Sorry to lump The Princess of Mars, The Gods of Mars, and The Warlord of Mars all into one post, but if I don’t I may never catch up. These were all Kindle volumes, part of an extremely large collection that Amazon sells for a dollar or two.
I’d never read these, although I had heard of them. John Carter is a Virginian Civil War veteran, who conveniently is immortal. After the war, out west he is trapped by hostile Indians in a strange cave, passes out and wakes up on Mars. Mars is a dying world, full of hostile tribes and city states, with everyone at war with everyone else.
Carter’s Earth body makes him stronger than anyone on Mars, and he uses that strength to defend the oppressed, as befits the honor of a gentleman. He rises from prisoner of the Green Martians to a leader, by right of combat. Then the tribe captures the lovely Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, and Carter decides to help her get back to her home. Needless to say, it is not as simple as that, and after adventures, imprisonment, escape, and a myriad of complications – which shows its origin as a serial in a magazine that needs a cliff-hanger every chapter or so – he gets her home and marries her. After a decade of marriage, a final adventure where Carter saves the entire planet when the air plant fails, he is somehow returned to Earth, where he narrates the story to his nephew Burroughs. Ten years pass as he yearns to get back to Mars and his wife.
Well, it would be a short series if he did not, and in the second and third books he gets back. And unsurprisingly, straight into trouble. as he meets his Green Martian friend Tars Tarkas in a fight against impossible odds against a pack of vampire-like plant creatures and white apes. From Tarkas, he learns that this is the Martian ‘heaven’, where custom says all go after a thousand years of life to rest and be at peace. Being devoured by monsters is not part of the myth. It turns out this religion is a lie, run by the evil Tharns. To return to Dejah, Carter must escape and break the hold of the religion on the planet.
But of course, it is not that simple. For an advanced race of black skinned pirates capture him – they exploit the Tharns as the Tharns exploit the planet. And they are ruled by another false religion, and the priests devour the captives they take. There he meets and eventually recognizes his son, who was hatched from an egg after he left. I guess they grow up fast, since he is a warrior second only to Carter.
They escape, and return to Helium only to find that the rightful rulers have been lost searching for Carter’s son, and Dejah herself had just left to escape the clutches of a usurper. Soon they find that the Black Martians have her, and she will be eaten after her year is up.
…and so it goes. They are fun books, if you don’t take them so seriously. Lots of desperate fights against impossible odds, imprisonments, escapes. sneaking into enemy camps and lairs, the whole works. In the third book you start to wish Dejah stayed home, as she keeps getting kidnapped and re-kidnapped by evildoers over and over from one side of the planet to the other.