Classic, Science Fiction

Review: A Princess of Mars

Cover of "A Princess of Mars," featuring a nearly-naked man carrying a naked woman; they are standing above the corpses of several green aliens
Image from Loyal Books

Title: A Princess of Mars

Series: The Martian Tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs #1

Author: Edgar Rice Burroughs

Genre: Science Fiction/Classic

Back Cover:

Suddenly transported to Mars, John Carter found himself captive of the savage green men of Thark. With him was Dejah Thoris, lovely princess of Helium. And between them and rescue lay a thousand miles of deadly enemies and unknown dangers.

Review:

This book has been on the bookshelves in the office for a long time (it came in a box of adult sci-fi and high fantasy books Dad got off eBay), but I avoided it because of the naked people on the cover. Then we got the movie John Carter on Netflix, and when I learned a really good movie was based off this book, I decided to give it a try.

I was surprised at how much I liked John Carter. He was a Confederate soldier in the Civil War, then a gold prospector, but always a gentleman. (Having learned a lot about the Civil War recently from a pit stop in Gettysburg on my way to Washington, D.C., most men were gentlemanly back then.) He could fight (and he was good at it), but he was also kind, protective, and respectful.

Unfortunately, the other characters pulled pretty flat. Dejah Thoris was beautiful. Sola, the green woman assigned as John Carter’s servant, was peaceful for a green person. The rest of the green people were wild and violent. And … that’s about it.

The rescuing Dejah Thoris plot that is mentioned on the back cover? Dejah Thoris doesn’t even show up until halfway through the book. The first half is John Carter adapting to life as a sort-of prisoner of the green men and fighting his way up from prisoner to chief of sorts. Then Dejah Thoris gets captured, and since the green men and Dejah’s people are enemies, they decide to kill her. So about two thirds of the way through the book, John and Dejah escape.

The John Carter movie had a lot of similarities to the plot of A Princess of Mars. The movie producers didn’t follow the same timeline as the book and glossed over some parts, which made for a better movie. But the parts they skipped made for a better book. I loved John Carter’s time with the green men, and I highly enjoyed learning about their society. Of course, once they escaped, I enjoyed that, too.

The biggest thing that bothered me about this book was that clothes apparently don’t exist on Mars. Everything was done in the nude. Nothing is actually described, and it’s not awkward for the characters, but I just felt a little weird knowing that whatever is going on, everyone is naked. (On the bright side, the cover makes sense.)

Like a lot of classic books, the writing is a little dense. Despite being an action book, it’s still full of long paragraphs and heavy on description. For the most part, I didn’t mind (although I did find myself glossing over paragraphs here and there), but if you’re used to snappy action, this would certainly be a change of pace.

Did I enjoy this book? Yes. Will I be reading the other 10 books in the series? Probably not. Besides the fact that we don’t own the rest of the series, I think A Princess of Mars had a perfectly acceptable ending and see no reason to continue past the conclusion.

The Martian Tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs:

  1. A Princess of Mars
  2. The Gods of Mars
  3. The Warlord of Mars
  4. Thuvia, Maid of Mars
  5. The Chessmen of Mars
  6. The Master Mind of Mars
  7. A Fighting Man of Mars
  8. Swords of Mars
  9. Synthetic Men of Mars
  10. Llana of Gathol
  11. John Carter of Mars

 

 

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Science Fiction, Suspense/Thriller

Review: Jurassic Park

Cover of Jurassic Park, featuring the silhouette of a t-rex skeleton on a white background
Image from Michael Crichton

Title: Jurassic Park

Author: Michael Crichton

Genre: Science Fiction/Thriller

Back Cover:

An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Creatures once extinct now roam Jurassic Park, soon-to-be opened as a theme park. Until something goes wrong…and science proves a dangerous toy….

Review:

I lost interest in dinosaurs in second grade, I’m not a big fan of adult books, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the Jurassic Park movie. So until it was a book club book, I had no intention of ever reading this book.

So, I want to mention characters, but I’m not sure which ones to mention. There’s Grant and Ellie the archeologists, Ian Malcom the mathematician (and my favorite character for reasons I’m not sure of), John Hammond who created the island, Hammond’s grandkids Tim and Lex, and various employees. All of them played an important part at some point or another, and I liked (or in some cases, hated) them all in varying levels. But none of them stood out as “I really liked him” or “she’s the main character.”

