Book Corner: A Fighting Man of Mars (Burroughs, E.R. 1931)

A Fighting Man of Mars, despite it, doesn't star any of the previous heroes and has only a minor role for John Carter, is pretty much a rehash of every other story in the Barsoom series. In fact, it is so much of a rehash, that even if you'd just outright skip a half of it, you'd be able to follow the plot precisely and not lose anything of importance. While the story itself has some interesting bits in it as well as some mixing of the basic formulae of the series, it as a whole feels a bit tired entry to the series. This was the first time for me reading this one, but I must say it still did come out as a bit of a disappointment.

This time around we'll get a story of Tan Hadron, a native of Mars, who is a young, poor padwar in the navy of Helium. He falls madly in love with wealthy noblewoman Sanoma Tora, after whom he madly dashes when a hostile nation to Helium kidnaps her. This leads into numerous ah so familiar situation, starting from green Martians shooting down his ship, finding and rescuing an unexpected woman in distress (Tavia, who's actually quite a refreshing female character in the series, as she does know how to hold a sword), getting thrown in prison, making new friends, escaping only to end up in more jeopardy and finally facing the biggest of odds, which the hero seems to beat more with an aid of good fortune than anything else.

Now, I'm going to spoil the great romance of this story, so if you don't want to know about it, don't read. See, Sanoma Tora is rich, spoiled and shallow, but the bad of those traits Tan Hadron doesn't see, because of all the mushy feelings he has. So despite, when he rescues and befriends an escaped slave girl Tavia, who's an exact opposite what comes to a personality of Sanoma Tora, and Tan becomes to admire her a lot, it takes until the end of the story for him to finally realize whom he really loves.

There are two things that make a Fighting Man of Mars a bit different from the previous stories: first of, the romance of Tan ends up happening with Tavia instead of Sanoma and secondly, Tavia is a very atypical heroine for Burroughs, as her personality and skills compare more with his male heroes. She even really does know how to use a sword as well as how to take care of herself.

Because of Tavia it actually is a bit of a shame that the story itself is just a big pile of all so familiar tropes that Burroughs has used ad nauseam previously. The predictability of the story goes so far, that when people start rolling out, you'll soon figure that they'll have an "unexpected" part to play in the story before it all ends.  And as it is, it seems to be impossible for any hero of Mars to take a step without accidentally stepping on some princess or an another, as in the end it is revealed, that Tavia is indeed a real princess, she just was taken as a prisoner as a child and made a slave.

I guess in the right mindset, and if you haven't read that many Barsoom novels before, a Fighting Man of Mars is an entertaining piece of pulp adventure. If you are more familiar with the series though, it just feels far too annoyingly familiar and a temptation to just skip several pages forward is too compelling.

Burroughs's writing style is still as rousing as ever, the story itself though is just relying far too much on the tropes he's used so many times before. At this point in the series, I'd welcome some more change. There are seeds for that present, but we'll see if the next story drives it home or not.

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