the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘planetary romance

Let’s kick of Vintage month with something nice and truly old, shall we?

A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs

published in 1917 (but serialized earlier)

where I got it: purchased used. This cover art is the version I bought it is from Fall River Press, printed in 2011, with cover art by Kekai Kotaki.

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A Princess of Mars is one of those sword and sorcery / planetary romances that I’ve been meaning to read for ages.  The movie came out in 2012 got mixed reviews, but I loved the visuals, thought the Tharks were great, and gently ignored the plotting that made no sense. Anyone who is anyone has named Barsoom as an influence to their love of science and science fiction – Carl Sagan, James Cameron, George Lucas, and Ray Bradbury, just to name a few.

Blending science fiction, fantasy, pulp adventure and western, John Carter is the epitome of the American Man – strong and independent, intelligent and well spoken, very handsome, keeps his promises and knows how to throw a good punch. Guys wanna be him and girls wanna date him.  If this book had been written today, John Carter would be conceited. He’d *know* he was the hero of the story. In the words and the mentality of nearly a hundred years ago, he’s just a man who does what needs needs to be done with grace and dignity.

This book is nearly a hundred years old.  The statute of limitations has run out on spoilers, so sorry, but I’m going to tell you what happens at the end. Copyright has run out too, and the book is in the public domain now and on Project Gutenberg, and an audio is also available as a  free download on Librivox.

After a mishap in Arizona, Carter wakes up on Mars, also known as Barsoom.  Thanks to the lower Martian gravity, Carter finds he can jump and leap incredibly far, and his muscles, developed for the gravity of Earth, offer him what is seen as super strength on Mars.  Shortly after arriving, he runs into a band of Tharks the 15 foot tall green men of Mars, led by Tars Tarkus, and is taken back to their camp as a curiosity/prisoner. He looks like the humanoid red men of Mars, but he can’t speak their language, and he hasn’t a clue about Barsoomian customs.   A Thark woman, Sola, is assigned to Carter to help him learn their language and customs, and he is guarded by Woola, a watch-dog of sorts.  I thought it was hilarious that Carter can’t bring himself to call Woola a dog, so he calls him a “watch-thing”.

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ARedSunAlsoRisesA Red Sun Also Rises, by Mark Hodder

published December 2012

where I got it: received ARC from the publisher

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Aiden Fleischer is a conflicted man, more so than most men.  A young and sheltered priest who struggles with his faith, Aiden escapes an extortion scheme by signing up with the Missionary Society. Travelling with him, is his friend and housekeeper Clarissa Stark, whose engineering genius is matched only by her crippling disfigurement. Before long, Aiden and Clarissa find themselves on a remote island near the Solomon Islands, and Aiden begins his task of bringing the Lord’s word to the natives. Who aren’t the slightest bit interested. Also, they are cannibals.

During a ritual gone wrong (or maybe right?) Aiden and Clarissa are sent through a portal to an alien world, where strange insect-like beings welcome them with open arms. Apparently the islanders have been coming here for years to work as servants for the aliens. After Clarissa accidentally falls into a sacred pool, the aliens, known as Yatsill, are able to read her thoughts and memories of London. Soon, the Yatsill are all speaking with almost Cockney accents, and attempting to wear the fashions of 1880’s London, which look ridiculous on their four-legged bodies.

The Yatsill are mimics, able to create and recreate their city, their homes, their language and their fashions to copy memories read from an Earthling’s mind. But they are still just imitating, going through the motions with no understand of what they are doing (Not unlike how Aiden goes through the motions of being a  man of faith, actually). A funny example is the British sounding names many of Yatsill adopt, such as Crockery Clattersmash, Prosper Possibly, and Mordant Reverie. Poor Aiden, he has to keep a straight face the whole time!

The details put into the Yatsill and their planet of Ptallaya are nothing short of astounding.  Hodder lets his imagination run wild, offering up lighter-than-air behemoths who crawl across the landscape by grabbing trees with their hands, huge fruits that hum, and sky scraping tentacled creatures.  Ptallaya itself, is in a unique spot in the universe, which causes all sorts of strange things to happen on its surface. For no other reason, read this for the aliens and their unique planet. Because the Yatsill are just the beginning of what Ptallaya has on offer.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.