I was surprised that I enjoyed the plot. The movie missed a lot of details, which was sometimes a good thing but most of the time managed to keep me interested. And the rampaging dinos managed to keep my attention. Sometimes it wasn’t as thriller-y as I think it was supposed to be, probably because I didn’t care about the characters as much as I should have, but I still occasionally found myself hoping certain characters would survive (and sometimes that others would get eaten). There was a lot of gore at times, sure, but I’m not sure a book about carnivorous dinosaurs could have got away without it. Overall, I was happily interested.

My biggest problem with the book was that it got bogged down in scientific details every once in a while. I don’t care which isotopes they extracted to piece together the dinosaurs’ DNA. All I need to know is that it can be done. And as not a huge fan of chemistry or biology, I found most of the sciency stuff boring.

I didn’t exactly enjoy Jurassic Park, but I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t hate it. Do I plan on reading any more of Crichton’s books? No. But I don’t regret this read.

The Jurassic Park series:

  1. Jurassic Park
  2. The Lost World
Science Fiction

Review: Virals

Image from cemsbookhideout.blogspot.com

Title: Virals

Series: Virals #1

Author: Kathy Reichs

Genre: Science Fiction

Back Cover:

Tory Brennan is a science geek, and so are her friends, Ben, Hi, and Sheldon. The four of them have grown up exploring the backwoods marshlands of Loggerhead Island, home of the mysterious Loggerhead Research Institute. When a fifty-year-old murder leads Tory and her friends to discover a wolfdog pup being held captive at the institute, they hatch a plot to bust him out. But the scientists have already experimented on the dog – and Tory and her friends catch an experimental strain of parvovirus. Now, with their very DNA altered, they have skills that no normal humans have. But that might not be enough to save them when a cold-blooded murderer has caught their scent…

Review:

I picked this up because I saw the sequel in the store and thought it looked interesting, and I have a policy of not reading book two until I’ve read book one. So when I recognized the title on the library shelf, I grabbed it without really looking at it.

I was slightly worried when a quote on the front compared Virals to Maximum Ride. Even thought it was James Patterson doing the comparison, I absolutely LOVE Maximum Ride, and I thought it couldn’t be nearly as good.

But, happily, I was disappointed.

In case you’re confused, let me say this straight out: I loved Virals. There were some similarities to Maximum Ride, but nothing so drastic that I thought it was a total rip-off, and nothing so blatantly obvious that I could point to the passage and say, “Yeah, that’s just like Maximum Ride.” It had a distinctly Maximum Ride-like feel, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why.

Well, the premise was somewhat similar – regular humans with altered DNA and, because of that, superhuman abilities. That, and Tory’s unique, independent, and occasionally humorous voice was similar to Max’s.

I’m not a big science fan, so I didn’t find the sciencey part of the book as interesting as some people might. But I certainly enjoyed the murder mystery and the conspiracy plot (and the fact that you don’t find out until the climax who the baddest bad guy is – unless you’re more suspicious than me). The murder mystery part wasn’t even an average murder mystery – it was a fifty-year-old murder that was part of a huge money-making conspiracy!

I could go on and on about how astonishingly original the plot was, but I would start repeating myself after a while.  So…

It’s funny, though, except for Tory, I didn’t really get a feel for any of the characters. (This didn’t take away from the book, as I only noticed it in retrospect.) I felt like Tory was the ringleader and always came up with the ideas, and the rest of the characters protested her insane schemes and then helped her anyway.

I really enjoyed Tory’s voice – she was independent, smart, bold, and not afraid to break a few rules. (Or, actually, a lot of rules – and laws, too.) And I loved how she preferred to go investigate for herself rather than ask somebody’s advice. (Sure, that got her into trouble, but that just made the book more interesting.)

This is one of those where I wish I had the sequel on hand so I could pick it up immediately after finishing it. I can’t wait to read the sequel, Seizure!

The Virals series:

  1. Virals
  2. Seizure
  3. Code
  4. Exposure
  5. Terminal