Sunday, July 22, 2012

Gulliver of Mars by Edwin Lester Arnold

For years I held onto a cheap paperback copy of this novel knowing that eventually I would read it to see how close it was to ERB's John Carter books. I was under the impression that it was a rip-off of Burroughs' classic Mars tales and expected to be mildly amused by the book. I still have that cheap copy but the version I finally ended up reading this week was a free Kindle edition (all praise free e-books!) and just before I jumped into it I did a little research on its publication date and found it was first printed in 1905! Holy Crap! That is seven full years before ERB turned out A Princess of Mars! WTF?

So I dug into the history and learn that this novel is considered the probable inspiration for Burroughs' and now that I've read it I can say it most certainly HAD to be. In the story Lt. Gulliver Jones, a US navel officer in debt to a tailor and other creditors, obtains a strange rug and while standing on it wishes he were anywhere - why not Mars! Said rug then whisks him off to the Red Planet where he proceeds to have many adventures learning the mores and custom of its very human inhabitants. True to expectations he falls in love with a beautiful princess and has to go off in a mad rescue attempt when she is kidnapped by nasty barbarian type folk. Sounds a lot like ERB minus the multi-colored races, huh? There are a number of other differences and overall I think Burroughs is a more entertaining writer but this is pretty enjoyable pastiche of Gulliver's Travels. I think I'll eventually have to track down the Marvel comics adaptation in Creatures on the Loose with art by Gil Kane. I understand its not a very faithful version of the tale but  it should be interesting.

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