Todays column is retro, again. As plainly evident by the garish book cover, I am reviewing the classic series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Carson of Venus. A four book adventure begun with Pirates of Venus (1934), Lost on Venus, Carson of Venus, Escape on Venus and the short story The Wizard of Venus. ALL are available as both new/used paperbacks on Amazon as well as Kindle versions. Or, save the money and download them from Gutenberg Australia absolutely free.
The series follows the adventures of Carson Napier, a man determined to visit Mars. With the help of the Mexican Government, he constructs a sixty ton ‘space torpedo’ that will speed him along miles of track on Guadalupe Island and launch him on his way to Mars, arriving in forty to forty five days of flight.
Needless to say, the series titles make it very obvious that he zigged when he should have zagged. He crashes into Venus instead, tropical, a primeval hot house planet, forever shrouded in clouds. A planet inhabited by humans, bird-mennnfish-menenen, pygmies and of course, Duare virgin daughter of the jong (the king of Vepaja).
Much like John Carter of Mars, Carson has the unerring ability to fall into trouble without warning. He goes from being lost explorer to prisoner, to Captain on a Pirate vessel, back to slave and finally, becoming the adopted son of a jong (and thus is eligible to marry Duare). In short, it’s classic ERB. Formulaic, hero arrives destitute, prevails to win honors, falls in love, love interest denies their love and is kidnapped, hero rescues love interest with marriage being the final result. Pure, distilled ERB. But, it works. It worked for Tarzan, for John Carter, for the David Innes and the Pellucidar series as well as the rest of his work.
By no means is this series scientifically correct, not even by the science of the time it was written. But, ERB just didn’t care. He was out to tell a story and he created the Venus he wanted/needed for Carson to go adventuring in.
I’ve never understood why John Carter was so much more popular than Carson Napier. Both series are so very similar to each other, yet John Carter of Mars is so much more popular. I, personally, always preferred Carson Napier. He always seemed to be more believable, more human than John Carter. He also married a Venusian woman and NOT a Martian, egg laying woman-like bug (at least, that was my take on Dejah Thoris). But, as they say, your mileage may vary…
Without revealing too much of the story, I think it is well worth your time to read these books. They’re fun! Having said that, remember they were written in the 30’s, a totally different mindset from today. A totally different style of writing also. Purple prose indeed! The books are very dated, younger readers may get frustrated reading them (some older ones too!) just from the language and basic structure of the text.
I’ve often wondered, how they would do ‘modernized’. An Alternate universe Venus, with a 21st century hero. A hero that has grown up with the spectre of feminism, equal rights, pc language/actions, slasher movies and the like. Maybe not, it would kill the book. The books have a charm and elegance all their own, this is why I am giving the series three full pails of basset drool!