The Book: Gulliver of Mars by Edwin L. Arnold. Originally published 1905. Edition read was the 1964 reprint by Ace Books (F-296).
The Setting: MARS!
The Story: Lt. Gulliver Jones goes for a magic carpet ride. To Mars! He gets drunk, gets married, his wife gets kidnapped. He travels the planet in a leisurely fashion to rescue her, being very lucky along the way (in that he does not get himself killed). He saves the girl, survives a comet not hitting Mars, returns her to her people, fights the bad guys again, is losing, and hightails it out of there on his carpet (which was lost, but found at the moment of utmost need).
The Science: Ha. What science? Dude goes to Mars on a flipping magic carpet (DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME), finds the almost-Eloi and the much nicer Morlocks. Mars is a fairly lush planet, with lots of water and creatures similar enough to earth creatures that it’s all pretty much the same. Arnold does take an interest enough in making the planet seem strange and weird by incorporating some novel sorts of plant life. There are two sequences describing predatory plants which use a scent based bait, some sort of all-species pheromone maybe, to catch and devour animal life. Also, the Eloi type people that live near the sea use mold to shape enormous melons as they grow to use for boats, which is clever as all get out. And totally plausible.
The Reaction: This book gets a solid MEH from me. I bought it because I’d never heard of it, and yet here was a book that the back cover was claiming had influenced the Barsoom series. It’s an interesting book to read for the project – the Mars folk are clearly derivative from Wells’ Time Machine creatures and Burroughs was no doubt familiar with this book when he wrote the Barsoom books. I mean, Mars+Martian Princess+River of Death=come on now. But Gulliver is a sorry sort of character, lacking in consistency. The action is okay, but all very superficial. It wasn’t painful to read, but I’m rather looking forward to getting back to the Burroughs series which at least has the courage of its convictions.
The Cover: Oh my, that looks exciting. Ragged man with sword flees.. what are those?… an enormous rat fighting a protoceratops with a pterodactyl in the background? Yeah, that didn’t happen in the book. Gulliver heard a couple of huge beasts fighting in the night, but never saw what they were. File under: Didn’t happen.
Next Up: The Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs