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Steve’s book reviews

This is the second in Burrough's Barsoom series and it is excellent. It is, perhaps, not quite as excellent as A Princess of Mars. But it is excellent nonetheless. The same grand storytelling effortlessly mixes alien races, traditions, technologies and religions with John Carter's impeccable swordsmanship, sense of duty and honor.

As with its predecessor, one must read this book with an understanding of the prevailing prejudices at the time in which it was written. Some sentiments are fairly out of step with modern sensitivities.

However, the story is fast paced and well written. The adventure is enormous in scope as armies of nearly unfathomable size clash in a bloody schism between the old and new. John Carter finds himself not only a participant in but an architect of revolution on a planetary scale. All the while, the reader is left wondering whether Carter's personal struggles will result in victory.

Burroughs took some liberty with the passage of time in some portions of the story. These quantum shifts were noticeable but not jarring. And despite them this was a thoroughly enjoyable book which I devoured rapaciously. It was certainly a worthy successor to A Princess of Mars and I will certainly read it again.
The Barsoom series was a favorite of Carl Sagan who, in his landmark television series, Cosmos mentioned his youthful desire to visit Mars as had John Carter. After reading the excellent adventure, A Princess of Mars, I understand the strange pull of Barsoom.

The story is in the best tradition of "swords and stars" pulp in which a fighting man of Earth finds adventure, danger, battle, honor and romance against the harsh Martian landscape. It is fast paced and well written. I was scarcely able to put this book down until I had finished it. And I felt the pull of Barsoom drawing me to The Gods Of Mars almost immediately afterwards.

There are some stereotypes and prejudices that must be taken in context of the era in which the work was written. Otherwise, one finds oneself turning pages at a ferocious rate.

A Princess of Mars is an excellent start to a series that should appeal to fans of adventure and science fiction alike. There is a reason it has remained on bookshelves for so many years.
This book starts promisingly enough as a relatively decent lost civilization story. It starts quickly and grabs the reader with an interesting, larger than life adventurer. Until the halfway point, I found it rather enjoyable.

But at the meridian this decent lost civilization story somehow descends into a plodding, lackluster detective story. Some connection with the interesting first half is hinted at but much more than is necessary is left to the imagination of the reader.

This might not be a problem if the first half of the book were not painted so vividly. The effect is almost as if the author had penned a good short story and then attempted to extend it into a novel. In this respect, the attempt was a failure.

Nevertheless, though the first half eclipses the second, loose ends abound in this story. Interesting story lines are picked up; half explored, and then dropped in favor of the main plot. It also suffers some fairly jarring quantum shifts. At several points, I found myself with furrowed brow attempting to find some continuity and regain my understanding of what was going on.

Perhaps this is the author's style. But portions of the story are detailed so painstakingly and written so well in comparison that I find it difficult to attribute these anomalies to anything less than lack of skill.

There was a moment of anxiety towards the end that I must concede raised the hairs on the back of even my jaded neck. But unfortunately it was short lived and tangled in an obtuse mess of half realized imagery and broken consciousness.

Citadel of Fear is certainly not the worst book I have ever read. But from the halfway point until the end I did find it an absolute chore to read. It's a shame. It started out well and held much promise. I really wanted to like it.