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The Chessmen of Mars

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If you enjoyed the chess game in Harry Potter, this science fiction book is for you. Edgar Rice Burroughs was born in 1875 in Chicago, Illinois. Although Burroughs wrote in many genres he is best known for creating the jungle hero Tarzan. Burroughs began writing for pulp fiction magazines and in 1912 he published Tarzan of the Burroughs has also written several exciting ad If you enjoyed the chess game in Harry Potter, this science fiction book is for you. Edgar Rice Burroughs was born in 1875 in Chicago, Illinois. Although Burroughs wrote in many genres he is best known for creating the jungle hero Tarzan. Burroughs began writing for pulp fiction magazines and in 1912 he published Tarzan of the Burroughs has also written several exciting adventure tales set on Mars. In The Chessmen of Mars the reader visits an outlaw city where chess is played with living men who fight to the death for possession of squares.


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If you enjoyed the chess game in Harry Potter, this science fiction book is for you. Edgar Rice Burroughs was born in 1875 in Chicago, Illinois. Although Burroughs wrote in many genres he is best known for creating the jungle hero Tarzan. Burroughs began writing for pulp fiction magazines and in 1912 he published Tarzan of the Burroughs has also written several exciting ad If you enjoyed the chess game in Harry Potter, this science fiction book is for you. Edgar Rice Burroughs was born in 1875 in Chicago, Illinois. Although Burroughs wrote in many genres he is best known for creating the jungle hero Tarzan. Burroughs began writing for pulp fiction magazines and in 1912 he published Tarzan of the Burroughs has also written several exciting adventure tales set on Mars. In The Chessmen of Mars the reader visits an outlaw city where chess is played with living men who fight to the death for possession of squares.

30 review for The Chessmen of Mars

  1. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    3.5 to 4 stars – I will round up here to an official 4 star rating. Another classic sci-fi tale that brings forth black and white images from early sci-fi films of bold, muscular heroes, space-damsels in distress, and bizarre/grotesque alien creatures. When the space craft are flying, you might even be able to envision the cord that it is hanging from. But, seriously, it definitely has that feel and if you have enjoyed the other books in the John Carter/Barsoom series, then you should enjoy this o 3.5 to 4 stars – I will round up here to an official 4 star rating. Another classic sci-fi tale that brings forth black and white images from early sci-fi films of bold, muscular heroes, space-damsels in distress, and bizarre/grotesque alien creatures. When the space craft are flying, you might even be able to envision the cord that it is hanging from. But, seriously, it definitely has that feel and if you have enjoyed the other books in the John Carter/Barsoom series, then you should enjoy this one no less. I will say that I think I like it more for the atmosphere described above and the characters than anything else. The story is okay, but sort of forgettable. It is the individual scenes, unusual relationships, and somewhat cheesy dialogue that keep me interested. It is almost like going to a sci-fi museum where nothing has been updated since the 40s. Sometimes you think it is so bad, but you realize it is so good!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Morilyn

    My Grandfather owned a copy of this book & he offered it to me to read when I was @ home sick with measles over 50 years ago. It was my introduction to that mystifying & magical world of Science Fiction. Thus began my lifelong love of all things "other worlds" written, filmed, on TV... Amazing author, story & grandfather!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    One of my two favorite Barsoom books outside of the initial trilogy. (The other being A Fighting Man of Mars.) Again it's in third person, allowing for different points of view. This time, though, we get a proper John Carter prologue/intro explaining how ERB obtained the manuscript. Very similar to Thuvia, Maid of Mars in structure (lone warrior goes off after missing princess, encounters lost cities and perils and (SPOILER!) gets the girl in the end) but there just seems to be a spark here that One of my two favorite Barsoom books outside of the initial trilogy. (The other being A Fighting Man of Mars.) Again it's in third person, allowing for different points of view. This time, though, we get a proper John Carter prologue/intro explaining how ERB obtained the manuscript. Very similar to Thuvia, Maid of Mars in structure (lone warrior goes off after missing princess, encounters lost cities and perils and (SPOILER!) gets the girl in the end) but there just seems to be a spark here that was missing in Thuvia -- the cities are loster and the perils are more perilous. Rykers and kaldanes and jetan, oh, my!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    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 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 enough in his bearing. Naturally, Gahan very quickly finds opportunity to prove his manly virtues, when Tara finds herself in mortal danger and far from any other aid. The long series of adventures that ensue reveal hidden kingdoms, lost races, and ultimately culminate in a stunning game of living chess. This is 'Barsoom' at its best - predictable in outline but delightful in its twists and execution. '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?

