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Book Report: A Princess of Mars

I can’t remember when I first read A Princess of Mars, the first of the Barsoom books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I assume that whenever it was, I must have been appalled by the racial stuff, because it is all so obviously appalling. But I must have been at least somewhat charmed by the action and adventure, because I retained somewhat of a positive feeling about the series.

One of the things about reading Victorian novels the way I have been these last few years is that it trains a reader to simultaneously be appalled and charmed. There is so much that is appalling about even the most enlightened and progressive Victorian, after all. And while Mr. Burroughs wasn’t quite a Victorian, he was the son of a Civil War veteran, born the year that Hans Christian Anderson and Leo Tolstoy died. Not that it’s any less appalling, but as I said that doesn’t stop me from being charmed.

And it is a charming book. It’s slow to get started—that whole introduction is not charming at all, and double appalling—but once John Carter gets to Mars, it sure starts to be silly fun and John Carter becomes a likable puppy dog of a hero. I particularly liked it when he got onto the flyer and promptly got completely lost. Probably my favorite part of the book, although the constant revelations of preposterous coincidences are a lot of fun, too.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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