Review–A Princess of Mars (Barsoom #1) by Edgar Rice Burroughs and a short Movie Review of John Carter

A Princess of Mars (Barsoom #1)
by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Summary: The first published book by the creator of Tarzan of the Apes that introduced the world to intergalactic Civil War soldier, John Carter
Two years before Edgar Rice Burroughs became a worldwide celebrity with the publication of Tarzan of the Apes and its twenty-two sequels, which together have sold more than 30 million copies, he published the futuristic sci-fi romance, A Princess of Mars. A Princess of Mars tells the story of John Carter, a Civil War veteran who inexplicably finds himself held prisoner on the planet Mars by the Green Men of Thark. With Dejah Thoris, the princess of another clan on Mars, John Carter must fight for their freedom and save the entire planet from destruction as the life-sustaining Atmosphere Factory slowly grinds to a halt.A Princess of Mars is the first in Burroughs’ eleven book Barsoom series, following the continued adventures of John Carter.

Source: I purchased a copy of this book for Kindle.



I wanted to read A Princess of Mars because I watched the movie John Carter and absolutely loved it. If I am to be perfectly honest, I didn’t like A Princess of Mars at all. I didn’t like the writing and the way it was dramatic and pensive without being descriptive. It was incredibly difficult to picture anything or really grasp anything beyond John Carter’s thoughts. Which were basically all about how awesome he was, how beautiful (and kind of vapid) Dejah Thoris was, and how strange the customs of Mars were.

The only reason I think I even like John Carter, Sola, Dejah Thoris, or Tars Tarkas is because I absolutely loved them all in the movie. The only character who seemed to keep his charm in the novel was Woola. I know that A Princess of Mars was probably the first of its time and fit the era it was written in well. It’s outdated now and I know that and tried to keep that in mind, but I refuse to give it a passing grade just because I read it in the wrong era. Plenty of classic (even classic sci fi) ages well and A Princess of Mars just didn’t (at least for my standards). I honestly expected more from it, I suppose.

I loved the movie John Carter. Completely. The story was amazing, the characters were intelligent and loveable, and the plot was action packed. I imagined that the book would be a bit drier given the time period it was written and I also expected changes and variations from book to movie. What I didn’t expect was for those changes to make or break the overall story for me. But the movie made Dejah Thoris into an intelligent woman (with a purpose) and John Carter into an accomplished warrior who was by no means cocky about it. In the book, I felt like Dejah was just a beautiful woman with no redeeming qualities and John Carter was a cocky person who fell in love because Dejah Thoris was a woman who kind of looked like Earth women. It was all so terribly flat and dull. And kind of ridiculous, actually. I could go on for ages about the problems with John Carter and Dejah Thoris in the book. I’ve read grocery store romance paperbacks with characters who have more redeeming qualities than these two. It typically doesn’t bother me when books have men and women who are so flat and stereotypical in their gender roles, but neither character was likeable to me because of this.

I gave A Princess of Mars 2 stars instead of 1 because the overall adventure was great. The fact that this was a story on Mars with quite interesting characters and technologies and cultures and it was written so long ago still amazes me. The author had an incredible imagination and I definitely cannot overlook that in my review. Although it felt like so much of the story was changed for the movie, much of it was the same. The idea was great, though it wasn’t executed as well as I’d hoped, at least for a reader these days. It couldn’t be all that terrible if it only took a few tweaks to make it into something brilliant, so for that, I give it 2 stars.

I think it all depends on what kind of books you like to read, too. If old school sci fi is your thing and the classic cliché’s of the author’s era don’t bother you, I think you’ll probably love the Barsoom series. These types of sci fi novels are typically hit or miss (more often miss) for me and I think that has a lot to do with why I disliked the book so much. I suppose I prefer more modern science fiction.

Book To Movie Challenge:

cover from ImDB
John Carter

Summary (from imDB): Transplanted to Mars, a Civil War vet discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians. Finding himself a prisoner of these creatures, he escapes, only to encounter a princess who is in desperate need of a savior.

Short Review:

I love the movie and dislike the book. The movie had better, more developed and likeable characters. The plot was very much the same, but with extra complications and side plots that made the story more complex. Most of my comparisons are listed above in my book review. I really enjoyed the movie and thought it was clever and fantastic. I think it was poorly marketed, which was why it tanked, but it was a wonderful movie that I’ve seen several times. I definitely recommend it if you like science fiction movies like Star Wars.


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