- Amis, Martin — London Fields (471 pages)
- Morpurgo, Michael — War Horse (182 pages)
- Winterson, Jeanette — Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (177 pages)
- Robinson, Bruce — Paranoia in the Launderette (43 pages)
- Carter, Angela — Heroes and Villains (152 pages)
- Burroughs, Edgar Rice — A Princess of Mars (209 pages)
- Page count
The last couple of times I'd been to the cinema I'd seen previews for some Disney movie called John Carter. I remember thinking this was such a stupid name for what looked like some sort of sword-and-sworcery adventure, as if the name John Carter is evocative of anything. I remained thus clueless until I was browsing my shelves for my next book and glanced at the back-cover blurb for A Princess of Mars. Oh. Oh! Suddenly the Disney movie didn't seem so stupid. Suddenly I wanted to see it as soon as it came out, and so A Princess of Mars moved to the top of my reading list.
I thoroughly enjoyed A Princess of Mars. Mars may be nothing like the world Burroughs describes, but scientific accuracy and rigour is not the point of planetary romance. Neither is character study, so I'm not the least bothered that the characters were cliched stereotypes. Rather, my imagination was swept away by a vivid new world, ancient cities, exotic creatures, fascinating technologies, and a rip-roaring adventure tale with good guys and bad guys and romance and faithful companions and the paradise lost/regained thing going on. The appeal is that of the original Star Wars movie but in book form.
One of the things I found noteworthy is the descriptions of technology. Yes, all the science is horribly wrong, as one would expect. However, I think it's wrong in a brilliant manner. A lot of the technology described is stuff that exists today, but of course one wouldn't expect anyone in 1912 to have the same sorts of scientific insights that someone writing today might have. However, Burroughs does a brilliant job of describing the technologies from the perspective of a 19th century soldier. If one doesn't short-sightedly hold ignorance of modern scientific terminology against Burroughs, the science holds up remarkably well.
While I don't think the movie is as bad as its performance in cinemas seems to indicate, I didn't enjoy it nearly as much. Perhaps where the movie went awry is in the addition of a different race of beings (which I can only assume are from other books in the series) who influence events on Mars. The plot of the movie became diffuse and events seemed to make less sense. But it was still a fairly enjoyable movie. If you want bad, you should see the 2009 direct-to-DVD adaptation which shared little in common with the book but the name.