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The Gods of Mars (John Carter of Mars) Paperback – July 5, 2011
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It has been said that the writer uses his characters to speak for him. We learn a lot about Burroughs, the man through John Carter. I am not going to spoil anything for future readers by revealing anything about what we learn. What is surprising is that the book was published considering Burroughs' views regarding organized religion. However since this is a sci-fi adventure story the author can express views that wouldn't necessarily receive traction in a more conventional realistic story. The only thing I shall say is pick up the book, read it, and enjoy the ride. You won't be disappointed. Do we look forward to more stories about John Carter? Yes we do. We look forward to seeing him as a developing more complex character.
For the science minded we could ask what, if anything did Burroughs know about quantum mechanics and theory? Carter's method of traveling to Mars is borne out out by what quantum theory says is possible.
When Burroughs first introduced his vision of Mars to readers, the landscape and peoples Carter encountered were a fairly straightforward translation of the tenets of the American western placed within the parameters of a new frontier. There are the nomadic Tharks and the various tribes of warlike red men populating the desolate Martian landscape. But when Burroughs returned Carter to Mars for a second set of adventures (first serialized in 1913), he took the opportunity to gloriously expand on the world he'd created, introducing new landscapes and peoples for Carter to encounter. En route to the Martian "paradise" Carter battles fearsome Plant Men who are joined by an old foe -- the vicious white apes. Those creatures are controlled by the Holy Therns, the pasty-skinned, bald gatekeepers of Issus worship, a cult of cannibals drunk on power, willing to do anything to maintain their faithful following. And finally there are the fearsome Black Pirates of Barsoom, the self-proclaimed First Born tribe whose hidden seat of power Carter vows to destroy in order to free Mars from the power-mad perpetuation of a false faith.
I find Burroughs's treatment of organized religion particularly fascinating here. I did some cursory online reading and it doesn't seem as as though Burroughs was anti-faith. Rather, that he was highly concerned with the potential for exploitation of the faithful stemming from any organized religion. As such, Carter's single-minded assault on centuries of faith is extraordinarily thorough, and sets up nicely endless possibilities for conflict to come in subsequent volumes of the series. Carter as a fighting man is the epitome of straightforward action and belief, and as such is perhaps the embodiment of Burroughs's ideal argument in favor of the virtues of the "everyman."
Unfortunately much of the old-fashioned romance found within A Princess of Mars is distinctly one-sided here as Dejah is off-screen for most of the novel. But the charm of Carter's inherent nobility and chivalry are perhaps only magnified by Dejah's absence as thoughts of her are never far from his heart (seriously, he could make me swoon). Thuvia, a Martian prisoner Carter frees from the Therns is the principle female presence in this story. And while she falls in love with Carter (as expected), even though he doesn't give her a second look (could he be more perfect?), she is as honorable and moral as Dejah in the previous book and refreshingly capable of assisting in her escape from the Thern captors. Burroughs's women may be idealized, but he gives readers a bit more than "just" a fainting damsel in distress than one might expect from classic pulp fiction.
Much like its predecessor, The Gods of Mars is a rollicking, fast-paced, old-fashioned adventure novel that is every bit as fun and entertaining -- perhaps even morseo -- than Carter's first Martian outing. This book is a page-turner of the first order that has deepened my appreciation of Burroughs's work as a science fiction pioneer and made me even more of a John Carter fangirl. Filled with characters I've grown to love, this is a world that I adore getting lost in, leaving me eager to dive into the next installment.
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