The first book in the planetary romance series about Barsoom.

Publication year: 1912
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1974
Format: print
Finnish translator: Seppo Ilmari
Page count: 216
Finnish Publisher: WSOY

There’s no way I can be objective about this series. It’s one of the most memorable SF series I read as a kid and I loved the whole series. To me, John Carter is an iconic (pulp) hero. I was a bit apprehensive about rereading it again after so many years because I was a bit afraid that to an adult the series wouldn’t be as enchanting. I was partly right. I still adored the setting but noticed the definite pulp roots and the sexism. It also quite possible that people who read it only as an adult would be left scratching their heads and wondering what all the fuss was about.

First off, the book is written in first person and, as one reviewer in GoodReads points out, this rather means that John has to constantly tell us how badass he is (and he is pretty badass). But on the other hand, the POV draws the reader right into the story, on the red plains of the dying Mars and, to me at least, it’s still mighty effective. Overall, for me that story still held up pretty well, even with the pompous dialog.

The biggest draw of the book is the romantic atmosphere and I don’t mean the romance between John and Dejah, but the setting. Human societies have flourished on Barsoom for thousands of years but most of them have died off, leaving behind beautiful, crumbling cities where the barbaric Thark tribes live. Even the planet’s atmosphere is dying and would evaporate if not for the atmosphere plant which produces oxygen. The remnants of the human population live in cites which war frequently against each other and against the Tharks. Even though they have extremely effective firearms and airplanes, they tend to fight most with swords. It’s a wonderfully romantic image.

The story itself is pretty straight forward action adventure where John comes inexplicably to Barsoom, explores new societies, makes friends and enemies. He falls in love with a Barsoomian princess and spends the rest of the book pretty much rescuing her.

At least in Thark society, both men and women know how to fight. In fact, the women are the ones who teach the young males (and presumably the females, too) to fight. Males teach tactics. Yet, only the males rule and the women do all the drudge work, such as cooking, rising kids, making ammunition, and healing the male warriors from even the most grievous wounds. Some excuse is made that by tradition the male and female Tharks don’t kill each other. The Tharks also don’t seem to have much of a sex drive and only mate to produce eggs where the offspring come from. The eggs are sealed off in incubation chambers and when they hatch, they are randomly given out to females to raise. John often says that their lives as cold and cruel. The society of the red Barsoomians seem to be more human like.

I can’t help but to compare the book to the movie. Visually the movie was stunning and captured the spirit of Barsoom. The movie Dejah Thoris was also way better: she’s a scientist and a warrior and she uses the brains pretty much the whole movie. The book Dejah is very beautiful and gets kidnapped a lot. Ok, she’s also proud and stands up to the people who threaten her which I guess is better than most female characters did a hundred years ago, especially in pulp adventure stories. But I adored the movie Dejah and thought that the actress, Lynn Collins, stole every scene she was in.

Advertisements