More Martian Tales (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)

More Martian Tales (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)


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Readers who were enticed by The Martian Tales Trilogy will delight even more in the fourth and fifth installments in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Martian Tales series, Thuvia, Maid of Mars and Chessmen of Mars. The hero of the first three novels, the earthling John Carter, has faded into the background, yielding the stage to his Martian-born children-his son, Carthoris, is the hero of Thuvia, Maid of Mars, and his daughter, Tara of Helium, is the heroine of Chessmen of Mars. The two novels collected here resonate with the clash of steel swords and ring with the cries of breathtakingly beautiful damsels in distress.. Together with his Tarzan novels, his cycle of Martian novels helped make Edgar Rice Burroughs a household name, ensuring his enduring legacy as one of the most successful and popular writers in American history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780760780893
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 06/15/2006
Series: Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 248,402
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)


Thuvia, Maid of Mars and Chessmen of Mars are the fourth and fifth installments in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Martian Tales series. Readers who were enticed by the original trilogy will delight even more in these thrilling episodes: the hero of the first three novels, the earthling John Carter, has faded into the background, yielding the stage to his Martian-born children-his son, Carthoris, is the hero of Thuvia, Maid of Mars, and his daughter, Tara of Helium, is the heroine of Chessmen of Mars. The two novels collected here resonate with the clash of steel swords and ring with the cries of breathtakingly beautiful damsels in distress. These pages pulsate with terse, grunted exchanges between warriors fighting to the death. Together with his Tarzan novels, his cycle of Martian novels helped make Edgar Rice Burroughs a household name, ensuring his enduring legacy as one of the most successful and popular writers in American history.

Although he is recognized as one of the most popular authors of all time, Edgar Rice Burroughs achieved fame as a writer only after staggering failures in numerous other fields. Born in Chicago, Illinois, on September 1, 1875, Burroughs grew up amid the convulsive furor and hubbub of the Industrial Revolution. Like his older contemporary Henry Adams, he marveled at the emergence of the United States as a twentieth-century world power and the promise of its machinery and technology. His work vibrates with the tension between his fascination with such progress and his reverence for the remote past-a tension that is especially present in his Martian tales.

Burroughs hailed from a well-to-do family and received an upper-class education based on the classics and steeped in Latin and Greek-the standard preparation for a professional career. But like many young men swept away by the glory of Greece and the grandeur of Rome, Burroughs was unable to acclimate himself to the drudgery of the office. He craved the adventurous life of an explorer or soldier of fortune. Finding himself unable to make a living in the real world, he turned to writing to realize the sorts of adventures he fantasized about-journeys to far distant planets, expeditions to the center of the earth, and romances in the hidden frontiers of Africa.

By the time he began writing in his late thirties, Burroughs had tried his hand at a number of jobs: soldier, mining speculator, stenographer, businessman. Although he threw himself into each new venture with enthusiasm, success eluded him, and he grew more and more disheartened by his repeated failures. When finally he took up the pen to commence a writing career at age thirty-six, it was a matter of practical desperation. By 1911, as his biographer Erling Holtsmark reports, things were so bad that Burroughs was "reduced to pawning his wife's jewelry in order to pay household bills." By the time he died in 1950, however, Burroughs had proven himself an astounding success: he had written ninety-one books whose popularity secured him a shelf in the library of the most famous and best-selling writers in history. Half a century after his death, as we enter the new millennium, Burroughs is still astoundingly popular: his works have been translated into over thirty languages, and an estimated fifty million copies of his books have been sold.

The name "Edgar Rice Burroughs" is almost synonymous with the term "Pulp Fiction." Quentin Tarantino's 1994 popular film by the same name in fact takes its cues from the genre that was a literary industry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries-featuring such writers as Zane Grey, William Wallace Cook, Arthur Reeve, and Cornell Woolrich. The "pulps" were magazines printed on cheap paper made from pulpwood, priced to sell at 10 cents. Readers were treated to page after page of rip-roaring adventure yarns, and the inexpensive format of the pulps paved the way for both the comic book and the paperback novel-two staples of twentieth-century culture. Burroughs wrote dozens of stories for the pulp magazines-he topped the initial success of his A Princess of Mars (1912) with the even more successful Tarzan of the Apes (1912)-proving that he was adept at tales outside the mold of the science-fiction fantasy story. He also wrote Westerns (The War Chief of the Apaches, 1927), medieval romances (The Outlaw of Torn, 1914) and even mainstream novels (The Girl from Hollywood, 1922).

