A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In A Princess of Mars (1917) by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875–1950) culture is one aspect of human nature that is shown to transcend time and space across the universe.
Dejah Thoris, the princess referred to by the title of the book, protests to her fellow Martians: ”Why, oh, why will you not learn to live in amity with your fellows… A people without written language, without art, without homes, without love… Owning everything in common, even to your women and children, has resulted in your owning nothing in common” (p 87).
Echoes of this can be found in Huxley’s Brave New World, which was published fifteen years later in 1932.
For many, communal living has been a human practice since the dawn of time. Even many religious leaders on Earth have prophesied to own nothing and share everything, a form of social ownership and cooperative management that has never quite caught on.
But Dejah pleads otherwise, saying: ”You hate each other as you hate all else except yourselves. Come back to the ways of our common ancestors, come back to the light of kindliness and fellowship” (p 87).
Here she is calling a path of all the green-men of Tharks to abandon a collective frame of mind and seek another avenue of living, exemplified on Mars by the red-men of Zodanga who resemble more the Romans in their manners of lifestyle. Dejah resembles a modern American attempting to force Democracy upon a hill-tribe of sheepherders. Not only does tradition not allow for such a sudden and drastic change, most of the people do not wish it to be so. Democracy is a nation by nation practice and still it is not the best form of government for humankind.
Take a look at the crumbling empire of America, where the politicians must vote in order to see if they can vote (sounds like the indolent Greeks of olden times) and these same men and women are bought and paid to represent the super-wealthy national corporations and global conglomerates (sounds like the greedy Romans of ancient years) and not the meek, the people. Dejah has her delusions as well. No. A form of government to manage an entire planet, such as Mars, known as Barsoom, in this book or our own planet Earth, has not been created yet because no such thing has ever happened.
While on Mars, John Carter (the character was made popular recently by the film with the same name) first experiences the Tharks and the Warhoon hordes, both having communal structures of living and both treating John as a prisoner.
Later, the people of Zodanga befriend John and provide him with food, clothes in the style of a Zodangan gentlemen of the house of Ptor, and some money. Here the individualistic society of the red-men in Zodanga offer their hospitality, illustrating a higher form of civilization on Mars (p 206-207).
Another example found in the society of red-men on Barsoom is the issue of honesty. Dejah states that she does not know what a gentleman is and that ”on Barsoom no man lies; if he does not wish to speak the truth he is silent” (p 99). Again Burroughs is exemplifying how aspects of human nature are magnified on Barsoom as positive traits. And Dejah continues with one of the most popular lines from both book and film: ”I knew that even though you became a member of the community you would not cease to be my friend; ‘A warrior may change his metal, but not his heart,’ as the saying is upon Barsoom” (p 117).
At the height of World War I, which would end in November 1918, warriors were ever abundant and international friendships were also being tested at that time. Burroughs would have known this. The entire world would have known of this issue of an order of people seeking to establish unity and modernity over a communal and traditional period of humankind in Europe. One can only wonder if Burroughs held a political commentary in this venture saga of John Carter, a Civil War vet, who finds himself fighting, like the Confederate Army did, for tradition on the foreign planet Barsoom.
One thing is for sure, Burroughs had a way with words. And from one of the earliest uses I can find of the phrase ”a blaze of glory,” made famous in the last one hundred years, Burroughs still keeps impacting all of us, even if we may be unaware of such trifles.
Carter is in mortal combat with Zad: ”We circled for some time without doing much damage on either side; the long, straight, needle-like swords flashing in the sunlight, and ringing out upon the stillness as they crashed together with each effective parry. Finally Zad, realizing that he was tiring more than I, evidently decided to close in and end the battle in a final blaze of glory for himself” (p 133).
Burroughs still influences readers today with spin-offs that include Dejah Thoris and other graphic novels, pulp fiction and comic books. For a complete list of Burroughs’s Mars saga, see below.
And with that I leave you with Bon Jovi and his little blaze of glory. And by the way, Burroughs is a strong recommend, whether for a fun adventure that sprouts deadly duels and a romance between a princess and a soldier or a political critique of the world that saw its first Great War.
