This is a case of a publishing company, one that I have had issues with over the many, many years that I have been reading such stuff, i.e . Science Fiction, did something right. With this book they have published the second and third books of Edgar Rice Burroughs Martian Series. They also had Frank Frazetta illustrate it. Burroughs and Frazetta...it just does not get better than that!
Anyway, there are two of the Martian Stories, John Carter of course, between the covers of one book.
The first book is The Gods of Mars. This story begins pretty much where Princess of Mars left off but it is actually about ten years later and John Carter, the greatest swordsman on two planets, has been sent back to earth were he has fretted the entire time over his true love, the incomparable Dejah Thorris. Ah, Dejah Thorris...probably one of the best known and most imitated characters in Science Fiction. When this book opens, after a brief explanation, John Carter suddenly finds himself transported back to Mars and the adventure continues!
This time he finds he has been dropped into a valley, the Dor Valley, which is the pathway to the dead. This is the river where all good Martians go when their time is finished...they make that one last pilgrimage...to their version of heaven. But of course all is not well and John Carter finds himself almost instantly fighting unspeakable horrid monsters, involved with a race, the `First Born' and finally doing battle with the Gods of Mars themselves. And wouldn't you know it...his beloved Dejah is there, having decided to make the big trip herself!
The book is absolutely nonstop action from beginning to end. There is enough swordplay, daring escapes, pitched battles, intrigue, bad guys and good guys and really, really evil men and women to satisfy event he most jaded reader of this genre.
Now Burroughs, not noted for his philosophical or religious writing, sneaks quite a lot of social commentary into this work, as he does with most of his work if you read closely. Here he is taking on the religious establishment to a certain extent and graphically pointing out what happens to people who blindly follow others, especially unscrupulous religious leaders without question.
This book ends with an absolute great cliffhanger that will want the reader wanting more and fortunately for us, in this case, the publishers have provided it with the next book in the series, The Warlord of Mars.
Of course fans will know that there were a total of eleven books in the Martian Series and that this book, The Warlord of Mars was suppose to be the end of a trilogy which began with Princess of Mars. If you take just the trilogy, and ignore the rest of the books (A silly thing to do, but play like you have), then this work is probably the weakest of the three; I know it is my personal least favorite. I say this because most of the book is an account of the chase across Mars after the kidnapers of John Carter's wife, Dejah. The action is quite heavy and it is fast, but as several reviewers have pointed out here, there is none of the character interaction we find in the first two books. It is just not up to part with the first two books.
That being said though, if you are a John Carter fan, then you have to read it. I started reading this series when I was about 10 years old (good grief, that is well over 50 years ago), and have continually returned to them off and on since. I have completely lost track of how many times I have read this work and the others in the entire series. I personally feel that ERB's Martian books were superior to his Tarzan, even though they are not as well known. Do remember though, when you are reading these books, that they were written in the heyday of pulp fiction. These stories are not meant to be plausible by any definition of the word. They were meant to entertain young men and women of that era...and to that end, they did their job!
Don Blankenship The Ozarks
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