Swords of Mars: As fun as they get

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsSwords of Mars by Edgar Rice BurroughsSwords of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Swords of Mars is the 8th of 11 JOHN CARTER OF MARS books that Edgar Rice Burroughs gave to the world. It first appeared serially in the Blue Book Magazine in six parts, from November 1934 to April 1935, and is one of the best in the series. For the first time since book 3, The Warlord of Mars, Carter himself takes center stage, rather than making a brief cameo appearance, and his return as the lead character is perhaps the best single element of this book.

This time around, Carter goes to the Barsoomian city of Zodanga to put an end to the assassins guild that is thriving there. In the first half of the novel, Carter goes undercover to infiltrate this Murder Inc.-type of organization, and this segment is extremely tense and exciting. In the second half, Carter’s wife, Dejah Thoris, in what to any reader of this series must come as an instance of Dejah vu (sorry…couldn’t resist!), is abducted again, and Carter follows her kidnappers to one of the Martian moons, using one of that planet’s first spaceships. His subsequent adventures on the moon propel the reader into the realm of pure fantasy. Both parts of the novel are as fun as can be, although very much different in tone.

This novel features very few of the inconsistencies — both internal and with other books in the series — that mar every previous CARTER novel. There are some, however. For example, the great Scarlet Tower of Greater Helium is referred to in this book, whereas in previous novels, this tower was referred to as being in Lesser Helium, and besides which, was destroyed in book 5, The Chessmen of Mars.

More of a problem in the current volume are the book’s implausibilities. For example, Carter & company jump out of their spaceship on that Martian moon, without bothering to check on the moon’s breathable air. Fortunately, the air is just fine, thank you, although Burroughs makes nothing of this… surprising, given the pains he had taken in previous books to explain the breathable air on Mars itself. The invisibility-inducing hypnosis that the moon people use against Carter is a bit much to buy, but that’s alright; it’s all in good fun. But Burroughs’ theory that a person who lands on this 7-mile-wide moon would be the same relative size that he would be on Mars — in other words, that he would shrink in proportion to the planetoid’s mass; his so-called “compensatory adjustment of masses” — is, as Carter puts it, “preposterous,” though, as it turns out, such is the case in the book. Like I said, it’s all in good fun. And this book IS as fun as they get.

Oh… one other nice touch. As pointed out in the ERB List, a fine Burroughs Website, if you take the first letter of each first word of each chapter in this book, you will find a secret message that Burroughs incorporated for his new bride. A nice touch.

Barsoom (John Carter of Mars) — (1917-1941) Let the adventures begin, as Captain John Carter finds himself transported to the alien landscape of Mars — where the low gravity increases his speed and strength exponentially. Taken prisoner by Martian warriors, he impresses them with his remarkable fighting skills, and quickly rises to a high-ranking chieftain. But the heroic Carter’s powers thrust him right in the middle of a deadly war raging across the planet — and a dangerous romance with a divine princess.

Edgar Rice Burroughs 1. A Princess of MarsEdgar Rice Burroughs 2. The Gods of MarsEdgar Rice Burroughs 3. The Warlord of MarsEdgar Rice Burroughs 4. Thuvia, Maid of MarsEdgar Rice Burroughs 5. The Chessmen of MarsEdgar Rice Burroughs 6. The Master Mind of MarsEdgar Rice Burroughs 7. A Fighting Man of MarsEdgar Rice Burroughs 8. Swords of MarsEdgar Rice Burroughs 9. Synthetic Men of MarsEdgar Rice Burroughs 10. Llana of Gatholfantasy and science fiction book reviews


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SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....

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