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John Carter first meets Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium,
This review is from: Princess of Mars (Mars (del Rey Books Numbered)) (Mass Market Paperback)
Edgar Rice Burroughs will always be remembered first and foremost for his creation of Tarzan, but it was the character of John Carter, who first appeared in "A Princess of Mars" who truly served as a template for other science fiction writers. From Lin Carter's "Green Star" series to John Norman's "Gor" novels there are tales of the man from Earth traveling to a strange new world and having wondrous adventures. John Carter was a gentleman of Virginia and Civil War veteran who finds himself looking down at his dying body in an Arizona cave. Opening his arms to the planet Mars, Carter is suddenly whisked to the Red Planet, where rival tribes battle while the planet's atmosphere continues to dissipate. Captured by a band of six-limbed giants, Carter soon earns their respect for his prowess as a warrior and forges a lasting friendship with Tars Tara's of the Tharks. But then the Tharks attack a fleet of airborne vessels and capture Dejah Thoris, the Princess of Helium, the greatest city on Barsoom (as the Martians call Mars). Of course, they get off on the wrong foot, since Carter knows nothing about the culture of the red humanoid race. But the lovely Princess of Mars has captured the Virginian's heart. Abandoning dreams of returning to Earth, he wants nothing better than to win her love. In the meanwhile, he has to protect her from the amorous attention of the depraved ruler of the Tharks, bring some semblance of civilization to the barbarian tribes, and stop all out war between the green men and red men from ending Barsoom's last chance for survival.
"A Princess of Mars" is the first of eleven novels in the Martian Series by Burroughs, most of which seemed to avoid the pitfalls of some of ERB's lesser Tarzan novels. If Dejah Thoris is not the most beautiful woman in the history of fantasy and science fiction, then she certainly has the all-time best name. John Carter is able to take advantage of the Red Planet's lesser gravity to do great feats of leaping about, but it is his innate intelligence and intense sense of personal honor that make him almost idealistically noble. When I first read every ERB novel I could get my hands on in Middle School, Tarzan was always Tarzan, but there was something about John Carter that somehow made him the greater hero in my eyes. Maybe it was the way he handled a sword or how he was always determined to make Barsoom a better place that made him seem Burrough's finest creation while Tarzan was finding lost civilizations in the interior of Africa. Certainly you will find ERB's most imaginative work, including the great game of Martian Chess, in this series. Do not stop at the first book, because while these novels are fast approaching being a century old, they hold up much better than the writings of Jules Verne or H. G. Wells. Not in terms of science, of course, but rather in terms of adventure fantasy.