Edgar Rice Burroughs – Thuvia, Maid Of Mars

Thuvia, Maid Of Mars (1920) is the fourth novel in Edgar Rice BurroughsJohn Carter series.  The novel is the first in a new cycle of stories taking place on Mars, or Barsoom as it is called in the series. The first three novels had their focus on the main protagonist of the series and formed a sort of trilogy. Thuvia, Maid Of Mars has the son of John Carter as the central character. Not that he is so much different, but Burroughs uses it to create a new romance on the titular maiden as John Carter is bound in married life. Although the romance is the center piece of the story, much that takes place is actually adventure and action. The romance only drives the tale. The outcome is clear from the start. The only questions which remain are which hurdles have to be taken.

The story is fast paced. There is hardly any time for contemplation. In the meanwhile Burroughs introduces new ideas and peoples. The only question that I personally had was to which extent those ideas were original and the first occurrence of them in a science fiction story. I don’t read that much very old science fiction although I do aim to read the classics, like the Barsoom novels by Burroughs. I also assume that these are considered classics because they introduced for the first time concepts and ideas that would define later mainstream science fiction novels. Thuvia, Maid Of Mars is a short novel so there is not much space to put in many new things. There is only one set of related ideas that felt very familiar although I hadn’t encountered them in this form. So in that sense it was new too. It is actually this component which makes the novel a more than interesting read.

Lacking time for contemplation, the characters remain are rather flat. The few personal thoughts that Burroughs spends time on are mainly focused on primary issues than providing some depth or insight into the characters. Of course Burroughs’ aim in writing these stories was more to entertain and play with alien races and cultures than to showcase a fantastic setting for a well constructed story as his predecessors Jules Verne and H.G. Wells were prone to do. One thing that does show is that Burroughs is well immersed into the Barsoom universe. It is unique and has a distinct atmosphere. It is alien while the aforementioned authors based themselves more on an earthly perspective. This is what makes this novel something more than just an average or even poor novel compared to today’s standards. One has to read it with the time it was written in in mind, which I tried to, and then there is much interesting to see, as Burroughs has a good writing style which will keep the reader going and that’s a quality that is always important in any novel.

One last note concerns the ending. It seemed somewhat abrupt to me and the story stopped suddenly while different matters were still unresolved. Perhaps it will conclude in a later novel although I had expected some storylines to be extended more. Now I am just not certain. At least it will push me to continue on. That said, I have not been reading this novel with great intent. I would not particularly recommend this novel. It is more for collectors like me who like to explore more of the classics in science fiction as one usually only reads the most successful books while the remaining ones are usually harder to find or get. As I have done so before I have discovered that it is often worthwhile to read the “other” books as well as they enrich the experience and the universe that has been created.

 

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