Thursday, November 5, 2009

Book Review: The Moon Maid


Another trip to Mars that doesn't go exactly as planned.

After a brief prologue that reveals a lengthy war that has consumed the Earth and now has come to an end on June 10, 1967 with the interception of a message from Helium on Barsoom (or Mars to us non-Martians) we meet Julian the 5th, who is the first (or third...I never understood this). In the future Earth and Mars has decided to begin crossing the galaxy to visit each other. Julian is assigned a ship, The Barsoom to take his men across the stars. However a jealous colleague, Orthis disrupts the ship's tanks and the crew must make an emergency landing on the Moon. What Julian discovers is life does exist in the form of half-human, half-horse creatures called the Va-Gas, the Kalkars (a race bent on supreme domination) and the Laytheans who are suffering from growing distrust of their leader Sagrorth spread by the feared Ko-Tah. And in typical ERB fashion a beautiful creature Nah-ee-lah who Julian swears to protect.

Published in 1923, The Moon Maid at first glimpse seems a carbon copy of A Princess of Mars-Earthling hero, beautiful princess, vile creatures and backstabbing races-but Burroughs goes off in a different direction. Julian is no master swordsman like John Carter and doesn't have the sheer luck that befalls Carson Napier. Instead of making friends with any of Va-Nah's (as the Moon is referred t0) inhabitants he finds a bunch of people ready to kill to dominate and to feast. (Yum, cannibals!) With the elements that made John Carter so popular missing it's probably not surprising that this didn't turn into a long series (Burroughs did write two sequels, The Moon Men and The Red Hawk) but it shows an author willing to at least test the waters of what science fiction could be in the pulp arena.

Rating: **** out of 4.

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