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A Princess of Mars
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Narrated by John Bolen, unabridged
Tantor Media, 6 hours 46 minutes

Edgar Rice Burroughs
Edgar Rice Burroughs was born in Chicago in 1875. He attended several schools during his youth, later moving to a cattle ranch out west in Idaho. After about a year or so, his parents packed him off to the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, then to the Michigan Military Academy at Orchard Lake, graduating in 1895. He joined the army and wound up in the Seventh United States Cavalry, stationed at Fort Grant, Arizona Territory. In 1899, he moved to Chicago to work at his father's American Battery Company. By 1911, he was working as a pencil sharpener wholesaler. One of his duties was to verify the placement of ads for his sharpeners in various magazines. These were all-fiction "pulp" magazines and he thought he could do that. "Tarzan of the Apes" appeared in the October 1912 issue of All-Story magazine.

Edgar Rice Burroughs Web Site
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Pellucidar
SF Site Review: The Moon Maid
SF Site Review: Pirates of Venus
Tarzan Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Ivy Reisner

A Princess of Mars Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote his first novel, A Princess of Mars, in 1911, publishing it in All-Story magazine as a serialized novel (under the title Under the Moons of Mars) between February and July of 1912. This was 14 years before Hugo Gernsback founded the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, and coined the term "scientificion," which was later changed to "science fiction." Science fiction, as a recognized publishing genre, was not established while Burroughs was writing his earlier novels.

What he wrote, in his 11-book John Carter of Mars series (sometimes called the Barsoom series), and in many of his other novels, are transplanted westerns. Indeed, this holds for much of the history of American science fiction. The underlying idea of a western runs something like this; you have the East, settled, civilized, and somewhat locked in. Then you have the West; wild, new, and unformed. A man could go west to redefine himself and make his fortune. Carter starts his adventure in Arizona, down on his luck, needing to start anew. There isn't much further west he can go. So instead, he goes to Mars.

It's a strange transit. The planet simply pulls him through the dark of space, dropping him down in the bed of a dried up ocean. There, he bounces around on Mars, in a way that modern readers might find reminiscent of Neil Armstrong and his crew bouncing around on the moon, though that wouldn't happen until almost 60 years later.

The western structure typically has a man with eastern sensibilities and western skills. We get an in-group that we recognize as western, a caravan of settlers perhaps, and an out-group that threatens the in-group. The hero has the ideals of the in-group and the skills of the outsiders, and so becomes the champion of the in-group. John Carter identifies with the red men of Mars, whom he likens several times to the pioneers of his own lineage. The stronger fighters on Mars are the enormous green men, whom he compares to the Apache he fought earlier in the novel. John Carter fights for the red men with the strength of the green.

Burroughs twists the pattern by having John Carter claim his victories as often by his words as by his weapons, and in so doing has created a novel that speaks to the sensibilities and tastes of a modern audience as well as it did to the first fans who devoured it in issue after issue of All-Story. John Bolen reads the work with a fine southern accent, and the Martian accent he creates for the red planet characters is highly entertaining.

Watch for the Pixar Motion Picture, John Carter of Mars, based on this novel, and directed by Andrew Stanton, to be released in 2012.

Copyright © 2009 Ivy Reisner

Ivy Reisner is a writer, an obsessive knitter, and a podcaster. Find her at

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