fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsA Fighting Man of Mars by Edgar Rice BurroughsA Fighting Man of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

A Fighting Man of Mars is book 7 of 11 JOHN CARTER novels that Edgar Rice Burroughs gave to the world. It first appeared serially in The Blue Book Magazine from April-September 1930, and, at almost 250 pages, is the longest of all the CARTER novels. As in the previous three books in the series, Carter himself only makes a few token appearances, the action mantle this time falling on a distant relation of his, Tan Hadron. As Carter did for Dejah Thoris in books 1-3, and Carthoris did for Thuvia in book 4, and Gahan did for Tara in book 5, Hadron in book 7 goes on a quest to save a woman who has initially spurned him.

This is a big book in the CARTER series, as I have said, and Burroughs throws in everything but the proverbial kitchen sink to entertain the reader. Whereas previous books generally featured two or three enemy nations and their leaders, A Fighting Man of Mars has a full six: the dead city of Xanator, with its fierce green warriors; the city of Tjanath, with its despotic ruler Haj Osis; the volcanic realm of Ghasta, with its bestial ruler Ghron; the castle of Jhama, home of the mad scientist Phor Tak; the province of U-Gor, with its cannibal inhabitants; and last but certainly not least, the nation of Jahar, led by the power-crazy Tul Axtar. Instead of one woman that needs saving, and one romantic subplot, this book offers up a full three.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsA Fighting Man of Mars also lays claim to being the most science fiction oriented of the lot so far, what with the use of metal-, wood- and flesh-disintegrating weapons, invisibility paint, guided ground-to-air torpedoes and so on. Throw in a scene with a crazed white ape on top of a tower, a humongous killer albino lizard, poison spiders, mucho swordplay, and the mother of all air battles at the book’s end and you’ve got quite a hefty load of fantastic entertainment in your hands. Burroughs certainly gives the reader value for [money] in this one, no doubt. The novel moves breathlessly along from one set piece to the next, never pausing for breath. There are even nice touches of humor to be had; for example, the fact that the scientist, Jason Gridley, at the novel’s opening, is from TARZANa, California, of all places! Much as I enjoyed the book, however, I did have some problems with it; numerous problems, actually….

By now, any reader of this series will be resigned to the unwelcome intrusion of what I like to call I&I: inconsistencies and implausibilities. Like what inconsistencies? In one scene, Burroughs tells us that the distance from Jhama to Jahar is 4,000 haads; a little later on, this distance is said to be 2,500 haads. Things like this can drive an alert reader to distraction! In another scene, it is said that Phor Tak had invented the paint that renders the metal-disintegrating ray useless; but previously in the book, it was stated that that paint was a product of one of his assistants, after Phor Tak had gone into exile! Hadron and his buddy, Nur An, are forced to swim through some underground rapids in one scene, and yet in previous books it had been established that Barsoomians don’t, as a rule, know how to swim, due to the dearth of water on their planet! In another scene, Hadron is led to the green warriors’ encampment by the loud sounds of their squealing thoats (beasts of burden); so why is he so worried when they start squealing as he makes off with one of them?

As far as implausibilities: Hadron and Nur An’s balloon escape from Ghasta is extremely hard to swallow. Even harder to buy is the fact that this balloon drifts across the planet and coincidentally lands them right on the roof of the person that they are looking for! As in book 3, it is extremely hard for me to believe that a man can climb up or down the side of a tower at night by grasping onto slight protuberances. It is never explained to the reader how Hadron’s invisible ship floated away in Tjanath, and that ship’s miraculous reappearance in U-Gor is just totally unlikely in the extreme. Also never explained is how Tul Axtar manages to track down Phor Tak at the book’s conclusion; this one really had me scratching my head! The “surprise” regarding Tavia at the book’s end is so very obvious that only the most obtuse of readers will not see it coming; it is so obvious that I wonder if Burroughs really meant it to be a surprise at all.

Despite all this grousing, I do NOT want to give the impression that I didn’t enjoy A Fighting Man of Mars. It fully deserves the four stars that I give it, if only for its great show of imagination and superb pace.

Barsoom (John Carter of Mars) — (1917-1941) Let the adventures begin, as Captain John Carter finds himself transported to the alien landscape of Mars — where the low gravity increases his speed and strength exponentially. Taken prisoner by Martian warriors, he impresses them with his remarkable fighting skills, and quickly rises to a high-ranking chieftain. But the heroic Carter’s powers thrust him right in the middle of a deadly war raging across the planet — and a dangerous romance with a divine princess.

Edgar Rice Burroughs 1. A Princess of MarsEdgar Rice Burroughs 2. The Gods of MarsEdgar Rice Burroughs 3. The Warlord of MarsEdgar Rice Burroughs 4. Thuvia, Maid of MarsEdgar Rice Burroughs 5. The Chessmen of MarsEdgar Rice Burroughs 6. The Master Mind of MarsEdgar Rice Burroughs 7. A Fighting Man of MarsEdgar Rice Burroughs 8. Swords of MarsEdgar Rice Burroughs 9. Synthetic Men of MarsEdgar Rice Burroughs 10. Llana of Gatholfantasy and science fiction book reviews


  • Sandy Ferber

    SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....