Guest review by Tommy “Slug” Togath, age 13
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A Princess of Mars was first published 100 years ago in 1912. I was expecting an old-fashioned story that would be kind of boring. But the reality was that it was exciting and I only had to look up 2 or 3 words I’ve never heard of.
This book is the basis for the upcoming movie, John Carter. John Carter is a former Confederate officer who goes to Arizona to mine for gold after the Civil War. When his partner is killed by Apaches, he narrowly escapes by hiding in a mysterious cave. He goes to sleep and wakes up on Mars, known as Barsoom to the natives. My biggest surprise was how John Carter got from Earth to Mars—no rockets or anything logical, so that kind of detracted from the realism. I know there’s really no life on Mars, and I could suspend my disbelief about that part, but it was hard to look past the mysterious travel between planets. Maybe the next book will address that more sensibly.
John Carter becomes friends with a Martian warrior named Tars Tarkas. Tars Tarkas is a Thark, with green skin, 6 limbs, and very tall. I liked Tars Tarkas a lot, but he really didn’t have much to do. A domesticated Martian pet named Woola becomes John Carter’s companion. I loved Woola because he was brave and loyal to John Carter, just like my dog is to me. John Carter falls in love with a Martian woman named Dejah Thoris. She looks just like an Earth woman, except she has red skin. Dejah Thoris is mostly just a “damsel in distress” and doesn’t do much in the story.
I liked John Carter because he was brave and smart. He had to fight a lot of Martians because he didn’t know their customs. But it turned out all right because the Martians are all warriors who live by the sword and they respect the greatest fighters. John Carter had a big advantage because his muscles were used to the higher gravity of Earth, so he could jump really far and get away from danger.
John Carter made many enemies. The one I liked the least was Sarkoja, a female Thark. She was mean to everybody. Tars Tarkas finally made her leave, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of her.
I liked the scenes with fighting and battles. The opening scenes in Arizona with John Carter being chased by Apaches were very thrilling. I liked the part where John Carter was captured in the city of Zodanga, then rescued his friend Kantos Kan and escaped. Although I knew he would escape, it was still exciting to read about how he fought against long odds and was able to get away.
I was a little disappointed that the story seemed to jump around a lot—more like a series of connected short stories than a coherent novel. But the book held my interest and I would recommend it to my friends. I will definitely read the next book in the series, and I am more excited than ever to see the movie John Carter.