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    "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 "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 halfway across the surface of the planet, and the Gatholian jed Gahan, who goes in search of her. 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.

  6. 4 out of 5

    James

    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 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 only the names changed: this one is, after all, about John Carter's daughter – Tara – rather than his son from the previous novel. 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.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    I give up. Burrough's Barsoom series has devolved into a Captain-Bill's-Whiz-Bang stories of the simple sensationalism, appropriate at best for adolescent boys. Even though I have several more editions in my Nook, I doubt if I'll read them soon. A waste of time and electrons--at least the trees were spared.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Sadly a huge pain in the arse compared to the earlier books. Tara of Helium is just a whining bunt and the throwing out of random names and places gets old really quick. Just not an interesting enough plot to carry through the flaws

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kent

    A pretty darn good one in the Mars series. I felt Thuvia, Maid of Mars was a little lacking, but this one makes up for that. This one, again, does not focus on John Carter, but rather his daughter Tara, which he suddenly has. She gets captured by the Kaldanes, which are spider-like creatures and can attach themselves to these headless human bodies, called rykors, and control them for their own use. She also gets captured by the Manatorians, which are the chess players; but they play using real p A pretty darn good one in the Mars series. I felt Thuvia, Maid of Mars was a little lacking, but this one makes up for that. This one, again, does not focus on John Carter, but rather his daughter Tara, which he suddenly has. She gets captured by the Kaldanes, which are spider-like creatures and can attach themselves to these headless human bodies, called rykors, and control them for their own use. She also gets captured by the Manatorians, which are the chess players; but they play using real people on a life-size board. It's good stuff.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Brent

    On our trip to Mars this time, we find more lost and forgotten cities, one of which is inhabited by some of the most disturbing creatures ever to be described on paper. Along with great Burroughs style adventure, and classic characters. Well played Mr. Burroughs, well played.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Thor The Redbeard

    By far the best Barsoom book, with different pov's and cool touch of gamedesign by Burroughs. ;) 8/10

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    “The Chessmen of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs is the fifth book in the Barsoom series. After “Thuvia, Maid of Mars” was something of a disappointment, this installment may be the best of the series. As with the prior book, this one focuses on different characters than any of the earlier books in the series, this time the focus is John Carter’s daughter Tara, and Gahan, the Jed of Gathol. The story was originally published as a serial in “Argosy All-Story Weekly” in the February 18th, 25th, Marc “The Chessmen of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs is the fifth book in the Barsoom series. After “Thuvia, Maid of Mars” was something of a disappointment, this installment may be the best of the series. As with the prior book, this one focuses on different characters than any of the earlier books in the series, this time the focus is John Carter’s daughter Tara, and Gahan, the Jed of Gathol. The story was originally published as a serial in “Argosy All-Story Weekly” in the February 18th, 25th, March 4th, 11th, 18th, and 25th editions in 1922 before being published in book for in November of the same year. It is true that there are some issues with it. For one thing, the Prelude initially seems unnecessary and doesn’t quite fit with the book. The premise is that John Carter returns to Earth briefly to relate the tale, but when the story starts he is speaking from a perspective of Tara, not himself, and that is the case for most of the book. When one gets to the end, then having John Carter telling the tale makes a bit more sense, because it allows Burroughs to quickly tell what happens after the main action without a drawn out couple of chapters. The other issue is that it is a bit difficult to believe that Tara doesn’t recognize Gahan at their second meeting. While one can understand that it is important for the way the story is told, it doesn’t seem believable, and then it leads to issues with the narration referring to Gahan by the wrong name and position, even when it doesn’t make sense to do so. The reader knows that he is not a Pathan and that his name isn’t Turan, and it would have made sense to consistently refer to him with the proper name and rank when it is from another character’s perspective, rather than the general narration. Those problems are minor though, as the story is very enjoyable, and the new characters add a lot to the series. Ghek is a member of a rather horrifying race (the Kaldane), but when he becomes an ally it adds a great deal to the story. The city of Manator likewise is very inventive with its social behavior, and of course we have the use of the game of Jetan, which is much like chess which plays an important role in the story. The story is so entertaining, that one hardly notices that one of the major plot devices, that Tara is promised to another but is falling for Gahan/Turan is rather similar to the one used in “Thuvia, Maid of Mars”. One of the reasons I feel that this book is probably the best of the series thus far is that unlike John Carter in the first three books, the major characters in this book are much more vulnerable. Carter always seemed invincible, as he could fight countless foes hour after hour. While it is true that Gahan faces one foe for a long period in this book, it is the same one who would also be suffering the ill-effects of a prolonged combat. Of course, one cannot deny that this book does not stand on its own, and that you need to read at least the “Princess of Mars” before it, and better yet all of the prior books, and so one can understand why others may feel that it is those books are more important to the series, but I don’t think this one is behind any of the previous ones when it comes to the entertaining storyline.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Thom Swennes

