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| 18.8.02
'A Princess of Mars,' 'The Gods of Mars,' 'Warlord of Mars,' 'Thuvia, Maid of Mars,' and 'The Chessmen of Mars,' by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Edgar Rice Burroughs' science fiction classic "Mars" series (including A Princess of Mars, The Gods of Mars, Warlord of Mars, Thuvia, Maid of Mars, and The Chessmen of Mars) marked my initiation into three different yet equally satisfying worlds. It was my first exposure to Project Gutenburg. Secondly, it was the first time I had used my Palm Pilot to read an entire novel. Thirdly, it was my first and only exposure to any of Edgar Rice Burroughs original works.

For those not familiar with Project Gutenburg, its goal is to put full-text copies of literature on-line for people to freely download, read, and distribute. Since only materials whose copyright has expired are eligible for this treatment, you won't find any recent bestsellers here. However, there are still thousands of the classics available, from Mark Twain to William Shakespeare to Edgar Rice Burroughs.

I'd been aware of these "e-texts" for quite some time, but had never been very interested in them, primarily because when I read a book I don't want to be chained to my PC, and hence my desk. Moreover, with paperbacks cheap, easy to use, and small in size, why purchase one of those expensive, clunky electronic book devices? If I'm going to have to lug around an expensive device just to read books, I might as well just lug around the book itself.

Enter the Palm Pilot. I bought it primarily as a way to check E-mail when away from home, and as a way to keep all my information organized. Because of its small size (roughly the size of your wallet) and long battery life (with the backlit screen on I get about one weeks worth of use out of two AAA batteries; with it off the batteries only need changing once a month) it has become an indispensible part of my daily routine, and my constant front pocket companion. Since it is always with me, and it performs all these other indispensible functions, using it to read books (and thus saving me the trouble of carrying the books with me) is just the icing on the cake.

That said, on to the review. Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Mars" series is great fun for anyone interested in a fast-paced romp of an adventure tale. All the stories feature John Carter, a southern gentleman and Civil War veteran who mysteriously finds himself transported to the Red Planet Mars --known to its inhabitants as Barsoom. There Carter's physical strength and mental prowess (as well as his warrior skills) are put to the test as he must slash and hack his way to freedom, both for himself and for the beautiful Princess of Mars, Dejah Thoris.

I found the series wildly entertaining, despite the Victorian writing style and first person narrative. Part of the series' charm is the breathtaking detail and care with which Burroughs paints us the portrait of the Martian landscape, its peoples, and their cultures. It is truly a tale of epic proportions --I hope I don't sound too cliche when I say that.

One thing that surprised me was the amount of violence and sexual innuendo. I guess I had subconsciously bought into the conventional wisdom that things were much more innocent in "the olden days." I always thought that it was just our generation that enjoyed such blood and gore. While not quite as explicit in the details as today's action movies, these classics nonetheless have more than their share of slaughter. The hero, John Carter, literally hacks and slashes his way across the moss covered hills and plains of Mars to find and rescue his beautiful red princess, Dejah Thoris. While sex is never explicitly mentioned, chivalry and romance abound. Coupled with the fact that everyone on Burrough's Mars waltzes around without wearing any clothing, the story is not only charged with violence but exudes a latent and primal sexuality as well.

The entire series are available for download below. I highly recommend them as entertaining reading on both the Palm Pilot, and in their own right.

The 'Mars' Series, by Edgar Rice Burroughs

PUBLISHER: Project Gutenberg; 1911-1941

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