17 April 2005

Edgar Rice Burroughs: Barsoom

Front cover of 1st edition dust jacket by St.John from 
collection of  Phantom Bookshop see http://www.johncarterofmars.com

I have recently been re-reading a seminal science fiction series that I first read in my early teens. It is always interesting to revist such books. Now, I know that these pulp fiction books, originally written (and often published in serialised form) in the period 1911-1943 have been critiqued for their implicit sexism and racism, and for naive views of politics. I will certainly not seek to defend them against such charges! Nevertheless, I associate them with my childhood pleasure of reading a good action yarn, a real page turner. Now the first three books in the Martian (or Barsoom as Burrogh's natives call it) series have very simple "rescue the girl" plots, all involving the hero John Carter of Mars, who becomes Warlord of Mars by the end of the third book. The fourth features his son, and the fifth (the one I'm just about to start) I remember as having the most satisfying plot, involving an early version of a live chess match where the pieces must fight for control of the square. Burroughs of course invents his own version of chess for this, called jetan, played on a board with 100 squares coloured yellow and black. Anyone interested in the history of science fiction or fantasy should read at least this one book in the series, if not all 11 books!

The Internet seems to have a good few resources on Barsoom, the coolest being a Barsoom Map mapping Burroughs' locations to modern maps of Mars:

Here are links to the 11 books in the series at Amazon.co.uk (various paperback editions):

The WikiPedia entry on Barsoom usefully points out "The American copyright of the five earliest novels has expired, and they can be found on a number of free e-text sites. The Australian copyright of the remainder, not including John Carter of Mars (1964), has also expired and they too can be found online."

Posted by mofoghlu at April 17, 2005 2:01 PM | TrackBack