Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Caragh Reviews - A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Published - 30th January 2007
Publisher - Penguin
Format - Kindle
Synopsis - John Carter, a Civil War veteran, inexplicably finds himself held prisoner on the planet Mars by the Green Men of Thark. With Dejah Thoris, the princess of another clan on Mars, John Carter must fight for their freedom and save the entire planet from destruction, as the life-sustaining Atmosphere Factory slowly grinds to a halt. The first of eleven in the series.

I'm not entirely sure how i've spent my whole life being unaware of Edgar Rice Burroughs, but when a friend suggest that I read this I figured it could be fun to try out a new author.

When I started reading, I was quite skeptical. Though there were no faults with Burrough's writing style, the content was definitely questionable to me. The first problem I had was that John Carter just wasn't likeable! It's not a necessity to like the main character but it sure helps. Carter seemed arrogant and full of himself. Sentences like "My mind is evidently so constituted that I am subconsciously forced into the path of duty without recourse to tiresome mental processes. However that may be, I have never regretted that cowardice is not optional for me" - are obviously beautifully written but are so damn frustrating! I am happy to say though that once you get half way through, Carter's self indulgences are barely even noticeable and I found myself actually liking him. 

It was really interesting seeing how Carter, a man of Earth, interacted and integrated himself into the community of Barsoom. Though they are two very different cultures there were many similiarities. Carter learned a lot from the people of Barsoom and vice versa. The subject of laughter and humour was one point of interest; how the same action can mean a variety of things. As I was reading there was a feeling of vague familiarity and eventually it dawned on me that it felt a lot like Gulliver's Travels and honestly - once I realised that I enjoyed the book a lot more. It was easier to really understand what I was reading. 

Burrough's uses long and intensive descriptions and you have to read a significant portion of the book before there is even any dialogue. Part of this is obviously due to the language barriers between the characters but I think it's really the staple of the book. No speech allows for these lengthy descriptions which fully develop the world that Burroughs is creating and also allows a deeper look at Carter himself and the culture that he belongs to. I also feel that Burroughs uses sections of A Princess to Mars to discuss political beliefs (such as Communism). I'm not aware of his personal beliefs but it was interesting to read nonetheless. 

A Princess of Mars has a LOT of action and drama. Carter is never safe or content and one adventure immediately leads to the next. The book ended on a major cliffhanger too which makes you want to read more no matter how you found the story! Though for the majority of the book I wasn't really feeling it, by the end I enjoyed the whole thing and i'm looking forward to seeing what is next for John Carter.

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