    To categorize this narrative as science fiction (as it is often referred to as) would, in my opinion, be erroneous as no science is involved. A more fitting genre would be fantasy or maybe to be more unambiguous, action fantasy. Tara, the daughter of John Carter the Virginian visitor to Mars that has graced many of Burroughs’ stories with his action-packed presence, goes out on a joy ride in her flying machine and is caught in a terrible storm. This storm blows her craft to unknown parts of the To categorize this narrative as science fiction (as it is often referred to as) would, in my opinion, be erroneous as no science is involved. A more fitting genre would be fantasy or maybe to be more unambiguous, action fantasy. Tara, the daughter of John Carter the Virginian visitor to Mars that has graced many of Burroughs’ stories with his action-packed presence, goes out on a joy ride in her flying machine and is caught in a terrible storm. This storm blows her craft to unknown parts of the red planet where foreign and antagonistic peoples reside. When her absence is discovered fleets of ships are sent to find and rescue her. One of these ships is commanded by Gahan the Jed, a spurned suitor. He becomes a castaway after risking his life to save his crew in the same tempest that deprived him of his love. Inevitably the two are reunited but their future is far from either safe or certain. The Chessmen of Mars could easily have serves as a primary inspiration to George Lucas in the creation of his Star Wars series as well as the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (as the Martian chess game is similar to that which is played at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry). The book is much more entertaining than exciting and I was very surprised at the amount of suggestive sexuality displayed in a novel dating from 1922. I’m sure many people will enjoy this pioneer in fantasy…

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ivan

    I think this book caught me off guard. The last book from this collection was good but not as good as its predecesors. So when I started The Chessmen of Mars, I still had the bittersweet taste of Thuvia, Maid of Mars. In the beginning, it was kind of boring, giving a look of a little presumptous girl as she inherited all the Glory of the Warlord of Barsoom. I think she was a careless, selfish and a swagger. But then, as she was lost in a far away place in Barsoom, the book made me feel anxiety, I think this book caught me off guard. The last book from this collection was good but not as good as its predecesors. So when I started The Chessmen of Mars, I still had the bittersweet taste of Thuvia, Maid of Mars. In the beginning, it was kind of boring, giving a look of a little presumptous girl as she inherited all the Glory of the Warlord of Barsoom. I think she was a careless, selfish and a swagger. But then, as she was lost in a far away place in Barsoom, the book made me feel anxiety, the lurking horror at the corner and dispair for Tara´s distress. In the end, I loved it... sincerely one of the best books of E.R. Burroughs

  15. 4 out of 5

    Powder River Rose

    Burroughs wrote some very good books and I'm pleased to have read them. I think there are a couple more in the series but they are not available in audio so I likely will never get to them. John Carter's daughter Princess Tara is carried away by the wind to the land of heads that separate from their bodies and then on to a deadly chess game. The narrator Gene Engene is not bad and has a great sci-fi voice but his character voices never stay pure; they interchange a lot. It was a nice intro for h Burroughs wrote some very good books and I'm pleased to have read them. I think there are a couple more in the series but they are not available in audio so I likely will never get to them. John Carter's daughter Princess Tara is carried away by the wind to the land of heads that separate from their bodies and then on to a deadly chess game. The narrator Gene Engene is not bad and has a great sci-fi voice but his character voices never stay pure; they interchange a lot. It was a nice intro for him to meet his nephew again on Earth and tell Tara's story.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Deepak Menon

