Book Review: A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Reading a book like A Princess of Mars you have to make certain allowances.

The story is almost 100 years old and pre-dates science fiction as an established genre and it was written in a pulp style. Inevitably the tone and references are dated. Additionally some of the elements which would have seemed bold and original at the time now appear heavily over-used.

It might be tempting to rate the book more highly for its huge significance and influence on the sci-fi genre, but that is really a separate issue to how enjoyable the story is itself.

It's certainly an easy read, moving quickly from adventure to adventure and keeping its hero in peril. But even the quick pace can't disguise the flaws. 

There are just a few too many coincidences. A few too many times when John Carter is able to casually get himself into just exactly the right location or have just exactly the right conversation. And those story flaws are hard for me to ignore.

So in the end I come away from the book dissatisfied. I see the elements of what made me love things like Flash Gordon here. I recognize it's significance, that it pre-dates so many of the things I like.

But in the end I couldn't connect with the "perfection" that is John Carter and while the world is described in considerable detail, I found the characters largely one dimensional and just could not connect with it the way I had hoped.


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13 thoughts on “Book Review: A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

  1. August 28, 2012 at 19:29

    Actually, it's more than 100 years old.  It was originally serialized in early 1912.

  2. August 28, 2012 at 19:29

    That's a shame, but I like that you're honest enough not to add points just because it's a legendary book. A book has to stand on its own merits….

  3. August 28, 2012 at 19:29

    I bought this for 99 cents on my Nook. I liked the movie so I'm hoping I enjoy this as well.

  4. August 28, 2012 at 19:30

    +Eoghann Irving, I agree with your general assessment, but I'd still recommend that people read it if only for its significance in the genre.

  5. August 28, 2012 at 19:32

    I agree. It was a fun, easy read…but just a little too 'set up' in it's function.

  6. August 28, 2012 at 19:35

    This book was written before the Hollywood Formula, before the Try-Fail Cycle, before the Three Act Structure.

    This is like marking down the Wright Flyer for using wing-warping instead of ailerons.

  7. August 28, 2012 at 20:42

    I still get the feeling that I'm one of very few people who enjoyed the John Carter movie :-(

  8. August 28, 2012 at 20:43

    I loved the movie, Anthony.  And ERB's Barsoom series actually BEGAN

  9. August 28, 2012 at 20:55

    +Anthony Kelly, I loved the movie… +John Carter (of Mars)

  10. August 28, 2012 at 21:44

    +Anthony Kelly I despised the movie because it slapped fans of the original novel in the face.

    In A Princess of Mars, everyone (including John Carter) goes about naked except for harnesses and jewels.

    In the movie, when Dejah Thoris is dressed in her rather modest wedding dress, what does she say?  That it's 'vulgar.'

    Slap. In. The. Face.

  11. August 29, 2012 at 06:01

    I also finished reading A Princess of Mars recently. I loved it, I thought it was a great boys own adventure.

  12. August 29, 2012 at 06:58

    "You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory" – Thomas Wolfe – you can’t go home again 

  13. August 29, 2012 at 07:41

    Bullshit.  I carry them all around with me all the time.

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