Monday, August 2, 2010

Book Review: A Guide To Barsoom

Again can't think of an opening so I'll just jump in.

In the 1960s and 70s the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs was being rediscovered by a new generation, thanks to the explosion of sci-fi and fantasy paperbacks. It was around this time that several books, fan clubs and newsletters began to emerge celebrating and providing the first in-depth look at Burroughs. Many of the books tended to be either straight biographies (Richard Lupoff's excellent Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure being the most notable) or centered on Tarzan. In 1976 Burroughs fan and scholar John Flint Roy added his own entry to the growing line-up, a book devoted to the adventures of John Carter and the inhabitants of Barsoom.

As you can tell by the title, A Guide To Barsoom is pretty much that-a guide to the people, places and flora and fauna of Barsoom. Broken into 11 chapters and covering almost all of the books (Roy doesn't include John Carter and the Giant of Mars due to its "questionable authorship" as he puts and I doubt many will disagree) it starts with a brief history of Barsoom pre-Carter and goes from there with in depth listings of the locations, characters (no matter how briefly they appear), plants and animal life, the customs and religions of Barsoom, the debate of whether or not Barsoom is really Mars and a "bio" of Burroughs himself-who lived to the ripe old age of 114 when last seen. It also deals with some of the contradictions that pop up-errors in distance or how many days are in a Barsoomian year-and attempts to correct these mistakes.

A guide like this might seem dull to non-fans but Roy's target audience I'm sure was the devout fan, even though newcomers to the series might enjoy it for breaking down the series. Given how many guides like this has been written for other series (I've seen them for everything from The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien's Middle-Earth to even separate guides to the characters and vehicles of Star Wars) it's nice to have Barsoom presented in this fashion and a nice addition to the Barsoom series. The only downside (again) is that it is currently out of print. Maybe with the movie coming up someone will republish this work or come out with an updated one. Rating: **** out of 4.


Mike Smith said...

Man, you really have a way of bringing back the excitement I felt during those heady days in the 1970's when I first discovered Barsoom.

I was one of those people you're talking about and I bought a copy of this book at that time. I still have it somewhere in my stacks.

I remember I couldn't get enough of Burrough's Barsoom series. I was hooked on anything having to do with it, from comics, to books, to action figures, to gaming systems and gaming pieces. You name it. If it had anything to do with Barsoom, I was all over it.

Funny enough, I was never quite as interested in Tarzan. Although I did get hooked on Carson of Venus and his Pellucidar books.

I may not be quite as crazy about Barsoom now as I was then, but I still enjoy the stories and they will forever hold a special place in my heart.

I'm looking forward to the new Dynamite comic series, and I just can't wait for the movie.

Mike Smith said...

Hey, I just came across the blog (Pulp Sunday) of artist Francesco Francavilla. He seems to really like creating faux covers for fantasy novels and comic books. I thought this one in particular would be especially interesting to you:

I'd never heard of this artist, or his blog, but I really like the look he gave to this artwork.

Anyway, just wanted to share my find with someone who I thought would appreciate it.

Paul said...

Nice! I just bought Roy's guide a few weeks ago. Interesting how it compares to the glossary in the back of Thuvia, Maid of Mars.