    And extraordinary fantasy by Edgar Rice Burroughs - a story based on the divorce of the Intellect From the Physical - two species evolve - one physically strong but devoid of any brain function except the basic functions of eating, breathing and toiletry, while the other species latches on to their spinal cord and sits like a brain on them, guiding them to do all their work while themselves getting their pleasure only from thinking! A great book for a 14 year old to read and I never forgot this b And extraordinary fantasy by Edgar Rice Burroughs - a story based on the divorce of the Intellect From the Physical - two species evolve - one physically strong but devoid of any brain function except the basic functions of eating, breathing and toiletry, while the other species latches on to their spinal cord and sits like a brain on them, guiding them to do all their work while themselves getting their pleasure only from thinking! A great book for a 14 year old to read and I never forgot this book

  17. 4 out of 5

    Michael Drakich

    As the series goes, this one is right back up there with the first novel. I thought the fourth novel, Thuvia, Maid of Mars, was a step down from the first three. I missed John Carter, and the tale was hardly different than The third novel, The Warlord of Mars. Saying that, this one, The Chessmen Of Mars, follows the same theme. A damsel in distress held in a foreign land and rescued by a single hero. One would think it would lack interest as the fourth one did. What separates it is the introducti As the series goes, this one is right back up there with the first novel. I thought the fourth novel, Thuvia, Maid of Mars, was a step down from the first three. I missed John Carter, and the tale was hardly different than The third novel, The Warlord of Mars. Saying that, this one, The Chessmen Of Mars, follows the same theme. A damsel in distress held in a foreign land and rescued by a single hero. One would think it would lack interest as the fourth one did. What separates it is the introduction of Ghek, the kaldane. When one thinks of how horrifying such a creature, spiderlike, dominating his headless human rykor mount, must have been to readers when this was released in 1921, it must have been AWESOME! Kudos to Ghek - an awesome character, who singlehandedly raised this novel back to 5 stars.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany Martin

    I enjoyed this Barsoomian adventure. Again, John Carter was virtually absent. However, we get to follow along on his daughter's very strange adventures. My favorite part is definitely the headless bodies and the heads (with spider-like legs). So creepy but very interesting.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Quicksilver Quill

