A Princess of Mars

Posted by : atcampbell | On : June 21, 2011

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

The North Reading Group met on June 21st to discuss A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  Nine members attended and 8 had read it.  The story was serialized in All-Story magazine, starting in 1912, as “Under the Moons of Mars,” by “Norman Bean.”  The stories were collected and A Princess of Mars was published in 1917.  One member commented that she ”could see how it was pretty hot stuff in the old days,” and “Beats the hell out of Little Women and all that stuff!”  Another said that this was from the golden age of SF and he had “strong memories of reading the whole pile.”  He owned first editions.

Other comments were generally complimentary, qualified by the time since it was written- that the protagonist, John Carter, was a fun adventurer; Burroughs was a natural story-teller; he was “good at making up names;” and that it was “good movie material—things blow up a lot!”

The main fault found by these SF fans was that, besides being “hokie and so incredibly of the time period,” that it actually combined little or no science with the fiction.  Burroughs moved the story along with absolutely no attempt to explain how something like a trip to Mars might have been accomplished.  One had to suspend belief and then enjoy the swashbuckling of the hero—much like a western novel of the period–A “penny dreadful.”

Only one person really detested the story, and has since her grandmother gave it to her at the age of 13.  It didn’t fit her attitude then and even more so now.  (Stories from that era involve many attitudes and activities that wouldn’t be considered politically correct today, so readers beware.)

In summary, it was an enormously successful series from an extremely popular author, and spawned a lot of stories by other authors.  It’s an adventure story that does not really involve science but does take place on Mars with several alien species.  But it’s long past its consumption date for some.

— Tom Sciance