Friday, July 27, 2012

Review: The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

The Warlord of Mars (John Carter of Mars #3)
By: Edgar Rice Burroughs
Publisher: Fall River Press

About the book:

For glory, power, and love...

In this thrilling adventure, John Carter risks everything to rescue his beloved wife, the Martian princess Dejah Thoris, from the seemingly impregnable Temple of the Sun, where she has been imprisoned by the evil false goddess Issus. Carter will not only brave extreme conditions and horrifying creatures, but he'll also wage bloody battles against Martian combatants long divided over theology, race, and politics. Can Carter overcome these incredible odds to become the mighty Warlord of Mars?

The Warlord of Mars is the third book in the classic best-selling John Carter of Mars science-fantasy series. Written during the heyday of the pulp fiction era, these epic, swashbuckling Red Planet tales of derring-do and dazzling romance permanently remapped the terrain of fantasy and science fiction.


Edgar Rice Burroughs concluded John Carter's first cycle of adventures on Mars -- sometimes referred to as the Martian Trilogy -- with the serialized publication of The Warlord of Mars in 1913-1914. At the conclusion of the previous installment, The Gods of Mars, the future of John Carter's beloved princess Dejah Thoris was in grave doubt. Having proven that the centuries-old Martian worship of Issus was falsehood perpetuated by power-hungry members of the Holy Therns and the First Born races, Carter set about destroying the religious infrastructure in order to free Barsoom from the false promises of the Issus-worshippers, where devotion is repaid with slavery and violent death. But Carter's quest to spread the truth is not without a price, as in repayment for his actions Carter's enemies lock the one he holds most dear in the vault at the center of the Temple of the Sun -- a room that can only be accessed once per Martian year. Seconds before the door closed, Carter saw Dejah Thoris nearly stabbed by Phaidor, the daughter of the head of the Therns and his avowed enemy since he spurned her romantic overtures. Living with the torment of not knowing whether his beloved wife is alive or dead, Carter has worked furiously to discover a way to free Dejah from her prison -- but his enemies will do anything to get to her first and claim her as their own. Fighting men who have nothing to lose, Carter chases news of Dejah across Barsoom, confronting countless new enemies, challenges, and even climates in his single-minded quest to save his imprisoned wife.

The Warlord of Mars is the slimmest of the first three volumes in Burroughs's John Carter of Mars series, but it is every bit as action-packed as its predecessors. Unlike the first two Carter novels, there is no prologue from Edgar Rice Burroughs, no preface to the following action from Carter to his "nephew" and guardian. The action opens a few months after Carter deposed the fake goddess Issus , with our hero deep in the throes of his search for a way to rescue the imprisoned Dejah and Thuvia, the latter a former Thern slave instrumental in aiding Carter when he returned to Mars in hostile territory at the beginning of the second novel. Whereas the previous novel saw Carter dealing essentially a death blow to the age-old Martian religion, exposing it as a cult, this follow-up adventure is largely concerned with the fall-out of that successful assault and sets up endless possibilities for future battle with the false religion's deposed leaders. Is there ever any question of Carter's ultimate success? No -- but that is part of the fun and magic of these books. Burroughs was a master craftig non-stop action sequences and building tension and suspense in his novels. Just when you think that surely Burroughs's imagination must be tapped out, he introduces new people, places, and customs to challenge Carter's seeming invincibility. Predictable? Sure, such is perhaps the nature of pulp fiction. But in the hands of a master like Burroughs, he proves that the journey is always a worthwhile and entertaining ride.

John Carter's third Martian adventure is just as fast-paced a rollicking adventure ride as its predecessors, and serves as a fitting capstone to the first "trilogy" within the overall series. When he was first introduced in A Princess of Mars, Carter was a man without a country or purpose, forced to make his way in a wholly alien world. In The Gods of Mars, Carter returns to Barsoom after an absence of ten years, and has to fight to reclaim the life he built with Dejah Thoris's people. The Warlord of Mars brings Carter full circle, forcing him to fight for the life he wants on his new home, culminating in a rather touching recognition of Carter's place and the esteem in which he's held by his adopted countrymen and friends. Having never explored pulp fiction of this ilk until recently, I remain thorougly impressed by Burroughs's work and in no little awe of his standing as a trailblazer in the science-fiction world. Barsoom is peopled with colorful peoples of wildly varied cultures, fascinating landscapes, and never-ending posibilities for adventure and death-defying escapades.

These novels are sheer fun from start to finish. I adore John Carter's completely over-the-top, unbelievable invincibility and his old-fashioned heroic charm. I love how much he adores Dejah Thoris -- it could be argued that he's the anti-James Bond, since Carter is just as ridiculously perfect and appealing to women, but he's very much a one-woman man, and his love story appeals to the old-fashioned romantic in me. :) Snappily plotted, well-written, imaginative, and endlessly adventurous, The Warlord of Mars confirms me as an avid John Carter fan, and happily there is no end in sight when it comes to exploring Burroughs's backlist. Barsoom and its people are a world I love getting lost in -- escapist entertainment of the highest order.


Continuing my look at classic John Carter covers, here's the Frank E. Schoonover cover for the 1919 hardback release -- isn't it a beauty?


Heidenkind said...

I love the covers!

Unknown said...

@Tasha B. - The new or classic covers? Or both, lol! I am of course partial to them both...I wish Fall River press would re-issue all of the Carter novels, but so far they've just done the first three.