and take himself too seriously. The book reinforces male and female stereotypes of the day. It tries to go by the science understood in that day, so much that in the second book, the whole thing is about priests who pretend to have magic but really don’t, and they are ruled over by another race who does the same thing, and John Carter unmasks them, after thousands of years of their ignorance. Yet he’s the one who magically teleported to Mars. In the movie, it gives some explanation of how he got there, and gives John Carter some enemies of his caliber. Really, even though the movie was not a financial success, it was a lot more interesting than the book. Taylor Kitsch may not have been the best actor, but overall the movie had what the book didn’t. Even my wife who hadn’t read the book liked the movie. It’s a shame there probably won’t be any sequels. Anyway, I don’t think this book will please many modern audiences, unless you’re looking for pure action, which comic books probably do better. I think there are comics of these, so that might be an alternative.


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