    “It is a strange tale and utterly Barsoomian.” The Chessmen of Mars is a nice return to form after Thuvia, although ironically the stories are somewhat similar plotwise. Kidnapped princess? Check. Although in this case it’s a checkmate that’s required as Gahan, Jed of Gathol, pursues the heart of Princess Tara of Helium, and must try his hand at the chess-like game of jetan to stand a chance of victory. There are some nice creative strokes in here, not least of which is the game of jetan itself. I “It is a strange tale and utterly Barsoomian.” The Chessmen of Mars is a nice return to form after Thuvia, although ironically the stories are somewhat similar plotwise. Kidnapped princess? Check. Although in this case it’s a checkmate that’s required as Gahan, Jed of Gathol, pursues the heart of Princess Tara of Helium, and must try his hand at the chess-like game of jetan to stand a chance of victory. There are some nice creative strokes in here, not least of which is the game of jetan itself. Imagine a giant chessboard with people on it fighting to the death and you’ll get the idea. Another imaginative addition to look for are the creepy creatures known as the kaldanes. Burroughs outdoes himself again with a bizarre new idea, this one dealing with the mind/body dichotomy. The characters in Chessmen seem a bit more fully drawn than in the previous entry in the series, although Tara gives Gahan some uncharacteristically rough treatment just as Thuvia did to Carthoris. Fortunately for her, Gahan is so smitten he is still willing to risk life and limb for her. I guess she is quite the prize after all, being none other than the daughter of Dejah Thoris. Chessmen is a fun novel, full of the usual action, twists and turns that by now you will have come to expect from Burroughs, and although it may start to drag a bit toward the end, it’s still a good story if you are looking for some light reading from Mr. E.R.B. and a return to the Barsoom of your imagination. Strange tale indeed!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    “Chessmen of Mars” is the fifth novel in the Barsoom series and was published in its full novel form in 1922, about a decade after the first Barsoom novel. In it, Burroughs focuses, as he did in the previous novel, not on John Carter, but on his descendants. The focus of the novel is on his daughter, Tara of Helium, and her paramour, Gahan of Gathol. Other than that, the novel follows in the same basic pattern as the earlier novels of this series with a tale of romance and chivalry set not among “Chessmen of Mars” is the fifth novel in the Barsoom series and was published in its full novel form in 1922, about a decade after the first Barsoom novel. In it, Burroughs focuses, as he did in the previous novel, not on John Carter, but on his descendants. The focus of the novel is on his daughter, Tara of Helium, and her paramour, Gahan of Gathol. Other than that, the novel follows in the same basic pattern as the earlier novels of this series with a tale of romance and chivalry set not among the knights and damsels of the middle ages, but on the dying planet of Mars. It is a terrific adventure book and a fun story to read. Tara, at least in the beginning of the book, is a haughty princess with many suitors at the palace ball, sort of a Marie Antoinette or Scarlet O’Hara type of character with flowing gowns and romantic intrigue. The tale takes Tara out of her comfortable palace life to adventures in forgotten valleys and unknown lands where she encounters ancient people who know nothing of modern-day Martian civilization. First, her adventures take her to the Bantoomian Valley, where Burroughs has invented a unique people, whose heads and bodies are independent with the heads being intelligent and advanced and able to crawl about on little legs like spiders and the headless bodies are no better than the most brutish of animals. Burroughs invented such creatures nearly one hundred years ago and it is amazing how many books and creatures and inventions followed in his wake. What an imagination! The second ancient civilization Tara and Gahan encounter is the ancient city of Manator, where the game of Jetan (which is similar in many respects to the Earthly game of chess) is played in an arena on a board with living and armed human pieces. When one piece enters another’s space, they fight to the death, making this an exciting and unusual game. There are many other interesting aspects to the ancient city, but the game of Jetan is, by far, the most intriguing and inventive. Once again, as in the first four novels in this amazing series, Burroughs has invented a world in many ways like our own, but in many ways unlike it, a world peopled by unique creatures and ancient civilizations and, often, unexplored. It is a vast land, even though the planet is smaller, as the oceans have dried up and, therefore, there is more land. On this unique landscape, Burroughs plays out his stories of derring-do and chivalry as there is always a beautiful princess to rescue and a great and mighty swordsman to rescue her, often causing entire nations to rise in revolt against their despotic rulers. Many writers followed in Burroughs’ wake, but none ever wrote tales so well.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    Great fun; I'm not quite sure why it took me so long. Once again Burroughs' vast imagination is on display, as he creates another pair of lost civilizations on Barsoom. The first is a symbiosis where the brains have become separate creatures from their bodies. The second is a human-taxidermy obsessed culture with an entire underworld of secret passages and haunted areas in its capital. My main quibble is this: The whole premise of the series is that John Carter, who is from Earth - or at least h Great fun; I'm not quite sure why it took me so long. Once again Burroughs' vast imagination is on display, as he creates another pair of lost civilizations on Barsoom. The first is a symbiosis where the brains have become separate creatures from their bodies. The second is a human-taxidermy obsessed culture with an entire underworld of secret passages and haunted areas in its capital. My main quibble is this: The whole premise of the series is that John Carter, who is from Earth - or at least has Earthman strength - finds that on Mars (Barsoom to the locals) - this translates to super-strength, and he's essentially a super-hero. In the last pair of books, they make it clear that his son has nearly this same level of strength, so that if John can make 100 foot leaps, Carthoris at least 90. In this book we get introduced to John's daughter Tara. She has no super strength at all. Even though she is described at being well schooled in the art of swordplay, she never gets to engage in a duel, although she has several surprise kills with hidden daggers. Instead our hero is her wooer, but the best character in the book is one of the brain spiders that comes along with them. The actual live chess tournament is short but memorable, and at the end of the book Burroughs lays out the rules for the chess variant jetan he's invented. It would be fun to play sometime.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Derek

    On one hand, I'm relieved that Burroughs was willing to at least advance the story by focusing on the slightly more interesting next generation. On the other, the plot falls squarely into the well-grooved tire tracks of the previous books: the protagonists are lost far from home and fall into various perilous lost cities and civilizations. I did like that Tara of Helium was at some level the main character, which puts her in a more dynamic position than Dejah Thoris had been, and at some level sh On one hand, I'm relieved that Burroughs was willing to at least advance the story by focusing on the slightly more interesting next generation. On the other, the plot falls squarely into the well-grooved tire tracks of the previous books: the protagonists are lost far from home and fall into various perilous lost cities and civilizations. I did like that Tara of Helium was at some level the main character, which puts her in a more dynamic position than Dejah Thoris had been, and at some level she and her love interest, Gahan of Gathol are on a more equal footing in terms of involvement in the story. Together they're more vulnerable and inexperienced than John Carter and this lends more peril to the enterprise. I can't get enough of the antiquated feel of the language, the rigid formality of their speech and mannerisms that simultaneously suggest an alien culture and a throwback to ancient legends. It combines with the high drama to make it sound like a bardic lay or translated Greek myth (but without all the tragedy). I'm curious about what sort of transformations have been done to this genre: what if the protagonist isn't the best fighter, but is the smartest? What if he didn't buy into the rigid honor code, or if she didn't abide by the accustomed gender roles?