To celebrate his growing success, Burroughs bought a 540-acre ranch in southern California, which he renamed "Tarzana." Eventually Tarzana was incorporated as a town and is now a suburb of Los Angeles. Once his future was secure, Burroughs settled down on his compound with his wife and children, and commenced in earnest the prodigious output of stories and novels that would become his lasting legacy.

Burroughs' marriage was a difficult union that eventually succumbed to divorce, but he nevertheless considered himself a family man and a devoted father to his three children. In politics he tended toward the conservative, and considered himself a proud and devoted patriot-he even re-enlisted in the military in 1941 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, even though he was then sixty-six years old. Too old to see active duty, Burroughs instead served as a correspondent in the Pacific theater until the war ended. Unfortunately, by then his health had deteriorated too much to allow him to resume writing his adventure stories with his original zeal. He died five years later, in 1950.

Burroughs began his writing career with the first of his Martian novels, A Princess of Mars (1912), which he followed up closely with two additional novels: The Gods of Mars (1913) and The Warlord of Mars (1914). These three early efforts have been collected as The Martian Tales Trilogy (Barnes and Noble, 2004). Eventually, Burroughs produced a total of eleven novels devoted to the red planet, home to a complex series of ancient civilizations on the arid shores of long-since receded seas. Two years after he produced the original trilogy, Burroughs returned to his interest in the dying planet he called "Barsoom" and wrote Thuvia, Maid of Mars, first published in the pulp All-Story in 1916, and then in book form in 1920. After a six-year hiatus, Burroughs returned to his saga of Mars and produced The Chessmen of Mars, first published in 1922.

Those well read in the classics will recognize the influence of Homer's Iliad on Burroughs' work: Like that ancient masterpiece, the Martian tales are driven by the engines of war, and soaked in the blood of fallen heroes. And just as Helen was the cause of that ancient war, so in Burroughs do we find the rescue of some beautiful woman from the clutches of a bitter enemy the inspiration for action.

Thuvia, Maid of Mars marks a shift in focus in the Martian saga: John Carter makes only a brief appearance in this book, and instead we follow the adventures of his son, Carthoris of Helium. The object of Carthoris' chivalric devotion, Thuvia of Ptarth-the fair daughter of one of his father's many allies-has been kidnapped by Carthoris's rival, Astok of Dusar. Burroughs keeps his readers anxiously perched on the edge of their seats with a perpetual cascade of urgent crises-everything from man-eating, leopard-like creatures called banths to treacherous foes who do battle by means of entire armies they are able to project mentally. Chapter after chapter, Carthoris escapes by the skin of his teeth from death as he courts Thuvia, all the while struggling against nefarious enemies and the inhospitable climate of the red planet.

The Chessmen of Mars presents the adventures this time of the daughter of John Carter-Princess Tara of Helium. Feeling restless one evening, she pilots an airship away from her father's palace into the Martian wilderness and is blown far off course by a spectacular windstorm. She winds up in a strange city inhabited by super-intelligent creatures who intend to use her for food or breeding stock. Eventually one of her suitors tracks her down and together they escape from the grasp of the weird and brainy race of Kaldanes, only to find themselves plunged into a series of new crises before they eventually make their way back to Helium.

The various civilizations and races of humanoid creatures on Barsoom offer an interesting range of issues analogous to human problems for readers to ponder. In Chessmen of Mars, Burroughs delves more deeply than usual into some of the philosophical issues that arise in the advanced Martian society. For example, Tara argues with the Kaldanes over the perceived "goal" of evolution: the hyper-intelligent Kaldanes, who have already evolved into creatures who are almost entirely cerebra, suggest that eventually they will become pure brains whose only function is "to just lie there and think." Tara is naturally repulsed by the prospect, saying that she can't conceive of anything more disturbing. Later, her suitor Gahan argues with the Kaldanes that "development of the brain should not be the sum total of human endeavor," and instead advocates a "well-balanced perfection of both mind and body." The progeny of John Carter tend to inherit from their father a characteristically American aversion to inertia.

