A Princess of Mars is the first book in a series from the author of Tarzan, Edgar Rice Burroughs. It's another one of those books which I took to as an adolescent. It is available, freely, at Gutenberg.org.
I'm not entirely certain what it is that attracts me to these books. Perhaps it's the mindless escapism which it provides. Well, there are many mindless avenues for the restless mind to escape down. I suppose it is a bit like rewatching an old favourite movie. I can watch some Disney favourites such as Mary Poppins and really enjoy the story and songs that I loved when I was a child. But ones that I did not see do nothing for me. For example, I cannot watch The Sound of Music, which I never watched as a child. So, perhaps it's the value of nostalgia that draws me to Burroughs' books.
I guess I wanted a simple adventure story, today. That's what I got. Narrative features of A Princess of Mars is extremely straight forward. It's written in first person. The main character is John Carter. A bit of a warrior on Earth during the American Civil War, he becomes very much like a super hero. Burroughs certainly had some significant knowledge of that Martian planet. For example, he used the knowledge that Mars had a significantly lower gravitational effect than Earth. This imbues his hero with great strength. So, as Neil Armstrong and the other astronauts who made it to the moon, he moves in great leaps and bounds. However, this effect is greatly exaggerated. The moon has less gravitation than Mars, but the astronauts could only make modest leaps. On Mars, John Carter is able to leap like the original Superman who could leap over a tall building in a single bound. Well, not quite that great of a jump, but high enough to make it to a second or third story building. So, compared to the various Martian races, of which there are several, he is unnaturally strong.
Once on Mars, he meets some giant green men. Despite their great size, he writes that their size is not equal to their strength. On Earth, Carter voices doubts as to whether or not they would be able to stand up, let alone fight. With a single blow to the chin, he manages to kill not one but two of the olive-green Martian race roughly similar to large trolls and orcs. They are hatched, rather than born alive. What's more, as eggs, they grow from the size of a goose egg to the size of a child over a period of ten years by absorbing energy from the sun. By killing the first and then second of the green warriors, he is able to win their titles and belongings. While a part of their company, he masters not only the spoken language of the Martians which is used by all the races of the planet, but he also learns telepathy. He can read their thoughts. However, they cannot read his. Eventually, they capture the woman, Dejah Thoris who is to become the object of his desire and subsequently affect the adventure in this book.
Dejah is a princess of a red skinned race. He falls in love with her while she is in captivity, and eventually he helps her escape. Her escape leads to another capture, and so John leads the green orc-troll-warriors to invade the city-state that had captured her.
The dialogue of the characters is so wooden and stiff, it is hard to stomach at times. The super human abilities of John is a bit more difficult to swallow than the antics of Tarzan since the story is written in first person. After he has won the day for Dejah's people, they shower him as he parades down the street with precious jewels. (not flowers! I guess everyone has a lot of gold, silver, platinum, and precious jewels on Mars!) It is such a silly story. I am sure I have had my fill of John Carter. At least until I am ready for another story of one dimensional characters, wooden and mechanical dialogue, and intense one-sided-super-hero-type action.