Llana of Gathol, Edgar Rice Burroughs (1963)

October 18th, 2009

I read the 1963 Ballantine Edition of this book which was serialized in the pages of Amazing Stories Magazine back in 1941. Burroughs, who you will likely know as the author of Tarzan, was writing at the end of his career and the Llana of Gathol is much more fun than his earlier works in the John Carter of Mars saga.

It is interesting that I read most of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars books back when the Ballantine and Ace editions were new. Many of Burroughs’ books had passed out of copyright, and Ace books had started publishing them. Ballantine followed with the authorized versions. (This is similar to what happened with J.R.R. Tolkien’s books.)

I never read Llana of Gathol, at least I don’t remember it. In this book John Carter, the fabulous Earthman from Virginia who mystically finds himself on Mars, is a grandfather. This is a little odd as I am in my late 50s now, 45 years since I first read A Princess of Mars.

Edgar Rice Burroughs novels follow a few simple plot types. Llana of Gathol is the story of John Carter’s quest to rescue his granddaughter who has been taken captive. He manages to find her at least five times and each time there is another plot twist where she is lost again, and he is off trying to rescue her. The plot twists correspond to the breaks in the magazine serialization and each section is like a short story, although each has nearly the same plot: Llana is captured by a brutish warrior of a strange race. John Carter, through wits, strength and force of personality is able to save the day. Then the cycle stars over again.

The narrative voice is not boring or trivial, though, and more than once I found myself at some important plot twist regretting that my bus stop had appeared and that I would not be able finish the chapter. In spite of it being trash, this is good reading and fun. Burroughs has only the one character and the one plot idea, but together they make for good novels that you don’t get tired of reading.

I only picked this one up because I didn’t recognize the title. I was pleasantly pleased. The book was much more lighthearted than I thought it would be and I had a good time for two days on the bus. I think that I may revisit some of Burroughs’ early works. It’s been a long time since I’ve spent time with Deja Thoris, the most beautiful woman on the 9 worlds.

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