Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Under the Moons of Mars: New Adventures on Barsoom [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] ed and intro by John Joseph Adams, foreword by Tamora Pierce, with Joe R Lansdale, David Barr Kirtley, Peter S Beagle, Tobias S Buckell, Robin Wasserman, Theodora Gross, Austin Grossman, L E Modesitt jr, Genevieve Valentine, Garth Nix, Chris Claremont, S M Stirling, Catherynne M Valente, and Jonathan Maberry, with different illustrations for each story by different artist (including Molly Crabapple, Charles Vess, Michael Kaluta, Jeremy Bastien, Meinert Hansen, John Picaccio, and Daren Bade), and an appendix by Richard A Lupoff; “inspired by the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs” but also it was not “prepared, approved, licensed, or authorized by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. or any other entity associated with the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate.”
While the publishers of this anthology of new Barsoomian fiction probably hoped to capitalize on the concurrent Disney movie John Carter, the commercial failure of the latter certainly shouldn’t be held against them. Designer Tom Daly seems to have taken into some account the lovely Frazetta-illustrated editions of ERB’s Barsoom under the Nelson Doubleday imprint that were my initiation to that planet in the 1970s. This book sits next to them on the shelf like a member of the family. All of these stories were written for this collection, and there is a piece of original art (black and white) to illustrate each. The world of science fiction writers teems with those who love Barsoom in one way or another, and artists also enjoy its charms.
I found all of the stories reasonably enjoyable. Only a few are straightforward pastiche; most attempt some inversion or diversion of the received standards of the Barsoomian tale. A few are told from the perspective of John Carter’s foes, a few by green Martians, one by Woola the calot, and one by a “sidekick” earthling who didn’t appear in the ERB stories. Two involve Tarzan cross-overs. Prose styles vary from the straightforward fantasy adventure narrative that Burroughs did so much to invent, to more poetic and introspective pieces.
The art was less impressive to me. Each illustration is given a full page, and while some were terrific (those by Charles Vess and Michael Kaluta of course, and also Jeremy Bastien, Meinert Hansen, John Picaccio, and Daren Bader), many of them seemed on the weak side, not to mention sometimes overdressed. After all, artists working with this subject matter have to endure comparison with Richard Corben and Michael Whelan, in addition to the aforementioned Frazetta. I certainly would have liked to see one of Frank Cho’s drawings of Dejah Thoris here. Still, including this great variety of illustration was a sound idea.
I liked Tamora Pierce’s forward, even if it wasn’t very enlightening. The glossary by Richard S. Lupoff seemed pretty comprehensive and accurate, but not terribly necessary. I can recommend the book as an acquisition for die-hard collectors of Barsoomiana, and as a good one to borrow from the public library for those looking for light entertainment of the sword-and-planet flavor.