  23. 4 out of 5

    Noel Coughlan

    Again, John Carter himself is mercifully in the background. Again, the book concentrates on a couple. Tara is daughter of John Carter and Dejah Thoris. I’m intrigued as to where her name comes from. Given that her brother is called Carthoris, shouldn’t she be called Dejohn? Gahan, the jed (chief) of Gathol, loves her though she is engaged to another. (Sound familiar?) When she is lost while flying in a storm, Gahan sets out to rescue her. This time, we go to two places nobody ever leaves: the lan Again, John Carter himself is mercifully in the background. Again, the book concentrates on a couple. Tara is daughter of John Carter and Dejah Thoris. I’m intrigued as to where her name comes from. Given that her brother is called Carthoris, shouldn’t she be called Dejohn? Gahan, the jed (chief) of Gathol, loves her though she is engaged to another. (Sound familiar?) When she is lost while flying in a storm, Gahan sets out to rescue her. This time, we go to two places nobody ever leaves: the land of the walking heads, the Kaldanes, and Manator, a city inhabited by primitive Red Martians. A Martian chess game called Jetan plays a pivotal role in the story, but frankly you don’t need to worry about the longish explanation of the rules in the early part of the book. Tara does stuff though her role shrinks toward the end to someone to be rescued. The Kaldane Ghek is my favorite character and there are plenty of twists and turns. I really enjoyed this book and for me it’s the best of the Barsoom novels I’ve read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mary Catelli

    In which John Carter has only a bit part. His daughter Tara -- newly introduced for the work -- has center stage, as does the jeddak of Gathol, Gahan, who meets her af her father's house -- and doesn't impress her. Also, the man her father wants her to marry does not get her for a dance, because he had asked another woman first. Between the two of them, she goes flying to relieve her spirits, and gets caught in a windstorm. Gahan goes to help with the search, gets torn from his ship, and through a In which John Carter has only a bit part. His daughter Tara -- newly introduced for the work -- has center stage, as does the jeddak of Gathol, Gahan, who meets her af her father's house -- and doesn't impress her. Also, the man her father wants her to marry does not get her for a dance, because he had asked another woman first. Between the two of them, she goes flying to relieve her spirits, and gets caught in a windstorm. Gahan goes to help with the search, gets torn from his ship, and through a combination of flukes, ends up near her. When she is captured by strange beings, he realizes it and goes to aid her. And the adventures go on from there. It involves the beauty of song, a stepfather who is more concerned by his stepson than his own father, accusations of witchcraft -- the Corphals of Mars -- and the belief that only a jeddak can kill one, the title game played as a gladiator's game, an old man who admires courage, stealing a dagger, and much more

  25. 4 out of 5

    Curtiss

    This story relates the adventures of Princess Tara of helium, impetuous daughter of John Carter and his beloved, 'the incomparable' Deja Thoris, as she is rescued from the Crab-like Kaldanes who breed headless Rykors to serve as their interchangeable bodies and then from the Martian Chessmasters who play barsoomian chess (an unworkable variant of conventional chess) with living chesspieces. Her rescuer, a nameless Martian soldier-of-fortune, who is in reality Gahan of Gathol, whom she had previo This story relates the adventures of Princess Tara of helium, impetuous daughter of John Carter and his beloved, 'the incomparable' Deja Thoris, as she is rescued from the Crab-like Kaldanes who breed headless Rykors to serve as their interchangeable bodies and then from the Martian Chessmasters who play barsoomian chess (an unworkable variant of conventional chess) with living chesspieces. Her rescuer, a nameless Martian soldier-of-fortune, who is in reality Gahan of Gathol, whom she had previously spurned as a royal suitor. These stories are not high art, or even good sci-fi/fantasy; but they are terrific yarns with exotic Barsoomian locales, fantastic beasts, flamboyant princesses, dastardly villains, and cliff-hanging adventures in which the hero gets the girl and the bad guy meets his (or her) just deserts. I've read and re-read these stories over the years, and even recorded them onto DVD for the local radio station for blind and reading-impaired listeners.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Brooke

