Audiobook Review: John Carter in ‘A Princess of Mars’ by Edgar Rice Burroughs

7 03 2012

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (Barsoom Series, Book1)

Read by Scott Brick

Tantor Audio

Length: 6 Hrs 48 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: John Carter is the original action hero, and A Princess of Mars is a fun, action filled pulpy thriller that has blockbuster written all over it. With a lovingly created alien world it is easy to see how this classic influenced science fiction’s grand masters, as well as many modern scifi series.

Grade: B+

As someone who came into his science fiction fandom later in life than most, I have to admit I have neglected many a classic. One such classic is Edgar Rice Burroughs pulp science fiction novel A Princess of Mars. Strange thing is, as a kid, I loved Tarzan movies and books. I remember as an elementary school kid borrowing Burroughs’s Tarzan of the Apes multiple times from my school’s small library. Yet, for some reason this never branched into his scifi novels. Eventually Burroughs fell off my radar, and even when I became a solid fan of science fiction, I never even considered the Barsoom series. Then a few years ago I read SM Stirling’s Lords of Creation series. In this series, Stirling creates an alternate History where our travels to the other planets in our solar system lead us to discover that Venus and Mars are in reality almost exactly as Burroughs had envisioned. The imagery of these books were so lush and the settings so fascinating, for the first time I considered going back and reading Burroughs classic novels. Yet, it wasn’t until I began hearing the buzz about the upcoming John Carter movie and learned that Tantor was releasing a new version narrated by Scott Brick that I took the plunge.

It is quite easy to see why the exploits of Jon Carter, the hero of A Princess of Mar is finally coming to the big screen. John Carter is the original action hero, and A Princess of Mars is a fun, action filled pulpy thriller that has blockbuster written all over it. John Carter is a retired Confederate Officer who, while hiding out from Apaches in a strange, sacred cave is transported to Mars. Due to the lower gravitation of Mars, Carter is able leap long distances and has strength and speed beyond Mar’s average inhabitants, which are put to good use when captured by a brutal warrior race of Green Martians.  A Princess of Mars is non-stop action as Carter goes from one death defying situation to the next, meeting the beautiful Princess Dejah Thoris along the way, and of course, winning her heart. A Princess of Mars is as much a portal fantasy as it is science fiction, just replacing a fantasy setting with the dying planet Mars. Jon Carter himself tells the story in an almost apologetic gentlemanly way, quick to point out that his heroism and bravery was simply him doing what he felt needed to be done in situations using the special skills the environment offers him. The cultural clash between the Barsoom and Carter leads to many misunderstandings, relationship stumbles and lots of dark humor. Despite the pulpy nature, Burroughs puts a lot of loving detail into his world, building a complex and wonderfully vivid setting with a pair of fascinating cultures. Mars is full of conflicting images, from the technological advanced Red Martians, to the Green Martians living in the ruins of long dead civilizations that are lovingly detailed for the reader. Full of pulpy action, complex cultures and vivid settings, it is easy to see how Burroughs’s classic influenced many of the genre’s masters along with modern series like Stirling’s Lords of Creation and William Forstchen’s Lost Regiment series.

Scott Brink brings his signature voice and style to the reading of the classic. Brick’s idiosyncratic cadence gives Burroughs’s post civil war Gentlemanly language an almost poetic flair. I was a little surprised by Brick’s decision not to give the character more of a southern flair to his voice, being that Carter often invokes his Virginian background in the tale, but this is more of an intellectual observation than a complaint. In fact, in the long run, it was probably better for the overall production to allow Bricks skills at storytelling not to be hampered by using something other than his natural voice.  There are many audio versions of A Princess of Mars, including one narrated by William Dufris, but I think Scott Brick’s narration and the timeliness of this production should make it the go to audiobook version of this classic. So, before piling the kids into the minivan to head out to see the new John Carter movie, take the time to experience A Princess of Mars in Burroughs’s own words.

Note: A special thanks to the good people of Tantor Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review. This title is available for Digital Download through Audioble, or the Tantor Audio Website.



2 responses

10 03 2012

“A Princess of Mars is as much a portal fantasy as it is science fiction, just replacing a fantasy setting with the dying planet Mars. ”

I’m a long time fantasy reader and I fully agree. I read and loved the Barsoom books as a teenager. Great review!

11 03 2012
DevourerofBooks (@DevourerofBooks)

I have zero interest in seeing the movie, but you have me somewhat tempted to listen to the audio. Plus, somehow I’ve listened to hundreds of audiobooks but still never Scott Brick.

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