WARNING: Ripping Book Reviews are solely the judgments of Professor VJ Duke on an unlucky book that has caused him much repulsion—in one way or another. Therefore, blame must be put on the professor and nobody else. With that in mind, read on—if you are brave enough to take it.
A PRINCESS OF MARS by EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS
Oh boy. Here we go…
A Princess of Mars was originally published as a six-part serial in a magazine under the pseudonym of Norman Bean. Personally, I think Burroughs was rather clever hiding behind a pseudonym; especially the kind of pseudonym he picked. (Norman Bean fits the disposition of the book rather well.) I know that I’d have wanted a pseudonym and would have wanted one bad. Burroughs should have been loyal to Mr. Bean and not regressed to his own name; for had he remained Bean, Burroughs would have saved himself much embarrassment and shame.
Interestingly enough, as Burroughs was writing A Princess of Mars, he was working for his brother. Apparently, Burroughs was quite apprehensive about letting anyone in on the secret that he was writing. You see, Burroughs thought his story to be childish in nature, and so outlandish that, if anyone found out what he was writing, potential business contacts would find him ungrounded. A very understandable thought—and a clever idea to hide his work. Too bad Burroughs didn’t have more of those clever ideas while writing the book; it would have saved us from a novel born in defect.
Originally, Burroughs tossed around many different titles for his novel: My First Adventure of Mars, The Green Martians, Dejah Thoris, Martian Princess… If he had asked my opinion on the matter, I would have told him plainly that none of the above would help his dilemma. I would have said: Don’t try and choose a good name for a worthless manuscript; rather, write a worthy manuscript, and then worry about a good title.
The story centers around Civil War veteran John Carter and his adventures on Mars, the red planet. He deals with green Martians, white apes, and red Martians—which happen to be…humans. That’s right. The red Martians are basically humans.
It should be pointed out here that all of the characters in the story (including John Carter) go about completely naked. Now that’s interesting, seeing that the average temperature on Mars is roughly -81.5 degrees Fahrenheit (-63 degrees Celsius). I would think that clothes would be most needed, wouldn’t you? Burroughs tries to explain this away by stating that the Martians have a machine which regulates the atmosphere’s oxygen. I suppose he could have thought that it regulated the temperature as well, but I doubt it. He was probably having one of his childish and outlandish moments.
But that’s not the way Dejah Thoris, Carter’s love interest, felt about clothes at all. What follows is a quote from her:
“…nearly every planet and star having atmospheric conditions at all approaching those of Barsoom (i.e. Mars), shows forms of animal life almost identical with you and me; and, further, Earth men, almost without exception, cover their bodies with strange, unsightly pieces of cloth, and their heads with hideous contraptions the purpose of which we have been unable to conceive…”
Miss Thoris answers a question that has bothered scientists for years. Thanks to her, we now know what types of otherworldly things we shall find on the other planets. No, we shan’t only find Martians, aliens, things of incredible hideousness, and animals that have never been imagined… No, we shall also find nude creatures that look completely alike to us.
Miss Thoris goes on to say show her disdain for wearing clothing, and hats. Interesting. I suppose modesty of any sort does not exist on Mars. Further, I suppose that the temperatures aren’t that unbearable after all. Who knows? Maybe there is a machine which regulates the red Martians’ body temperatures. It is possible—during an outlandish moment, that is.
Interestingly, Miss Thoris claims that almost all Earth men wear clothes. Hmm… I wonder who was (or is) the exception… Definitely worth pondering.
In the end, John Carter marries Miss Thoris, and together they have an…egg. That’s right: an egg. You see, there’s a child in the egg, but before they get the child, the egg must hatch.
I would almost rather the green Martians and white apes (which are very ugly and brutal) to these naked, egg-laying, humans. The latter is definitely more terrifying.
So, that’s A Princess of Mars. What to say?
But, what can we expect from the writer of Tarzan?
Again, I ask: What to say?
Perhaps Ray Bradbury said it best: “I stood on the lawns of summer, raised my hands, and cried for Mars, like John Carter, to take me home. I flew to the red planet and never returned.”
Hmm… I see. He was fooled too. But he got something right. He never did return from Mars.