Wizard of Venus and Pirate Blood (Venus No 5) Mass Market Paperback – 1 Jul 1991
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Once again using telepathy to pass his story on to ERB, Carson tells of an adventure with Duare and their friend Ero Shan. They first meet in Havatoo when Carson built his first anotar (the first airplane on Venus), and later when prisoners in Voo-ad. Now Carson is experimenting with a more advanced anotar and when the two friends take it out for a test flight, they have a few problems. Landing in a strange and beautiful land, they are accused of being wizards by the inhabitants of the local castle, who are worried about somebody called Morgas. Once he shows up, the fun begins in earnest. Again, these Venus books show more tongue in cheek humor than we usually find in Burroughs (Carson and Ero Shan take to calling each other Sir Galahad and Sir Gawain at one point), and overall represent the best work ERB did in his final years.
"Pirate Blood" was another ERB novella found in that same safe, although it was apparently written back in 1932. The hero is Johnny LaFitte, who is descended from the infamous Jean LaFitte. The story returns to one of ERB's favorite themes, heredity versus environment, and his belief that it you do not have the right environment a "bad seed" will indeed go bad. This is a very atypical Burroughs novel, filled with cold blooded murders, violent rapes, and suicide. There is even an illegitimate pregnancy between Johnny and his gal as ERB really lays on the morality play. Clearly the only reason that "Pirate Blood" was published with "The Wizard of Venus" was because they were found in that safe together. These stories have nothing in common and "Pirate Blood" really reads like a first draft that ERB just never went back and revised. The last Venus story is the attraction here, and the other a minor curiosity.
The ISBN of the 1983 Ace mass-market paperback that I read is 0441901956. This copy contains "The Wizard of Venus" and the unrelated story "Pirate Blood." The first 86 pages are devoted to "The Wizard of Venus," and eight of those are blank. So even the more generous Edgar Rice Burroughs' fans should hesitate to call this a novel. But you might want to read it because it is the last published story in Burroughs' Venus series.
Carson Napier, the hero of the Venus series, adopts a new modus operandi. In preceding adventures he employs physical skills of boxing and fencing. Through his intermediary Mr. Burroughs, Carson has previously informed us of his skills of telepathy, but he has not used them. Now he does.
Carson and his companion Ero Shan take off to test Carson's new aeroplane. Thick fog, even worse than Venus's normal permanent overcast, forces them down in an unknown land with medieval castles. The people are, allegedly, oppressed by a wizard who can turn them into zorats (Venus's strange equivalent of horses). Before they can continue on their way home, Carson and Ero Shan are compelled, as well as obliged, to help out. And they do.
Besides PIRATES OF VENUS, LOST ON VENUS, CARSON OF VENUS, ESCAPE ON VENUS, and "The Wizard of Venus," there is only one Burroughs-Venus item that I know of. Mentioned in an appendix of Irwin Porges's biography of Burroughs, it is two-and-a-half pages of an unfinished story that Burroughs was writing in Honolulu when the bombing of Pearl Harbor interrupted him. Then he became occupied by the war, and Venus was abandoned. Porges notes that "The Wizard of Venus" and the unfinished story "...were planned as the first of a proposed three or four novelettes in a new Venus series."
This is a fictional autobiography of John Lafitte, a southern Californian circa 1932 and a descendant of the controversial historical figure Jean Lafitte. John's bloodline is humble compared to that of Frank Adams, his best friend, who has two presidents as ancestors. And though the family of John's high school heartthrob, Daisy, becomes wealthy in an oil boom, John remains the son of a shoemaker. But he seems to be settling down all right as a motorcycle policeman when life throws him two impossible-to-hit fastballs. One is that Daisy tells him she is going to marry Frank. The other is that John's efforts to catch a bank robber end with John being dropped into a perilous mess of modern-day pirates. Now he is has two strikes and must struggle against poor odds to recover.
Though a science fiction fan, I found this story deeper, more complex, and more visceral than "The Wizard of Venus." But magazine after magazine rejected it in 1932, and it was not published until 1970, posthumously. Even then, and even though it's twice as long as "The Wizard of Venus," Ace Books placed "Pirate Blood" behind the former, which also got the cover art.
Usually the morals of an Edgar Rice Burroughs protagonist are as heroic as his hero. But despite its style, which makes Burroughs' authorship authentic, "Pirate Blood" has a hero whose morals are shaky. John excuses his homicidal experiences and piracy by saying that circumstances forced him to join the pirates and that he was urged on by ancestral blood. Still....
In his introduction to the Bison Books edition of PIRATES OF VENUS, F. Paul Wilson says that "Pirate Blood" is "...an unsold eugenics broadside in story form from the 1930s." I disagree. Burroughs was an adherent of eugenics, as is his character John Lafitte, and eugenics affords an explanation for why the character fits in smoothly with pirates. But in no way, shape, or form is "Pirate Blood" a boring, argumentative spewing of political or scientific prose. It is an adventure story by the Master of Adventure, and you don't need to believe in the hero's ideas about genetics in order to be pleased.