(originally posted here)
The Last Half of the Book (Chapters 19-28)
What a wild group of chapters (and a wild few weeks for me—sorry for the delay, dear readers). The book seems to veer in three or four directions from the midsection to the end, as if Burroughs was unsure what he wanted to do with the rest of the story. Here’s basically what happens:
- Chapter XIX: Battling In The Arena – Gladiator battles! Friendship! Deception!
- Chapter XX: In The Atmosphere Factory – Completely out-of-place science fiction compared to the rest of the book! Psychic locks! Wonder if that’ll come up later!
- Chapter XXI: An Air Scout For Zodanga – Carter is skilled in anything he tries! Military might!
- Chapter XXII: I Find Dejah – Our heroine found! She’s promised to another! Some stuff finally gets explained re: her behavior earlier!
- Chapter XXIII: Lost In The Sky – Plans! Flying!
- Chapter XXIV: Tars Tarkas Finds A Friend – We unexpectedly happen upon the green Martians from earlier! Everything is so much better with them! Let’s build an army!
- Chapter XXV: The Looting Of Zodanga – Down with Eurasia! Bloodthirsty warriors = great!
- Chapter XXVI: Through Carnage To Joy – Dénouement! Everything is perfect forever!
- Chapter XXVII: From Joy To Death – Ten years later! Remember that random part from earlier?!
- Chapter XXVIII: At The Arizona Cave – What a crazy dream thatwas!
The book as a whole was…interesting. Plot-wise, it was kind of a mess, spending a lot of time at the beginning with exposition, and a lot of time at the end with action—it flowed kind of like a Michael Bay movie. The scenes and chapters a sometimes hardly joined together collections of events, though this is likely due to the book’s origins as a serialized story.
It seems like everything happens just to set up Carter as a nigh-invincible hero. To me, there was very little real peril in the book; either John Carter’s great skills or some deus ex machina would pop up at an opportune moment to save him every single time. I realize that this is simple pulp fiction, but there was pretty much no character development on John Carter’s part. He learned some of the Martian culture, but the entire book was structured on his excellence and how he changed all of Mars singlehandedly with relatively little effort.
The ending works perfectly to set up the further adventures of John Carter. Being taken suddenly back to the beginning, to a world that now seems alien to Carter, leaves us thirsty for more of his Martian adventures. Ten years of greatness and happiness on Mars is a long time to mine for pulp adventure stories, and since the prologue sets up the assumption that Carter made his way back, it’s no surprise that there are so many sequels to this legendary piece of fiction.
The next book, should you be interested, is The Gods of Mars. It’s available for free everywhere that the first book is, and I might even consider blogging through it. We shall see, dear reader. We shall see.