All reviews copyright 1984-2014 Evelyn C. Leeper.
CARSON OF VENUS by Edgar Rice Burroughs:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 05/30/2014]
CARSON OF VENUS by Edgar Rice Burroughs (ISBN 978-0-441-09200-0) (192 pages): This is the third in Burroughs's "Venus" series. I have not read the first two, but apparently they are more about adventure, while this is more about politics, warfare, and espionage. This, more than any of the other novels, has to be read in a 1938 frame of mind or much of Burroughs's intent will be lost. It is, in fact, a thinly disguised story about the Nazis (called the Zanis in the book). Their evil leader is Mephis; I thought this was to evoke the idea of Mephistopheles, but one critic claims that one should reverse the syllables ("Hismep") and then shift the 's' down one letter to 't', the 'm' up one to 'l', and the 'p' down one (not counting 'q') to 'r' to get Hitler. Take your pick.
Everyone uses the greeting "Matlu Mephis!" ("Hail Mephis!") constantly. One character is named "Muso" (Mussolini), another is Sephon (Himmler, though no conversion formula is given). The Korvans (the Zanis are the political party, the Korvans the race, and doesn't "Korvan" sound like ... well, you get the idea) hate and kill their enemy, the Atorians, because the Atorians have big ears and the Korvans want to keep Korvan blood pure.
There is also a very odd gender-reversal society early in the book, where the women are the hunters and warriors, and the men do all the making of "sandals, loincloths, ornaments, and pottery," giggling and gossiping the whole time. Burroughs explains this by having Carson say, "They had been kicked around so much all their lives and had developed such colossal inferiority complexes that they were afraid of everybody; and if they weren't given too much time to think, would obey anyone's commands; so they came with me."
On the one hand, this could be seen as an attempt to explain away the obvious subservience (and ditziness) of the men without allowing that they might be inherently inferior. On the other, it also could be taken as an explanation of why women in 1938 America seemed subservient and ditzy, an attitude encouraged by the then- popular "screwball comedy" genre. Since a common feeling (among men, anyway) at the time was that women were by nature inferior, not as intelligent as men, etc., this could be taken as fairly enlightened. (It was less than two decades earlier that women finally got the vote on a United States-wide basis--and in Britain, it still had not happened.)
The political parallels are a bit heavy-handed, and things are often contrived, but it is certainly an enjoyable enough book. (I would suggest starting with the first novel in the series--PIRATES OF VENUS--rather than here in the middle, though, as each depends on what has come before.)
To order Carson of Venus from amazon.com, click here.
THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT by Edgar Rice Burroughs:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 10/25/2013]
I re-read THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT by Edgar Rice Burroughs (ISBN no ISBN, but available through Project Gutenberg) before listening to a podcast discussion of it (on SFF Audio), and while I am not going to give it a full review, I do have a few comments.
First, like just about everyone else, the internal narrator uses "Frankenstein" to mean the Creation. He also thinks Piltdown Man was real (as I suspect Burroughs did, since it was not debunked until 1953).
Burroughs has a strange notion of how evolution works (worked). I do not mean just the notion of creatures evolving individually as they travel upstream. I am referring to the whole Caprona "continent." If Caprona split off long enough ago to preserve the dinosaurs (i.e., more than 65 million years ago) then there would not also be deer, antelope, panthers, lions, wolves, wooly rhinoceroses, and gorillas and other anthropoid apes. The latter evolved to fill an ecological niche left vacant by the extinction of the dinosaurs, but even if they had evolved without the death of the dinosaurs, they would not have evolved exactly the same as in the other land mass(es). Clearly the "humans" on Caprona did not, so why should other mammals? For that matter, do the other mammals have the same strange reproductive method as the "humans," or are the "humans" somehow unique in this, and if so, how did *that* happen?
To order The Land That Time Forgot from amazon.com, click here.
A PRINCESS OF MARS by Edgar Rice Burroughs:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 07/25/2003]
The book for our science fiction group was much better [than "The Aspern Papers"]: A PRINCESS OF MARS by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Now I'm sure to many people the notion that A PRINCESS OF MARS is a better book than a Henry James novella is heresy. And there is a fair amount of cliché, repetition, and stereotyping in PRINCESS. But at least it moves along.
To order A Princess of Mars from amazon.com, click here.