John Carter and the Giant of Mars
Edgar Rice Burroughs
(Supposedly, it’s actually by Edgar’s son, John “Jack” Coleman Burroughs.)
This is the first of two stories that collectively make the book “John Carter of Mars,” the second of which I will be reading in the next month or two. John Carter and the Giant of Mars was really a chore to get through. Perhaps it’s because it’s written by his son and not Edgar himself, or perhaps its because my skimming of background information says this is meant for young readers… I don’t know. All I know is that this book is quite a slog to get through.
The entire book is done in a telling rather than showing narrative. (So, Burroughs tells us what the characters are doing, rather than showing us.) And the story is riddled with passive voice. If anything, it reads more like a lengthy summary of a novel, rather than an actual novel.
Like all other novels in this series, it starts with the kidnapping of a helpless woman, once again it’s Carter’s wife, Dejah Thoris. Carter scours Mars to find her, only to fall into a trap. He’s captured by a giant (Joog), but then escapes into a tunnel full of giant rats, and then meets the mastermind behind it all. That mastermind wants to overtake the city of Helium, and eventually the whole planet. Sigh… what else is new?
What I will say is positive is there is less wonton killing. Well, there is a big war scene, but other than that, there’s less killing. The earlier novels had a huge body count. I find that as the series goes on, the body count gets smaller as Carter becomes less violently reactive and starts to rely on his brains a little more.
And as I reflect on the fact that the next book, Skeleton Men of Jupiter, is the final Barsoom novel, I find I’m both pleased and disappointed. The journey through eleven novels in about a year and a bit has been exhausting. I normally don’t read a series that close together. So, in that sense, I’m looking forward to reaching the end. (Although, I might then pick up some of his other series.) And, at the same time, I’ve noticed some considerable development in characters and story styles, so I find it a bit disappointing that this journey is coming to an end.
Anyway, back to this. John Carter and the Giant of Mars is a book that really should be skipped, given the strength of the rest of the series.