Centuries ahead of Earthlings in cultural evolution as well, the Martians power their cities with Radium, use a universal language across their globe, and cultivate telepathy. But for all their advancements over Earthly civilization, the Martians retain a strange devotion to war and a primitive reverence for violence. For them, there is "no sweeter music" than "the clash of arms." Barsoomian technology may outpace that of Earth, but their world seems devoid of social justice or any sense of a commonwealth beyond the brute camaraderie of battle. In fact, in Thuvia, peace is disdained as "stagnant [and] emasculating," simply because "all Martian men are warriors." In Chessmen of Mars, Burroughs states it more simply, and in a tone of self-satisfaction: "always there will be wars and men will fight."

Though forty years ago the Martian tales were disparaged in the magazine Time as "a milestone in American bad taste," scholars of science fiction have more recently reevaluated Burroughs and his contribution to literature, and they have discovered merit especially in his series of Mars and Venus stories. In academic circles, Burroughs may never attain the esteem granted to his contemporaries H. G. Wells and Rudyard Kipling, but no one can deny his power to entertain. As the science-fiction writer Jack McDevitt has famously remarked, "When it rains in a Burroughs novel, the reader gets wet." Burroughs, like his modern-day counterparts Stephen King and John Grisham, delivers fast-paced plots strung out with intrigue, sublimated sexuality, and crisp dialogue.

Modern critics also disparage Burroughs for his tendency toward Anglo-European chauvinism and his taste for colonialism underscored by the myths of "the noble savage" and "the white man's burden," which were cited in defense of innumerable wars of European conquest. In Thuvia, Maid of Mars we encounter a chauvinism of a slightly different character: here the offense is unmitigated sexism in the depiction of our heroine as a damsel in distress whose beauty leads men to both battle and destruction. Thuvia serves little purpose here other than as a goad to victory and a prize for the winning warrior. At one point, our narrator offers a remark that reduces Thuvia to a creature more beautiful than intelligent and ruled by caprice rather than reason: "I can see her shrug her shapely shoulders in reply as she voices the age-old, universal answer of the woman: because!" On the other hand, one could just as easily argue that in Chessmen of Mars, Tara of Helium distinguishes herself as a capable fighter and intelligent strategist who does as much or more than her male counterparts to save the day.

Sexism and racism were of course standard features of the rhetoric of European and American colonialists at the dawn of the twentieth century, and Burroughs subscribed to the colonial worldview. Like his father, John Carter, Carthoris of Helium espouses the "speak-softly-and-carry-a-big-stick" approach to foreign policy. "I am a better warrior for the reason that I am a kind master," says John Carter at one point in The Princess of Mars, a sentiment that Carthoris adopts as he confronts Astok and Vas Kor of Dusar in what becomes a battle for the hand of Thuvia.

Accordingly, Burroughs' Martian fantasies often resemble medieval romances more closely than they do the standard science-fiction novel. It is true that Burroughs offers some descriptions of innovative technology-Carthoris invents a navigational system in Thuvia, Maid of Mars that sounds impressively like radar (though he calls his device an "obstruction evader")-but the narrative itself draws its energy from the elements of chivalry. Carthoris plans his strategies according to the needs of his beloved rather than military pragmatics. He is more a Gawain in the selfless service of his lady than a Flash Gordon who wins the girl as a consequence of defeating the merciless foe. In fact, Carthoris's love remains unrequited nearly to the last page.

It has also been well noted among Burroughs scholars that the Martian tales were greatly influenced by the recent scientific developments of his day, including the massive accumulation of evidence to support Darwinian evolution. In fact, at one point in Chessmen of Mars, Ghek the Kaldane and Gahan of Gathol discuss the evolution of intelligence on Mars using terms and concepts that seem drawn directly out of the biology texts of the late-nineteenth-century Darwinian writer Ernst Haeckel. Burroughs' conception of Mars as a planet of vanished seas and dying civilizations thirsty for water, however, was based on some misconceived notions that the astronomer Percival Lowell promulgated in several books, including Mars and Its Canals (1906) and Mars as the Abode of Life (1908), which were based on faulty telescopic observations of the red planet.

