Friday, June 24, 2005

50 in 05: Martians, etc.

Summertime! Summer is when I buy lots of books--Morrison's 7 Soldiers series, Disinfo's Book of Lies, and Chomsky's What Uncle Sam Really Wants, most recently--but the actual reading goes slowly. It's hot and I'm sweaty and I'm daydreaming of going really fast in a car that's really cool.

#17: A Princess of Mars and #18 The Gods of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Martians! These are the first books in a series that originally appeared in pulp magazines starting in 1914. Burroughs later created Tarzan, but he kept returning to these stories of John Carter, the Warlord of Mars. Carter is a Civil War veteran hailing from Virginia, and one day while on the run from Indians in Arizona, he is bodily transported to far-away Mars, called Barsoom by its natives, where he discovers he is Awesome at Everything and goes on to conquer everyone he meets and marries a princess. Huzzah!

Actually, they're pretty good. I think they would be more enjoyable when read as intended, or at least as originally published, in cliff-hanging excerpts from issue to issue. It's fun, sci-fi adventure stories for boys, before the trappings of sci-fi choked the genre into complacency. I also appreciate how BANG! the adventure begins right away--there isn't 50 pages of getting John Carter to Mars, or worry about how he got there. He's just there, and the story unfolds. Part of that is due to the format, the getting-to-the-point of it made necessary by serialization, but even that can go wrong--see superhero comics these days, and stories that are "written for the trade."

Odds are, you can find these stories cheap, too. There are something like 12 or 14 books in this series, but I've seen a collection of the first three floating around. And as good as it is, they are adventure stories for boys--after reading two I was more than ready to move on to something else for a while.

Next--Brautigan, Abortions, Steinbecks!

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