Friday, July 31, 2015

Classics Corner: A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs



A Princess of Mars (Barsoom, #1)A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For years I intended to read this novel. I heard over and over again how it's classic scifi, influencer of many books, movies, tv shows we love today. Published in 1917, it's the great-granddaddy of them all.

Then Disney happened. 'John Carter of Mars' is Disney's film version of 'A Princess of Mars'. Dunno why they didn't call the movie by the book's title, unless it goes along with the company trying to get away from anything 'Princess' (thus titles like 'Tangled,' 'Brave,' and 'Frozen'). At first, I was happy a movie was being made of the book. I thought, maybe, it'd give me a taste of the novel, so I'd know what to expect. But then, I'll be honest, I didn't go see the movie because the reviews were so bad. Everyone seemed to be so mad at Disney for created something so stupid. I kept wondering if Disney didn't do the book justice or the reviewers hated the book, too. No one ever said. No one mentioned that it was classic scifi novel in the public domain...and although Disney lost money, it wasn't like it was an original Disney work they poured their hearts out over.

Curious how bad the movie could be, the husband and I watched it. It's NOT that bad. I've endured much worse blockbusters. The pacing in the beginning is slow, but ultimately the film improves later on. Dunno if the pacing/bad editing in the beginning turned people away, or if they didn't like the mix of scifi and fantasy. In today's world, scifi can be very scientific. If the theories in the story aren't kinda maybe possible, people will pick them apart (Scientists on NPR covering Jurassic World for example). We want our scifi to be almost real.

John Carter is a Civil War veteran who finds a cave that takes him to Mars. It's not extremely scientific, it's more magical. He suddenly finds that he also has super human powers on Mars. He befriends a local tribe of green people, gets caught up in politics (that are about as interesting as the Star Wars prequels), and falls in love with a captive humanoid princess. Like any super hero, he saves the day and gets the girl. The book ends on a sad note, but sets the story up for its many sequels.

The story is told by John Carter and really shows its age. Indians are out to get you old-West-style. John Carter is a Confederate gentleman who never forgets his genteel manners no matter what's happening to him. Everyone is either super good or bad. The princess is objectified and needs saving. John Carter suddenly notices that she's humanoid and is instantly in love with her. He turns kinda "Me Tarzan, You Jane" on her. So, it doesn't stand the test of time. When reading (or watching the movie) you've really got to consider the time frame it was published. It's very imaginative for its time. The book rightly belongs on the shelf with other old timers like Tarzan (also by Burroughs) and The Prisoner of Zenda. Still not a bad read if you're a scifi nerd, into classics, or both.


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