Throwback SF Thursday: Under the Moons of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

It has been a spell since a Throwback SF Thursday post!  A while back I won a complete set of hardcover Barsoom/John Carter omnibuses through a giveaway hosted by the inestimable Bookstooge.  I have been using the Barsoom books as one of my main comfort reads in these trying times (lately as a palate cleanser between Wheel of Time books).  Under the Moons of Mars collects the first three Barsoom novels, A Princess of Mars, The Gods of Mars, and The Warlords of Mars (overall, the last of the individual novels I finished was Thuvia, Maid of Mars).

This is my first time digging into an ERB series.  I previously picked up the first Pellucidar  and Carson of Venus books but haven’t continued with either series.  Based on four Barsoom books and the first book in those two series, Barsoom is definitely my favorite, although the quality of the individual books varies.


A Princess of Mars

I would put A Princess of Mars on par with the first Pellucidar book.  John Carter, though, far exceeds the protagonists of the Carson of Venus and Pellucidar books.  He is just so unabashed about fighting and being a hero, and it absolutely works.  To be honest, I probably would have liked this book more if I hadn’t seen the Disney John Carter movie several times before I ever read it.  ERB has such a fecund imagination—the worldbuilding is a big part of the joy of reading his books.  But I had already been exposed to a lot of the worldbuilding by the movie.

4 of 5 Stars.


The Gods of Mars

I loved this book.  It is just jam-packed with worldbuilding despite being the second book in the series, not the first, and more of that worldbuilding wasn’t covered in the first book.  There is also a lot less throat-clearing and origin story.  The actions starts hot and heavy early and often and it never lets up.  The pacing is perfect, with twists and cliffhangers that were propulsive, that kept me turning the pages.  I was a little miffed at the cliffhanger at the end, but in general The Gods of Mars is the epitome of everything that is right with pulp fiction.

5 of 5 Stars.


The Warlords of Mars

ERB’s Barsoom books were massively influential.  Watch the John Carter movie and the original Star Wars trilogy and the influence is obvious.  But the Barsoom books didn’t just influence science fiction, they were also hugely influential for superhero stories (John Carter was a sort of proto-Superman) and comics storytelling.  If The Gods of Mars is the epitome of everything that is right with pulp fiction, The Warlords of Mars is emblematic of everything that frustrates me about ultra-serialized storytelling, especially comics.  In The Gods of Mars, the characters’ actions turn wheels that turn other wheels, with everything magnified.  In The Warlords of Mars, the characters are on a hamster wheel.  There is a lot of running, but the plot never seems to go anywhere, no matter how much geography gets covered.  It is frequently bad storytelling to add powers to move the plot along, but it is a much worse sin to hobble your hero without explanation to prevent the plot from moving.  ERB does a lot of that here.  I still enjoyed it, though, and it didn’t stop me from moving on to Thuvia, Maid of Mars, which I liked plenty.

3 of 5 Stars.


The five ERB books I’ve read, ranked:

  1. The Gods of Mars
  2. A Princess of Mars
  3. At the Earth’s Core
  4. Pirates of Venus
  5. The Warlords of Mars

About H.P.

Blogs on books at Every Day Should Be Tuesday (speculative fiction) and Hillbilly Highways (country noir and nonfiction).
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Science Fiction, Throwback SF and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Throwback SF Thursday: Under the Moons of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

  1. Bookstooge says:

    Well, I am glad you won these because I did NOT enjoy the ones I read nearly as much as you seem to be 😀

    I did laugh at you using them as palate cleansers between WoT, because these for me were like chewing on grass or something…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. John E. Boyle says:

    These books were given to me by my father as a child and were my introduction to adventure; I can feel their influence on my imagination to this day. I thought the first two were great; while Warlord of Mars was good enough, it seemed to be there mainly to tie things up. I recommend them.

    Interesting that you feel that the movie decreased your appreciation of A Princess of Mars. I have nephews who have taken an interest in ERB and I’ll suggest they read the books before watching the film.
    Thanks for the post and for your reread of the Wheel of Time. I drifted away from that series about half way through; maybe I should revisit them.

    Liked by 1 person

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