This novel by Lin Carter is the first of his “Mysteries of Mars” stories inspired by the planetary romances of Leigh Brackett. He does nice work with the form here, playing up the political sensibility found in Brackett’s Mars yarns (especially the Eric John Stark ones). The anti-imperialist sentiment is probably more bracing for American readers now — or at least it should be — than it was when Carter wrote the story forty years ago.
The characters are a little flatter than what I would expect from Brackett, but their motives are still interesting, and the planet is nicely realized. I have read complaints about the deus ex machina conclusion, but it was enjoyable as far as I was concerned, and it was almost necessary in order to make this story, told by the first Earth human to rule Martians as a Martian, more significant than the past events to which the narrator constantly alludes.
The science of the business isn’t really any more believable today than Burroughs’ Barsoom was in the 1960s, but for readers more interested in a good story than a historical forecast, this quick read justifies itself well enough.