The Chessmen of Mars (Barsoom #5) by Edgar Rice Burroughs.pdf (USD-0.00)The Chessmen of Mars (Barsoom #5) by Edgar Rice Burroughs.epub (USD-0.00)The Chessmen of Mars (Barsoom #5) by Edgar Rice Burroughs.doc (USD-0.00)The Chessmen of Mars (Barsoom #5) by Edgar Rice Burroughs.txt (USD-0.00)The Chessmen of Mars (Barsoom #5) by Edgar Rice Burroughs.mobi (USD-0.00)
really liked it
Depending on my mood, this is either my favorite or second favorite of the Barsoom books. As with my other favorite, ‘A Fighting Man of Mars’, the hero of the story isn’t that veritable demigod Virginian, John Carter, but a native Martian – in this case Gahan the Jed (or King) of Gathol – a small but very prosperous city state. The story concerns Gahan’s attempts to woo the young daughter of John Carter, Tara, who rebuffs Gahan because he does not seem to her to be modest, rugged, and martial en
‘Chessmen’ is one of the longer Barsoom stories and it benefits from the length, but it’s still easily consumed in a long afternoon. It is excellent reading material if you have the flu or otherwise must stay in bed or can.
And I doubt that there is anyone out there who first read this story as a boy and didn’t build a Martian chess set of some sort.
Anyone care for a game of Jetan?
“The Chessmen of Mars,” Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 5th John Carter novel out of 11, first appeared in serial form in the magazine “Argosy All Story Weekly” from February to April 1922. It is easily the best of the Carter lot to this point; the most detailed, the most imaginative, and the best written. Carter himself only appears at the beginning and end of the tale. Instead, our action heroes are his daughter, Tara, who gets lost in a rare Barsoomian storm while joyriding in her flier and blown halfw
In the first half of this novel, Tara and Gahan wind up in the clutches of the kaldanes–bodiless brains who live in a symbiotic relationship with their headless “rykors.” One of these brains, Ghek, befriends the couple and tags along with them for the remainder of their odyssey. Ghek is a wonderful character, touching and fascinating and amusing all at once. In one passage, Ghek gives us some very interesting philosophy regarding the relationship between mind and body. In the second half of the book, the trio is captured by the hordes of Manator, and Gahan winds up fighting for Tara in a game of Martian chess, or jetan, a game in which real men are used in lieu of pieces and fight to the death for possession of squares. The jetan sequence is extremely exciting and detailed, and a knowledge of chess is not necessary for full enjoyment. One need not be a chess buff to appreciate the detailed moves that Burroughs gives us. “Chessmen” is, as I mentioned, very well written for a Burroughs novel; even, dare I say it, poetically written in spots. The action is relentless, the standard of imagination very high, and the denouement extremely satisfying. It is a near masterpiece. Why only “near”? Well, as is usual with these books, there are some problems….
As in the previous Carter novels, these problems take the form of inconsistencies and implausibilities. At the book’s beginning, Burroughs, who has just been told this tale by Carter himself, writes that “if there be inconsistencies and errors, let the blame fall not upon John Carter, but rather upon my faulty memory, where it belongs.” He is excusing himself in advance for any mistakes that he might make, and well he should, because there are many such in this book. I, however, cannot excuse an author for laziness and sloppy writing. Saying “excuse me” doesn’t make for good writing. Just what am I referring to here? Let’s see….
Tara, in several spots in the book, refers to Tardos Mors as her grandfather, when in actuality he is her great-grandfather. The Martian word “sofad” is said to be a foot; but in the previous book, “Thuvia, Maid of Mars,” an “ad” was said to be a foot. Tara, in one scene, smites Ghek on the back of the head. Gahan is watching this fight from a distance, and sees her hit Ghek in the face! In the game of jetan, the thoat pieces are said to wear three feathers; but in the Rules for Jetan at the book’s end, they are said to wear two. This book is based on events told to John Carter, conceivably by Tara, Gahan and/or Ghek, and yet scenes are described in which none of those characters appear; thus, they could have had no knowledge of these events described. This, I feel, is a basic problem with the book’s structure. Besides these inconsistencies, there are some things that are a bit hard to swallow. For instance, that Gahan could fall 3,000 feet from a flier in the middle of a cyclone and, freakishly, survive. It’s also hard to believe that Tara does not recognize Gahan when he comes to her rescue, and fails to remember where they have met, until the very end of the book. In addition, I feel that the character of Ghek is underutilized in the book’s second half. It might have been nice to see the old boy loosening up a bit, as he got more in touch with his emotions, Spockstyle. Anyway, all quibbles aside, “Chessmen” is a wonderful piece of fantasy, one that had me tearing through the pages as quickly as I possibly could. It is an exceptionally fine entry in the John Carter series.
With the fifth book in the Barsoom series, much like Burroughs ability to recycle his stories, I thought I could just repost my review of book four – Thuvia, Maid of Mars – as it pretty much still applies to this novel too. Burroughs again recycles his damsel in distress (of course she’s gorgeous), his introduction of two new species of Barsoomians (surprisingly close to Helium to have gone unnoticed), the courageous rescue (by a spurned suitor). It could, again, so easily be the same novel with
But, while it still is derivative and repetitive, it’s a lot more fun than the previous novel. Burroughs seems more comfortable with this non-John Carter novel format (although he still manages to sneak him in as a soft of removed narrator). Tara, as a Carter herself, gets to be a little more feisty than Thuvia was allowed to be. Although she gets herself into plenty of scrapes, she’s not waiting to be rescued necessarily and is happy to give orders when her would-be rescuer does turn up. I enjoyed the rather silly twist where she fails to recognise her rescuer as the man she’d spurned only a few days before – sort of like the Superman/Clark Kent glasses – once Gahan takes off his platinum straps he is unrecognisable.
The new races are something of a break from the norm too. The Barsoomians of Manator aren’t so unique, but their ritualised games of chess to the death are certainly interesting. But the Kaldane are the more interesting idea. A race of Barsoomians who have advanced their intellect to such a level that they are devoid of emotion and have developed physically to mere brains with little spider-leg appendages to be able to scuttle about a bit. On top of that they’ve developed a sort of symbiotic relationship with another sub-species who are bodies with no heads. They have no intellect of their own and graze randomly until paired with a Keldane who acts as their head and brain. The Keldane are, of course, pretty much universally evil dudes (those damned intellectuals) until one of them is able to reconnect with his emotions.