Book: A Princess of Mars
Author: Edgar Rice Burroughs
A Princess of Mars is the first book in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom series, and the book on which the recent film John Carter was loosely based.
Barsoom is the Mars that was imagined by astronomers such as Perical Lowell, based on works by Giovanni Schiaparelli who believed he saw canals upon the surface of Mars. It is a slowly dying planet, and the ruins of once great cities litter the landscape.
He meets, and impresses with his strength some native Tharks, members of a green, huge six-limbed race of violent beings who live to fight. The Tharks are a clan of this race, and Carter essentially befriends Tars Tarkas, a chieftan of the group that discovered him, although friendship is mostly unknown amongst the Tharks. Whilst living with the Tharks, he also meets a member of the red Martian race, who are visually identical to Earth humans. This is Dejah Thoris, granddaughter of the Jeddak king) of the twin cities of Helium and the Princess of Mars of the books title.
The book essentially details Carter's travels across Barsoom in his attempts to be with Dejah Thoris. People, whether red or green, on Barsoom are either good or evil, there is very little moral ambiguity. The green men of Mars are mostly evil; their struggles to survive on a dying world having caused them to sacrifice many of what Carter would consider to be the nobler emotions, although they are often brave.
A Princess of Mars, as is common in Burroughs' books, has Burroughs himself as the narrator of a story of which he came into possession, which is then told from Carter's viewpoint.
The book is, by current standards, politically incorrect in many places. Having slaves worship a master would not be appreciated in a modern book, even though that is only a small reference right at the beginning. Dejah Thoris is mostly there as totty and the reason for Carter's actions. Although not totally incapable, she is not really portrayed as a competent women in her own right. Without Carter, she would have had no chance of surviving.
There is a lot of violence in the book. John Carter adapats to the methods needed to survive on Barsoom very well, his superior strength giving him a great advanatage, but he still manages to remain true to his beliefs in the more positive emotions, which benefits him through the story.
There is no overriding plot in A Princess of Mars and, if you have already seen the film John Carter, many aspects will be substantially different and, unlike the film, the book is more definitely one of a series, although they may make a sequel to the film. The story should not be taken too seriously and rather read as a bit of fun, although pretty violent fun. It isn't a pure science fiction book, although it does have overtones of that, but it also strongly resembles the sword and sorcery genre too. The story continues in The Gods of Mars.