Thursday, October 14, 2010

Book Review: Jandar of Callisto

I reviewed Black Legion of Callisto a few months back (you can read that review here so here's the first entry in Lin Carter's homage to Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Jonathan Andrew Dark is serving as a Red Cross pilot during the Vietnam War when his helicopter is forced down inside Cambodia. While floating down a river he ultimately finds an empty city which surrounds a mysterious well. When he looks in a light suddenly zaps him and he wakes up to find himself not in Cambodia anymore. Instead he soon discovers he is on Thanator, which is actually Callisto-one of the moons of Jupiter. And it isn't too long (especially if you know your Burroughs) before he ends up captured by a strange alien race-in this case a group of insect creatures called the Yathoon-and has to rescue a fair princess, Darloona of the Ku Thud who has been driven from her home by an invading force called the Chac Yuul (or the Black Legion.) But before he can get her back home both of them and the Yathoon leader Koja are captured by Sky Pirates and their leader Prince Thuton who immediately seems to sweep Darloona off her feet. But when Jonathan-or Jandar as the inhabitants come to call him-finds out Thuton's plan to sell her to the Chac Yuul he must rescue the princess and convince her that he's on her side. Which is a lot harder than fighting massive beasts and Sky Pirates as Jandar will tell you...

While I liked Black Legion of Callisto, this first book in the series I felt never got off the ground. Part of the problem seemed to be that unlike Burroughs Carter doesn't spend much time developing his characters. This especially hurts the Jandar-Darloona relationship as he comes off too much like a braggart and clumsy fool and she both snobby and clueless. In short neither of them are John Carter or Dejah Thoris and makes Jandar's mission to save her unconvincing. Also there isn't much development of the Yathoon species compared to the Tharks in A Princess of Mars while the Sky Pirates are non-entities. Probably the best character is Lukor, an aging sword master who helps Jandar in his sword training and quest to rescue Darloona.

It has some good sequences scattered about but as the first book in this series Jandar of Callisto sadly fell a little short of my expectations. At least the second book was an improvement. I'm probably being lenient just because of that so this book gets ** 1/2 out of 4.

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