Saturday, May 19th, 2012

kittiwake: (travel)
I opened my eyes upon a strange and weird landscape. I knew that I was on Mars; not once did I question either my sanity or my wakefulness. I was not asleep, no need for pinching here; my inner consciousness told me as plainly that I was upon Mars as your conscious mind tells you that your are upon Earth. You do not question the fact; neither did I.

There is a mystery about John Carter that is almost forgotten in the excitement of his adventures on Mars. He claims to be immortal and that he has been known as Uncle Jack to generations of his family but has appeared to be abut 30 years old (if indeed they are his relations, since he can't remember his childhood). I wonder whether this is explained in one of the later books, or whether his origins will remain forever mysterious.

I noticed that in a couple of places John Carter uses the word shambles in its old sense, of a place where animals are slaughtered and butchered. When he describes the aftermath of a battle as a 'bloody shambles' he is not swearing, and means that it is literally covered in gore and body parts, and not that it is a disorganised mess. I wonder if that meaning was still in general use in Virginia at the time of the American Civil War, or whether his use of obsolete terms is pointing to his immortality?

I liked Sola's story and how it showed that the green martians' cold and loveless society is a cultural artefact rather than determined by evolution and genetics I liked John Carter a lot too; he says that he isn't a hero because taking the easy way out never even occurs to him until afterwards, he sees the green martians as men and women rather than alien monsters, and he is very fond of animals and uses kindness to turn the 'guard-dog' into a loyal and friendly pet, and the unpredictable throats into reliable mounts who won't throw their rider at the worst possible moment and try to gore him.

There is one one thing about this book that I definitely don't like - Edgar Rice Burroughs is just rubbish at thinking up character names! The women's names aren't so bad, but John Carter is a boring name for the protagonist, and the martian men's names such as Kantos Kan and Tars Tarkas.just seem ridiculously clunky.

---

I nominated this book for the Motley Fool on-line book club, because the recent film based on it, "John Carter", was so badly received that I thought it would be interesting to see what the original story was like, and it won the vote for a book available as a free download.

Now that I have finished, I would quite like to see the recent film to see how they made such a mess of it. I would have thought that "A Princess of Mars" would made a good film, as it has an exotic alien setting, a likeable hero and heroine, romantic misunderstandings, character development (Tars Tarkas and the green martians), monstrous beasts (the white apes), cuddly beasts (the loveable Woola), and plenty of excitement in the form of daring escapes, airship chases, sword-fights and battles on land and in the air.

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kittiwake

June 2012

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