Monday, July 9, 2012

A Princess of Mars

"And, with my back against a golden throne, I fought once again for Dejah Thoris." (original artwork)
"You look like a Martian princess!" My latest compliment to my friends has earned me a lot of strange looks, but it's been a long time since a book has captured my heart and imagination like A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I must admit that I have only dabbled in the literary realm of full-blown sci-fi, but when I discovered that Burroughs' Barsoom series was written a hundred years ago, I was too intrigued to resist. Before devouring the first of the series, I had not seen the recent film John Carter, which is based on the series... but we'll get to that later. Right now all I want to do is FAN FLAIL over the book. And before I begin I must confess that just like the characters in the book, I like to use everybody's full name!

John Carter's tale begins out west when, fearing that his friend and fellow gold digger is being followed by hostile Apaches, he runs to offer his aid. Skilled in battle thanks to his experience as a Confederate soldier, he manages to escape their advances and retreats to a cave in the hills. But the cave is not to provide the protection he had hoped for. As the Apaches come nipping at his heels, a strange growl echoes through the cave and the air fills with a mysterious gas that renders him unconscious. When he awakes to a dreamlike state, he wanders out of the cave to look upon Mars in the Arizona sky, feeling a pull towards it that he literally can't resist.

Every readjustment imaginable must be made in order to survive on this new planet. Not only does gravity prove a challenge- a simple step forward causes him to jump hundreds of feet upwards instead- but he is soon taken captive by the Tharks (fearsome Green Martians) and must learn their language and customs.
A Princess of Mars was originally a newspaper serial published under a pen-name. (x)
Now, I know you're thinking, 'Sally... Green Martians? Are you seriously recommending this book? How is this Victorian Swag?!' And I'd be lying to you if I told you that I anticipated blogging about this one, but... enter Dejah Thoris, princess to the Red Martians, who are essentially humans. Captured on a scientific mission, she is worthy of a handsome ransom but the leader of the Green Martians has other plans. This provides the central conflict for the story because John Carter is completely devoted to her from the first moment he sees her. And here, dear readers, is why I can safely classify this tale as Victorian Swag. Because not only is it a perfectly executed adventure story, it is one of the most romantic stories I have ever read. I'm telling you... *smelling salts*! I mean, holy PROXIMITY!!! Point me in the direction of the nearest render-me-unconscious gas-filled cave! I want to go to Mars!

The way John Carter speaks so highly of Dejah Thoris is enough to melt me down to martian jelly. Of course, this is after he mistakenly offends her and claims her as his own without being aware of their customs. Still, their romance blossoms on the road to escape the fate the Green Martians have in store for Dejah Thoris in a truly squealing-out-loud-over-every-single-line way. But their escape goes awry and, thinking John Carter is dead, Dejah Thoris becomes engaged to an enemy in an attempt to bring peace and protection to her people. Of course, as fate would have it, John Carter is alive and kicking and must think of some way to kill her new fiance and officially claim her as his own. The only trouble is, when you give your hand in marriage on Mars, you are as good as married. And if a man kills your betrothed, it is forbidden to marry him instead. Trouble in alien-infested paradise! But John Carter, God bless him, is no quitter. "I know but little of your customs here upon Barsoom, Dejah Thoris, but I do know that I love you, and if you meant the last words you spoke to me that day as the hordes of Warhoon were upon us, no other man shall ever claim you as his bride." *SWOON*

This delicious read will have you biting you nails, pounding the table, and screaming in bursts and starts from start to finish. I know, because I literally did all. those. things. And the ending? The ending is too heartbreaking to fathom. AND I STILL HAVE CREYES FOR EYES THREE DAYS LATER! *heart-clutch* But I digress... A Princess of Mars is simply written, but beautifully told. And some of the things Edgar Rice Burroughs imagined up? I'm still amazed that this was written in 1912! But it's a timeless tale about courage, honor, and the meaning of love and friendship, two concepts completely foreign to the Tharks. It was unexpected, but this one gave me ALL THE FEELINGS and I'm just dying to start the next book to see what happens next! And for you lucky Kindle readers, many of the books in the Barsoom series are free on Amazon. That's code for download it now, or else!
Ughhhhh John Carter! My cheiftain! (x)
Now... I was so caught up in this world when I finished that I immediately got my hands on a copy of John Carter. But it was too soon! Listen y'all, I have playlists made in honor of Taylor Kitsch's Tim Riggins and unbeknownst to him, we're getting married any day now. But... oh how I hate that word! I could not get over the differences! The movie follows the bare-bones plot line of A Princess of Mars, but it throws in a tangle of made-up plots, mystical medallions in lieu of plain old mystery, and even races to muddy up an already flawless story. Why do they do this in movies? Why?! I'm telling you, if they had stuck to the book, John Carter would have been a box office slam-freaking-dunk. Especially if they had captured the emotion of the original cliff-hanger ending. While I will n-e-v-e-r forgive the fact that John Carter was a widower (what. the. HELL?! Dejah Thoris was the only woman he ever loved!) and the we-must-make-this-one-tribe-pure-evil-instead-of-morally-questionable nonsense, what I will say for the film is that they perfectly captured the look of the story. Minus all the extra mess they threw into a doesn't-come-more-perfect-than-this canon, it was exactly as I envisioned it while reading the book.

Verdict: READ THE BOOK NOW OR HEAR ME ROAR!!!!!!!!!!!! If I could assign this as homework, I so would! You heard it here first: John Carter is your next fictional boyfriend, guaranteed. They don't come any more noble than him! And finally, dear readers, you all look like Martian princesses!

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