    In ‘Chessmen,’ Burroughs slows down the pace a bit from the fight-and-run non-stop action of some of the previous Barsoom novels. It’s a longer and more ambitious effort, though certainly still packed with the usual action and the usual plot devices. It’s all the inventive details that make those plots work and where ERB shines. And, he once again slips a bit of pointed yet painless social commentary in among the sword fights and abductions. There’s even some character growth in the female protag In ‘Chessmen,’ Burroughs slows down the pace a bit from the fight-and-run non-stop action of some of the previous Barsoom novels. It’s a longer and more ambitious effort, though certainly still packed with the usual action and the usual plot devices. It’s all the inventive details that make those plots work and where ERB shines. And, he once again slips a bit of pointed yet painless social commentary in among the sword fights and abductions. There’s even some character growth in the female protagonist, Tara of Helium. I’ll admit it was a toss-up whether to give this story three stars as a solid adventure novel or four for being a little more. I think I’ll go with the latter; I’ve certainly no qualms about recommending it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Marcus M.

    If you have ever watched the show: DOCTOR WHO, I can tell you that one of that series' most iconic villains was heavily influenced by some of the creatures in this JOHN CARTER novel. The beasts in this story are a group of small, cepholopodic/ crusteacius heads called Kaldanes, who are totally lacking in emotions of any kind, posess an unnaturally high level of intelligence and who use completely seporate bodies to move around. Of course, I'm saying that these guys are basically Daleks without If you have ever watched the show: DOCTOR WHO, I can tell you that one of that series' most iconic villains was heavily influenced by some of the creatures in this JOHN CARTER novel. The beasts in this story are a group of small, cepholopodic/ crusteacius heads called Kaldanes, who are totally lacking in emotions of any kind, posess an unnaturally high level of intelligence and who use completely seporate bodies to move around. Of course, I'm saying that these guys are basically Daleks without any catchphrases. I recommend this book especially to fans of DOCTOR WHO so that they can see just where that show's most famous antagonist got its start. However, to people who have never heard of DR. WHO, this is still a great story.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Zach Naylor

