Every once in while I read an old book that is at least a century old. I like doing this because it gives me insight into how people wrote and hence how people thought along time ago. You can get a feeling for what the sentiment and thinking was like back then. Sometimes it can be enlightening, and sometimes it can be an absolute waste of time, but sometimes like with “The Princess of Mars” it can be enthralling.
Why this Book?
I happened to come across this book on Project Gutenburg which is a treasure trove of pubic domain novels. Immediately “The Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs caught my eye because I was aware that the movie John Carter was based on it. I’m always curious to discover if the book is better than the movie, or if the movie is better than the book; more so in this case because this science fiction book was written in way back in 1917.
The general consensus with regard to the film “John Carter” seems to be that people really dislike it. Personally, I thought it was a fantastic movie. I really enjoyed it. It captured the adventure, swash-buckling spirit of a by-gone era. It felt like the Indiana Jones of our day. I was intrigued to find out that this book had inspired authors like Arthur C Clarke and Robert Heinlein. The ideas in this book were fresh before popular movies like Star Wars made them fresh.
This book is a splendidly easy read. From page one, the pacing moves briskly, so that you never get bored and each new chapter opens up new worlds, new characters and peoples in such a way that you’re always engaged.
I really like how the characters are fleshed out. And the idea of a capable space adventurer defeating hordes of enemies, boldly facing the unknown and romancing women from other worlds is quite fun. This is so different from what I currently consume that it really makes reading fun again. I can see why “The Princess of Mars” influenced so many people across the decades.
Words, Words, Words
Whenever you read a great book, it always teaches you something about yourself you didn’t realize. This book taught me that my vocabulary is non existent! There are so many words in this book that you’re sort of aware of, but never use. It makes me realize that people living a hundred years ago had a much better command of English than we do today. And certainly they could be more expressive with it.
The book has an enormous amount of works in it that I’ve never used let alone heard of. Just to name a few :
fusillade, surmounted, coiffure, succor, countenance, atavism, mete, haughty, uncouth, amity, mirthless, portentous, accouterments, chattels, temerity, doughty, harangue, harpies, wring, antecedents, behest, indulgence, vicissitudes, forthwith, retinues, exigencies, cavalcade, tractable, celerity, ignominy, importune, disconsolately, throng, vehemently, tableau, livid, lithe, despoil, baleful, imprecations, debased, fagged, Gehenna, bounteously, pinioned, scintillated, cordiality, contrivances, solidity, courtiers, helter-skelter, erstwhile, eaves, trappings, glowering, garrulous, veritable, ere, boon
Many books these days are very inwardly focused. It’s all about self-help, me and mine, how do I, and self care. Even the characters and stories of modern fiction are quite narcissistic. As such we never get to look at a world broader than our own. We never get to speculate, dream or imagine. I really love books like “The Princess of Mars” because the goal is to ignite the imagination and to spark the senses; to compel you to think of new worlds and new ideas. To look over the horizon and wonder whats beyond.
A hundred years Edgar Rice Burroughs inspired a series of future generations with his work “The Princess of Mars”. We should revisit books like these to remind ourselves of what grand ideas looked like. And perhaps we too will be inspired to dream a bigger dream once again.