Barsoomian novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs
A PRINCESS OF MARS (1917)
THE GODS OF MARS (1918)
WARLORD OF MARS (1919)
THUVIA, MAID OF MARS (1920)
THE CHESSMEN OF MARS (1922)
THE MASTER MIND OF MARS (1928)
A FIGHTING MAN OF MARS (1931)
SWORDS OF MARS (1936)
SYNTHETIC MEN OF MARS (1940)
LLANA OF GATHOL (1948)
JOHN CARTER OF MARS (1964)
The American novelist CG FEWSTON has been a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy), a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU, & he’s a been member of the Hemingway Society, Americans for the Arts, PEN America, Club Med, & the Royal Society of Literature. He’s also a been Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) based in London.
He’s the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father’s Son (2005), The New America: A Collection (2007), The Mystic’s Smile ~ A Play in 3 Acts (2007), Vanity of Vanities (2011), A Time to Love in Tehran (2015), Little Hometown, America (2020); A Time to Forget in East Berlin (2022), and Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being (2023).
He has a B.A. in English, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Fiction. He was born in Texas in 1979.
A TIME TO FORGET IN EAST BERLIN
BREW Book Excellence Award Winner
BREW Readers’ Choice Award Winner
“A spellbinding tale of love and espionage set under the looming shadow of the Berlin Wall in 1975… A mesmerising read full of charged eroticism.”
~ Ian Skewis, Associate Editor for Bloodhound Books, & author of best-selling novel A Murder of Crows (2017)
“An engrossing story of clandestine espionage… a testament to the lifestyle encountered in East Berlin at the height of the Cold War.”
~ Lone Star Literary Life Magazine
“There is no better way for readers interested in Germany’s history and the dilemma and cultures of the two Berlins to absorb this information than in a novel such as this, which captures the microcosm of two individuals’ love, relationship, and options and expands them against the blossoming dilemmas of a nation divided.”
~ D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
“A Time to Forget in East Berlin is a dream-like interlude of love and passion in the paranoid and violent life of a Cold War spy. The meticulous research is evident on every page, and Fewston’s elegant prose, reminiscent of novels from a bygone era, enhances the sensation that this is a book firmly rooted in another time.”
~ Matthew Harffy, prolific writer & best-selling historical fiction author of the “Bernicia Chronicles” series
“Vivid, nuanced, and poetic…”
“Fewston avoids familiar plot elements of espionage fiction, and he is excellent when it comes to emotional precision and form while crafting his varied cast of characters.”
“There’s a lot to absorb in this book of hefty psychological and philosophical observations and insights, but the reader who stays committed will be greatly rewarded.”
“Readers of The Catcher in the Rye and similar stories will relish the astute, critical inspection of life that makes Little Hometown, America a compelling snapshot of contemporary American life and culture.”
“Fewston employs a literary device called a ‘frame narrative’ which may be less familiar to some, but allows for a picture-in-picture result (to use a photographic term). Snapshots of stories appear as parts of other stories, with the introductory story serving as a backdrop for a series of shorter stories that lead readers into each, dovetailing and connecting in intricate ways.”
~ D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
“The American novelist CG FEWSTON tells a satisfying tale, bolstered by psychology and far-ranging philosophy, calling upon Joseph Campbell, J. D. Salinger, the King James Bible, and Othello.”
“In this way, the author lends intellectual heft to a family story, exploring the ‘purity’ of art, the ‘corrupting’ influences of publishing, the solitary artist, and the messy interconnectedness of human relationships.”
~ Lone Star Literary Life Magazine
GOLD Winner in the 2020 Human Relations Indie Book Awards for Contemporary Realistic Fiction
FINALIST in the SOUTHWEST REGIONAL FICTION category of the 14th Annual National Indie Excellence 2020 Awards (NIEA)
“Fewston’s lyrical, nostalgia-steeped story is told from the perspective of a 40-year-old man gazing back on events from his 1980s Texas childhood…. the narrator movingly conveys and interprets the greater meanings behind childhood memories.”
“The novel’s focus on formative childhood moments is familiar… the narrator’s lived experiences come across as wholly personal, deeply felt, and visceral.”
American Novelist CG FEWSTON
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To learn more you can visit: Americans For Safe Access & Texans for Safe Access, ASA (if you are in Texas).
The mission of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is to ensure safe and legal access to cannabis (marijuana) for therapeutic use and research.
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Stay safe & stay happy. God bless.
Nico Murillo Bio ~ Americans & Texans for Safe Access ~ Medical Cannabis
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