Friday, January 29, 2010
A Princess of Mars
By Edgar Rice Burroughs
Doc Savage and John Carter of Mars are two hero's of early sci fi whose exploits I have always meant to get around to reading about, and finally, I've begun the latter. I'm almost more curious about the style in which such books were written than about the actual stories, as I have always found the way very old novels were written reflected the culture that produced them. I first noticed this when reading HG Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle and Honoré de Balzac, where a dull inspid story might have a strange and lurid ambience, simply by the words and phrases which the author had used.
'A Princess of Mars' is written in just such an old world fashion that lends charm to its two dimensional story. Its just like those old Flash Gordon serials featuring Buster Crabbe. The acting is amazingly bad, but one is compelled to watch because its all just so weird. John Carters adventures are written with all the dexterity and penmanship of an over imaginative teenager, where violence and death are of no account and mass slaughter is merely something the hero notes in passing. Coincidence rules supreme and for some reason John Carter is able to move from the jaws of death to romantic exultation in the space of a single page.
None of this matters though. These stories have survived almost a century because they are unrealistic. If you want realism then commute. Barsoom is a place where hero's do heroism and anything can happen!