The way Burroughs paces his stories translates well to film, and he was fortunate to have lived during the advent of the motion-picture industry. The first of many Tarzan films was made in 1918, and it is probably only a matter of time before a film director such as Ridley Scott turns one of Burroughs' Martian tales into a feature-length film. Chessmen of Mars, for example, with its hideous, crab-like Kaldanes who colonize headless human bodies would provide such an imaginatively creative filmmaker the opportunity to revolutionize the way we conceive of extraterrestrials. Meanwhile, it is testimony to the genius of Edgar Rice Burroughs that the alien life-forms that he imagined in the early 1920s in many ways set the stage for the horrific and similarly parasitic organisms that scurry demonically through such modern science-fiction horror movies as Alien.

When publishers began to reprint Burroughs' Martian saga in the 1960s, John Flautz wrote in an article for the Journal of Popular Culture that even if the Martian novels never attain the status of "high art," they are nevertheless worth reading because they "say something to the American soul." While the novels do extol the indomitable spirit of adventure and the spirit of success that Americans pride themselves on, they also portray elements of our tendency toward chauvinistic foreign policy and an obsession with violence that students of history find disturbing. In an age when the United States has earned considerable criticism around the world for such disparate impulses, we would do well to examine the Martian novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

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More Martian Tales (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
ksmyth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a Barnes and Noble publication and includes the stories, "Thuvia Maid of Mars" and "The Chessmen of Mars."The first novel is about Thuvia, the love of Carthoris, son of John Carter and Dejah Thoris. It's a rollicking, pulpy adventure, much like the first three books of the series. We learn more about Thuvia, whom we've met in previous tales. It's the same ol' formula, dastardly deeds befall lovely girl who must be saved by handsome boy/man capable of slaying every creature of Barsoom. We also meet more and interesting "lost tribes" of Barsoom. I wonder how many more we there are?Obviously there are at least two more, because we meet them in the Chessmen. This is a longer tale that follows John Carter's daughter Tara (princess of Helium. How ERB could deprive this lovely lass her own self-titled novel is beyond me.) Tara is petulant and willful, and is blown halfway across Mars where she encounters not one but two lost tribes of nasties. The Kaldanes are the most interesting ERB creation--creatures of great intellect who can remove their heads and place them on handy, well-formed bodies. The Manators are typical pulpy barbarians who play Martian chess to the death using real people people for game pieces. Tara gets into plenty of trouble, but is pretty clever and tough on her own (what progeny of John Carter is not?) However, she also receives the aid of Galan of Gathol, pledged to love the princess, and pledged to win her love in return. A quick read, and all in good fun.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I miss john carter bring him back!!!!!!!!!!¿!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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jlee1968 More than 1 year ago
I would give this book 5 stars for The Chessmen of mars alone, it didn't get 5 because Thulvia Maid of Mars was 3 stars at the best. I have read the first 5 of the martian Tales by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and in my opinion, The Chessmen of Mars is the best of the 5. The plot, the actions, the politics and the themes, which are actually thought provoking, make The Chessmen of Mars must reading.
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Edgar Rice Burroughs was my favorite author in the 1960's, and I read all of his books that were printed by Ballantine paperbacks. I am happy to see his Martian Tales printed in two volumes. I just wish that Barnes & Noble would do the same for the Tarzan series.
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bluemaria More than 1 year ago
Chessmen of Mars is classic. If you are into Sci Fi you need to read this series. Action, great characters, love, adventure check -check -check-check!
EMABrad More than 1 year ago
I was in love with the original trilogy and had heard that there were more, and upon hearing this, ran to the nearest B&N and grabbed "More Martian Tales." I was somewhat disappointed, but not entirely.

John Carter is not the main character of these two works. The son of John Carter and his love, Dejah Thoris, however, is. Carthoris still has the superhuman strength of John Carter, but is not the Warlord of Barsoom. John Carter does not die in these books, but fades into the background, mostly only being mentioned in the context of "for John Carter, Warlord of Barsoom!"

Carthoris, while closely resembling John Carter in personality and physical strength, isn't as personal as John Carter is to the Earthling reader. John Carter represents the reader, and you feel as if you are John Carter, an Earthling in a foreign world, whereas Carthoris is an alien, and feels as such.

Carthoris's story closely resembles John Carter's, in that he ventures Barsoom, mostly searching for his reckless maiden, Thuvia. Thuvia is actually the main character of the second of these books, and becomes annoying multiple times. She is childish and foolish, but still has a charm about her that keeps me reading.

Overall, these two books, while not nearly as charming or original as the first, are still good reads in and of themselves.