I really enjoyed this book. It was a fun, pulpy, adventure/fantasy book with some sci-fi elements thrown in. I haven’t confirmed it but I imagine not a lot of the science in this book actually holds water today, but from what I’ve read, a lot of it was based on very popular scientific speculation of Mars at that time.
Much like Tarzan of the Apes, I thought this was a very light, very quick read, and I’m usually a slow reader. It started off slow, but from the moment Dejah Thoris enters the picture, it becomes really engrossing and builds to quite an epic finale. The final chapters, I felt, were a bit rushed, but it still felt a lot more “complete” than Tarzan of the Apes did. I think, also, the fact that I didn’t really come across any “problematic” elements in this book (unlike Tarzan of the Apes), apart from maybe some outdated ideas about gender roles, is probably what helped me enjoy it a lot more.
I did quite like John Carter as a character. He’s much more straightforward and not as complex or complicated as Tarzan was, but I think that actually helps this story. I did quite like ERB’s description/depiction of Mars. The Martians are a bit cliche, I think, with all the multiple arms and legs – it’s something that’s been done in sci-fi a lot already, but the description of those abandoned buildings that had been created millenia ago by a long lost civilization, the idea of Mars being a dying planet, all of this I found very fascinating. I also really liked the fact that ERB doesn’t actually explain just how John Carter gets to Mars: He seems to just will himself to it. It’s never explained what that cave is and what it does and what’s in it and I liked that. It’s a good mystery left open to the reader’s imagination and ultimately not that important – more important is how John Carter almost immediately seems to believe that Mars is where he should go, where he’s supposed to go, and when he finds himself there, he doesn’t doubt for one second where he is.
I did like Dejah Thoris as well. Although obviously she’s a damsel in distress for the most part, I liked that she was intelligent and compassionate and some of the side characters like Sola and Tars Tarkas were also very interestingly portrayed. I can also definitely see how this inspired movies like Star Wars and Avatar to name just a few. Overall, it’s a very entertaining read and I am definitely interested in reading at least a couple more of these.