fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Master Mind of MarsThe Master Mind of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

The Master Mind of Mars is book 6 of 11 JOHN CARTER adventures that Edgar Rice Burroughs gave to the world. It first appeared in the magazine Amazing Stories Annual in July 1927, and John Carter himself only puts in a cameo appearance near the book’s end. Instead, our hero is another Earthman, Ulysses Paxton, who mysteriously gets transported to Barsoom (Mars) after being critically wounded on the battlefields of WW1. Paxton becomes an apprentice of the eponymous mastermind Ras Thavas, and from him learns all manner of surgical miracles, including brain transplantation. Paxton falls in love with a young woman, Valla Dia, whose body has been sold to an old empress, so that that empress can now live on in her new hotty body. Paxton vows to travel across Mars, kidnap the empress, and restore his beloved’s body to her. He enlists the aid of some of Ras Thavas’ medical subjects: a Barsoomian white ape with a half-human mind; a professional assassin; and another Martian who has had his body bought/stolen by another.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThis is a short but extremely entertaining and fast-moving fantasy novel. In it, Burroughs gives us some interesting philosophy on the correlation of mind and body (as he did with the kaldanes in The Chessmen of Mars), as well as some interesting speculations on the necessity of war in any culture. He also pokes fun at the mumbo-jumbo aspects of organized religion. So there is some actual food for thought, in addition to the fun. And that equilibrimotor chase and scene in the Temple of Tur ARE very much fun! The heart, lung and other assorted transplants that Ras Thavas is engaged in must have seemed like real sci-fi improbabilities back in 1927, although these things are fairly commonplace today. The brain transplants are another matter, of course. (Perhaps one day…)

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Master Mind of Mars seems to be slightly better written than some of the earlier Barsoomian novels; Burroughs DID improve with age, at least as far as technique is concerned. Still, there are the usual inconsistencies that crop up. For example, in one scene Thavas complains of the new young blood in his new young body, when it has been established that recipients of new bodies receive their old blood back. I was confused by this. In another scene, the 15-foot-tall ape/man puts on the leather harness of a regular-sized man. Does this seem possible? Clouds are said to obscure the moon in another scene, yet in earlier books, Burroughs has told us that clouds exist on Barsoom only at the poles. A body of a dozen Toonolian soldiers at one point mysteriously turns into 20, and the great scarlet tower of Lesser Helium, which was destroyed in The Chessmen of Mars, is inexplicably back again in this book. (I grant that it may have been rebuilt, but Burroughs might have said something to this effect.)

The surprise regarding Valla Dia at the book’s conclusion was one that was so obvious to me that I don’t even think it was really meant to be a surprise after all. And here’s another quibble: Paxton falls in love with Valla Dia only after he has seen what her actual body looks like. It might have been more effective had he fallen in love with her only AFTER she was trapped in the haggish body of the empress. A young, strapping American male falling in love with an old ugly woman, based solely on her gracious personality. Now THAT would have been a REAL fantasy!

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....