Friday, March 16, 2012

Forgotten Books: The Gods of Mars & The Warlord of Mars

Gotta admit, one of the main attractions to reviewing this book is having an excuse to revisit all this amazing Frazetta artwork. But I enjoyed the rereading, too, more than I expected, and found The Gods of Mars to be quite a surprise.

Along with A Princess of Mars, these books form a trilogy. But between Princess and Gods there's a ten-year gap in the story. Not so here. Warlord picks up immediately after Gods ends, and if not for a shift in theme and tone, they might be considered one long novel. 

At one time or another, I've read all of ERB's books. I enjoy the action, the mystery, the romance, the imagination, the mellodrama and (especially) the great battle scenes. But in most cases (Warlord included), that's all there is to them. The surprise in The Gods of Mars is that Burroughs pursued a serious theme. He took on organized religion and pretty much kicked butt.

When red and green skinned Martian believers (and there are no unbelievers) make the journey to heaven, most are devoured by a race of disgusting plant men. Most of those who escape the plant men are torn limb from limb by great white apes. Those few who survive the apes become slaves for a year to an ancient, toad-like crone, after which they are put to death. The toad-like crone, in turn, is queen of a black-skinned race that believes they are the true chosen ones, and have exclusive rights on reaching heaven. But that, too, is a lie, because are in turn eaten by holiest race of all, the white skins.

This had to be pretty heady stuff for 1912. Makes me wonder how Burroughs really felt about religion, and how much flak he took from the church. One of these days I'll have dig out my copy of Irwin Porges' huge ERB biography and see if it tells me.

More Forgotten Books at Sweet Freedom!


Todd Mason said...

More-forgotten books at Sweet Freedom, this week!

George said...

WARLORD OF MARS might be the best book in the ERB's Mars series. And, of course, the Frazetta artwork has no equal.

Anonymous said...

I have that edition, I think, and you're right the artwork is wonderful. I haven't read these in so long my memory of them is vague. Have to do some rereading one of these days.