Sixth book in the series. Mad science on Barsoom!
Publication year: 1927
Format: ebook from Gutenberg
Page count: 145
It’s a Barsoom book where the intrepid hero and his group of mismatched allies run around Mars to save the heroine, the most beautiful girl on the planet. What more do you need to know?
This time the hero is a US army officer Ulysses Paxton who is wounded grievously in WWI. He’s read about John Carter and a fan of his, so he delighted when he wakes up in Mars. He writes a letter to Burroughs from Mars and tells about his adventures.
Paxton woke up in the company of Ras Thavas, Barsoom’s greatest scientist and surgeon. After the initial confusion is cleared out and Paxton saves old Ras Thavas from the hands of an assassin, the surgeon teaches the Earth man Barsoom’s language and even takes him as an apprentice and a bodyguard. Paxton is at first horrified when he witnesses Ras Thavas at work because he can change a human brain to another body. His patrons are rich people who want young and beautiful bodies for themselves. Ras Thavas had bought beautiful slaves and the bodies of the recently dead whom he can repair so well that they can be brought back to life. Paxton witnesses Ras Thavas put an ugly old woman’s brain into the body of a young and beautiful woman, and he is very attracted to the young body. Later, Ras Thavas revives the old body who now contains the brain and mind of the young woman, Valla Dia. Paxton talks a lot with her and falls in love with her. He concocts a plan to retrieve her rightful body, which is now used by Xaxa, a cruel jeddara who rules her own city state, so the task isn’t easy.
To help him, Paxton recruits three other men: a man who was betrayed by Xaxa and is now in another man’s body, an assassin, and a man whose brain is now in the body of a ferocious white ape.
Burroughs criticizes religion quite a lot in the story and uses religion as a plot device, too. This time we’re introduced to a city where Issus wasn’t worshiped. Instead, Phuandal’s citizens worship Turgan. They chant out words which they don’t know and it’s heresy to ask what they mean and their religion teaches that certain scientific principles don’t exist, so the worshipers can’t acknowledge them (like basic human biology). Also, their gullibility is used as a plot point.
While the worshipers of Turgan are said to be overly emotional, the citizens of a neighboring city of Toonol, and Ras Thavas himself, is said to be overly rational. Thavas has no problem swapping people’s bodies because he needs the money to continue his scientific experiments. However, he knows that his own slaves and helps hate him, so he can’t trust any of them. Paxton is the only one he trusts.
Once again, the narrator prefers a balance of both rather than an extreme in either, just like in ”Thuvia, Maid of Mars”.
I’m a bit troubled that both women of power which we’ve seen in this series have been ugly and evil: Issus and Xaxa. Yes, the books need villains but they have plenty of male jed and jeddaks who are heroic in addition to the villainous males. The ”good” women don’t seem to have any power at all and are stunningly beautiful. We don’t see much of Valla Dia but she seems rather intelligent and even refuses to have any other body than her own because she doesn’t want to steal one from another and also because Ras Thavas could sell it anyway any time he wants to.
This was another very enjoyable science fantasy adventure. The swapping of brains was almost as creepy as the races in ”Thuvia” were one race was a head another was the body. However, the start of the tale is quite a bit slower than in the previous books.