Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Collected John Carter of Mars - Volume Two

Last night I finished reading Volume Two of the Collected John Carter of Mars, which contains four stories, Thuvia, Maid of Mars; the Chessmen of Mars; the Master Mind of Mars; a Fighting Man of Mars, all by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  (See my post discussing Volume One).  Unlike the first three stories, which are concerned with John Carter trying to get Dejah Thoris in some way, these are mostly different, and do not directly involve John Carter.

Thuvia, Maid of Mars mostly concerns the titular Thuvia, a friend of John Carter and his wife Dejah Thoris, and princess of friendly power Ptarth.  Like most ERB women, she is stolen from her father, and serves as a the object of a chase by the hero, here John Carter's half martian son Carthoris.  The story continues in the usual way; however it is interesting in that it introduces the Lotharians, the last descendants of the original martians, and their mental powers of suggestion (which are powerful enough to emulate reality).  This story was also interesting for having at least a bit of Thuvia's point of view, although this is limited.

Not quite like this
Chessmen of Mars is mostly about Tara, John Carter's heretofore unmentioned daughter, and her initially unwanted suitor Gahan of Gathol.  This story also introduces the Kaldanes, which are basically brains without a body, which then ride around as the "head" of a body creature that has no brain.  A portion of the story is from the point of view of Tara, which was interesting, although she appears to lack the muscular development of her father and brother, and has to solve problems with her wits (and lovely singing voice).  Another element of the story is Jetan, or Martian chess, which is where the title of the story comes. Detailed rules are given in the appendix, so those interested could give the game a go.

Master Mind of Mars I found to be the most interesting, because it reads quite a bit like a D&D adventure.  Ulysses Paxton, new character from Earth, transits to Mars, works with a mad scientist, puts together a party of adventurers, sets out to rescue a princess, impersonates a god, and saves the day a the end.  Well worth reading, even if you are skipping all of the other stories in this book.  The titular Master Mind is also interesting, because his primary occupation is the transfer of brains from the elderly living to the bodies of the young dead, but he likes to mix it up a bit, and would make an excellent villain for use in other situations.

Fighting Man of Mars again introduces us to a new character, this one a native Martian from the Heliumite empire. He has a number of adventures trying to rescue the woman he loves from a foreign power.  Some of the technological developments of recent years on Mars are discussed and include a death ray and an invisible ship.  This incidentally also contains prior art for meta material invisibility, albeit as a paint. Also interesting in this story is the inclusion of the slave girl Tavia, who is shown to be skilled with swords, and as good as any man.

Volume Three is on order from the library, but I will not get to it for a bit even if it is available, as I have a few other books to read first.

No comments: