Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ERB's pulp fiction adventure of brain transplants on Barsoom, 18 Sept. 2003
This review is from: Mastermind of Mars (A Del Rey book) (Mass Market Paperback)
For "The Master Mind of Mars," the sixth volume in his Martian series, Edgar Rice Burroughs introduces another new hero as American Ulysses Paxton crosses the void between Earth and Barsoom to become the chief assistant to the red planet's greatest scientist. Original published in the first "Amazing Stories Annual" in 1927, the story again begins with a letter, from Paxton, a Captain in the U.S. Army, to ERB in which he tells how he was fatally injured on a World War I battlefield and was transported to Barsoom, in the same way John Carter made the trip in "A Princess of Mars." Paxton has sent the author the manuscript, which allows Earthmen to "become better acquainted with the manners and customs of Barsoom." In what strikes me as an attempt to further explore the brain switching from previous novel, "The Chessmen of Mars," with the Kaldanes and Rykors, ERB's pulp fiction story has to do with human brain transfers performed by the title character, Ras Thavas.
Early in the novel Paxton witnesses the scientist transferring the brain of Xara, Jeddara of Phundahl, in the body of a young girl. Now called Vad Varo, Paxton becomes the bodyguard and assistant to Ras Thavas in the city of Toonol, and falls in love with Valla Dia, the young girl whose mind is now in the ancient body of Xara. Our hero helps Ras Thavas transfer his brain to a younger body as well, but extracts a promise from the scientist to help restore Valla's body. Of course, just to make things interesting, Valla is the daughter of Kor San, Jeddak of Duhor, so once again ERB's damsel in distress is Barsoomian royalty (that is to say, yet another princess of Mars). The remainder of the novel follows Vad Varo's attempt to restore his beloved to her own body, which is complicated by a series of brain transplants that alternately help and hinder his effort.
The brain switching angle is rather interesting, and actually makes more sense than your standard "strange alien device transfers consciousness between bodies" that we usually find in such science fiction stories (I just saw that on an old "Farscape" episode), but "The Master Mind of Mars" is pretty much an ERB potboiler where everything is resolved in the final chapter. The novel also has his standard indictment of the futility of war and a rather humorous little attack on false religions, as well as a rather confusing roster of characters. After the classic "Chessman" this next Martian yarn is a bit of a disappointment, but it is still at least an average offering in what is ERB's best series.
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Lawrance Bernabo
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Location: The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota

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