Decembarsoom: Week 3 Recap

(originally posted here)

Chapters 12-18

Is it just me, or does it feel like this book still hasn’t really started? I have certainly enjoyed all of the exposition we’ve received in the last seven chapters—the impenetrable wooing customs that Dejah Thoris expects and John Carter understands about as well as us, Sola’s parentage, the political structure of the Tharks and the Green Martian race—but I keep waiting for the main story to start. Perhaps it is generally episodic in nature whereas I’m expecting a full-blown novel. Plenty of stuff to talk about though.

First off, it seems like John Carter is into Dejah Thoris. Like, really into her. Obviously, he spends what feels like several chapters talking about (and foreshadowing like crazy) his need to be with her. He makes grand sweeping statements to her, pledging his eternal allegiance to her and promising vengeance against anyone who looks at her funny. And then, in his overwrought devotion, he says something which sets her off and she refuses to speak to him until he risks life and limb to rescue her from horrible torture. What he says exactly is implying that he has fought for her and thus won her hand—she takes great offense to that implication and refuses to speak to Carter for several chapters.

It is during Dejah Thoris’ silent treatment that we learn about Sola’s parentage. She, unlike every other Green child, was conceived in love and born in secret. It is strongly implied that she is the only compassionate Green Martian. She was raised nightly by her birth mother for an entire year, which seems to have made all of the difference. The revelation of her father is perhaps not entirely a surprise either. Tars Tarkas has been the only Green chieftain who has shown anything approaching kindness to Carter. Quietly, and with a minimum of interest, he has made sure John Carter is taken care of and taught the culture of the Tharks. Tarkas has aided and advocated for Carter from the start. When Carter refers to his relationship with Tarkas as something approaching friendship, Tarkas puts him off of that way of thinking, though much less so than any other Green Martian likely would. So, Tarkas as the redeemable father of a secret love child certainly sets up some excellent comeuppances later in this story.

Speaking of comeuppance, the Green Martian society is all about assassination as political advancement. This isn’t news, considering last week, but it’s interesting that this goes all the way to the top of the political order. I’m not entirely clear on whether Tal Hajus is the leader of all the Thark tribes or of all the Green tribes, but I suspect it’s the former. We encounter the far more war-like Warhoon tribe, who seem all about killing all of the time. We see a bloody coup minutes after John Carter regains consciousness and then he is thrown in a dungeon in preparation for the gladiatorial games that have been hinted at since early in the book.

Other bits worth discussion:

  • Why are the Tharks a nomadic people? Is it certain tribes or all Green Martians who are nomads?
  • If Woola could track the escaping Carter, Thoris and Sola so easily, how come the Tharks couldn’t?
  • John Carter is head over heels for Dejah Thoris and it certainly seems like she is indifferent towards him (until the end of chapter 17). Ain’t that always the way?
  • I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty excited about the chapter called “In the Atmosphere Factory” next week. Maybe there will be SCIENCE in this fiction.

See you next week—the recap will be posted Christmas Eve, and Christmas day is a skip day, though you’re certainly welcome to read on the 25th if you’d like.