    Burroughs finally squeaks through the Bechdel Test with a book that is at once a promising development and disappointing step back. Unsurprisingly, there is little intricacy. John Carter musters a modest cameo to frame yet another third-person narrative with a largely fresh cast in the now-familiar Barsoom. It's safe to say that while the first three novels (the "Barsoom trilogy") are roughly connected, Burrough's later ventures stick to self-contained sorties. This means continued changes follow Burroughs finally squeaks through the Bechdel Test with a book that is at once a promising development and disappointing step back. Unsurprisingly, there is little intricacy. John Carter musters a modest cameo to frame yet another third-person narrative with a largely fresh cast in the now-familiar Barsoom. It's safe to say that while the first three novels (the "Barsoom trilogy") are roughly connected, Burrough's later ventures stick to self-contained sorties. This means continued changes following from "Thuvia, Maid of Mars," for good or ill. Today's subject is Tara of Helium, Carter and Dejah Thoris' young daughter and Carthoris' sister. An uppity, temperamental youth, Tara becomes exposed to (yet more) lurking dangers in the far corners of Barsoom after a hot-headed joyride sends her far from home. The execution is interesting, not for its content but rather its scope. Tara's journey is a vast one, far moreso than that of her brother's escapade a book prior. Many more characters and locations are introduced, and more time is taken to follow various events and subplots. Burroughs' writing is actually very sharp here. The plot, while admittedly retaining his faults in spades (too many names, contrivance out the yin-yang, minimal character agency, repetition on repetition), is aided by colourful description, damn funny one-liners, and--in a remarkable change from the norm--a noble pass at characterization. To be fair, the cast feels somewhat flat without the naked exoticism of the Tharks, Woola and their lot (absent without so much as a mention). But what is here is unusually strong, especially considering this is Burroughs we're talking about. Tara of Helium is brash, with a sharp tongue and a short temper. She rests in an unusual position, being a traditionally-feminine Heliumite princess...who goes on solo flier joyrides and has extensive sword training. Her impetuous attitude sets up flashes of a rewarding character arc, and her personality lends many entertaining interactions. Gahan of Gathol, yet another princely type, also carries issues of vanity and entitlement as result of his upbringing. In many ways, his personality is the opposite side of the coin from Tara; their adventure together ideally enables them to grow out of their rougher edges. The highlight character is Ghek, a truly novel alien figure. His species lives in a symbiotic relationship with headless humanoids, living lives where physical instinct is replaced with cultivated thought and memory. His slow shift from unflappable xenophobe to trusted ally of those who would trust him and teach him new ways of thinking is both thought-provoking and touching. "Chessmen of Mars" actually applies a very real theme, showing how Tara, Gahan, and Ghek are different, yet similar and capable of growth together. Their bond transforming them from a team of three slightly-misanthropic misfits to hardened heroes is so unique in this series, and lends the book weight. If it sounds like there's a lot to like here, it may because there is. However, the faults are aplenty, not just in Burroughs' style, but with what the book fails to live up to. If I said he was sharp, it's because his sword his huge and inelegant, and it leaves scratches and imperfections for all to see. Tara, despite how perfectly her trajectory is implied, never cashes in on what's promised. Her character could so easily develop out of conventional gender roles and leave her a more mature person, but it's ultimately a wash--Gahan is the main character here, and he too lacks panache as did Carthoris. Ironically, I feel I prefer Gahan for this, due to Carthoris' role in "Thuvia" lacking consistency. Gahan instead lies profusely out of some undercooked sense of unrequited love for Tara, a plot point so lazily recycled from "Thuvia" that I won't waste more effort than Burroughs did trying to lambaste it. The romance is once again inappropriate and outdated. Though I could see a possible reading for Tara's attitude being a product of insecurity and the molestation endured (literally and physically) across her journey, at the end of the day it's far too forgiving of Gahan's nonsense. Ghek is a fabulous character, but he too ends up rather squandered. The key issue here is pacing. There are essentially three acts, but each is wildly divergent in length, content, and quality. "Chessmen" opens okay, has a stellar second act, and the most mediocre ending yet seen in the venerable Barsoom series. It is unfortunate that this book is named for the latter leg of the team's adventures, for it is undoubtedly the weakest element. The introspection and theming proposed with Ghek and his race is abandoned for disempowering Tara and generally dropping any chance of closing out its (indeed very promising) threads. The barbaric simplicity of the so-called Chess Men makes for abrupt, uninteresting, tedious fare, with a lazy ending and a ball dropped hard enough to leave a crater. It's tragic, because Burroughs' prose continues to improve. His humour's drier and wittier than ever. Characters and speculative concepts are more intricate. But he still proves himself a writer of his day: "Men were men, women were women" is wielded sloppily, and makes the story repetitive when it provided ample tools for something great. It's that disappointment that leads me to grade this more harshly. This is a pretty hefty entry in the series, and provides some great sci-fi, but it's definitely still Burroughs, and still pulp. This book brings more to the table than "Thuvia," but lacks the heart which made its simplicity appealing.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bill Zodanga

    Please note, this 5 star rating is based on my long ago memories of this book - I may have read it greater than 20 years ago. I recall reading and really liking it, and even kept the book to read again in the future (something I only do with good, or otherwise significant books). The memories of an old man are sometimes faulty so this could really only warrant 3.5 to 4.5 stars, instead of the 5 I gave it. Once I re-read the book I will update this rating/review to more accurately reflect my thou Please note, this 5 star rating is based on my long ago memories of this book - I may have read it greater than 20 years ago. I recall reading and really liking it, and even kept the book to read again in the future (something I only do with good, or otherwise significant books). The memories of an old man are sometimes faulty so this could really only warrant 3.5 to 4.5 stars, instead of the 5 I gave it. Once I re-read the book I will update this rating/review to more accurately reflect my thoughts.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    Tara of Helium had a little more to do than most of Burroughs' ladies, but about halfway through the book she basically vanishes from the plot and becomes the Macguffin in constant need of rescuing. The adventure was good, and I shouldn't complain too loudly, given when the book was written, but it would have been cool to see the heroine front and center through the whole thing (especially since Gahan of Gathol was kind of a derp who just flailed around waiting for everybody else to tell him whe Tara of Helium had a little more to do than most of Burroughs' ladies, but about halfway through the book she basically vanishes from the plot and becomes the Macguffin in constant need of rescuing. The adventure was good, and I shouldn't complain too loudly, given when the book was written, but it would have been cool to see the heroine front and center through the whole thing (especially since Gahan of Gathol was kind of a derp who just flailed around waiting for everybody else to tell him where his lady was being held this time).

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