John Carter, a Confederate soldier and Virginia gentleman, is whisked suddenly up to Mars while hiding from a tribe of Indian Warriors. There, he meets strange creatures of many types -- tall, green aliens with three sets of limbs, huge, white, monstrous apes, and men much like himself with pure, bright red skin.
He finds that, because of the lower gravity on Mars -- or Barsoom, as the inhabitants call it -- he can jump enormously high and far. He also finds that he is a prisoner of the fierce, brutal green creatures, who keep him alive merely for the entertainment of his impressive bounding abilities.
But when the red princess Dejah Thoris is captured and sentenced to death, John must find a way to save her before the warring of the Martian tribes dooms all life on the planet to extinction.
I picked up this book without realizing that it is soon to be made into a feature film by Disney, a film with the title John Carter. But once I found this out, it occurred to me that families going to see the film might want to read the book first, so I thought a review of the story might be helpful.
Though vastly unscientific, the book is a fun, rollicking adventure, as John struggles to protect Dejah Thoris. Each oddity of Mars is described in precise and exact detail, giving the reader an intriguing picture of life and society on the red planet. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ fantastic imagination imbues the setting with a uniqueness that is rarely equaled in more realistic science-fiction.
Though the presence of aliens is questionable theologically, the book upholds morality throughout. Compassion, courage and honor are held up as virtues, and the romance, though a bit melodramatic, is pure and innocent. Family relationships are highly valued, and there is no language or adult content.
There is quite a bit of violence throughout, though it is not graphic. Some of the creatures and the battles might be frightening to some children. But the most problematic element is the fact that throughout the book, all of the aliens and John himself are said to be completely unclothed. Attention is not drawn to the fact, and I simply imagined them with clothes on, but I would certainly prefer that the author had not made this choice, and I can understand why some people might be uncomfortable with this. Thankfully in the upcoming film the characters are clothed -- at least somewhat.
Much of the book is told in summary rather than dialogue, making it a little hard to get into at times. Also, the narrator frequently explains things that he learned later on, which can be both illuminating and confusing. The language is fairly simple and easy to read, though there might be an unusual word here and there.
While not brilliant science-fiction, this is an enjoyable story full of action, adventure and romance, a fascinating introduction to Burroughs’ imaginative world of the planet Mars.