John Carter of Mars Lives!

I thought John Carter was a hoot!  I’ve read most of the Edgar Rice Burroughs books, and own 10 of his books from three series.  I’m no expert, but I think that the John Carter movie caught the Barsoom zeitgeist really well, and brought the visuals firmly into the 21st century.  Playing ERB as the nephew works out very, very well in relation to the original, and Mars itself works out to be a really strong character in the movie.  While the story doesn’t hold true to any one of the Barsoom books, in another way it hold true to all of them.  Critics can hate this movie all they want (haters gotta hate).  I think anybody who ever read the Barsoom books will find something to treasure here.

I took my family to watch this film, and every one of us liked it.  Even my wife, who found huge nits when she watched Casablanca, loved this. I draw that comparison because Casablanca has spawned so many imitations that My Bride thought the original film was full of clichés.  John Carter of Mars started just that size of revolution among F&SF fans around the world, and the stuff Edgar Rice Burroughs dreamed up has been almost endlessly regurgitated for B movies and B pulp fiction, but ERB created it, and Disney brought that oeuvre boldly to life.  I’m just pleased as punch, and my family had a great night at the movies.  If this show hasn’t left your village, go and watch it.

Visually it’s as real in its stark reds and severe clime as Avatar is in its blues and verdant forests, and John Carter doesn’t require that humanity export evil exploitation from America in order to fight it.  Instead it gives us a hero who finds reasons for hope and love in extreme conditions, and doesn’t then belabor that.  It squeezes a love story into a few looks and some shared peril, and unfolds an entire alien, impossible, amazing and fun world before our eyes.  And I loved that dog.

My only real nit was the red-men of Mars.  In my mental picture they’re a bold red, not a standard human coloration.  I think giving them a native American cast of color but not foregrounding Native American actors gives the movie a mildly off ambiance – it looks too much like 1950s Western Movie red-face.  They should have gone Cadillac Red.

Bill

Redneck boy makes good out there in the stars!

Ric Locke’s Temporary Duty (TDY) is a really solid read — one of the best I’ve had in several years. It’s about John Peters, a junior enlisted person in a believable near future US Navy, who volunteers to swab decks on an interstellar aircraft carrier/interstellar trading ship, crewed by aliens, Mankind’s first contact. Peters’ America is one where the poor don’t get school, the vote, or much chance to make something of themselves. It isn’t a glass ceiling, it’s more of an adamantium barrier. Wealth and privilege are birthrights of the wealthy and privileged, and American society has become a caste system in all but name.

But, all of that is backdrop, and Locke dribbles the info in over hundreds of pages of fun space opera. Peters’ adventures in space are engaging, his cynical attitude well earned, and his ability to rise to any occasion seems to flow naturally from the character. As a retired Coastie pilot, with a pinch of army warrant officer pilot in my past, I found that all of the human technical language was familiar to me, and the sort of interactions Peters has with fellow enlisted and officers generally rang true to the real world, with the exception that the behaviors Peters experiences in the officers of his story are behaviors that would have got me cashiered if I had acted that way during my military career.  This isn’t unreasonable, given the premise of a much darker, very hierarchical US social structure. Almost any of the worst behaviors the officers and senior enlisted personnel in Peter’s unit display are things I saw happen at some point in my career — but most of the time by people who got to experience civilian life within a couple years of doing whatever they did.

Another reviewer commented that this isn’t a military action book, and that is true. But fans of military SF, who know what they’re looking at, will really love this book. Fans of Andre Norton’s Interstellar trader stories will really love this book. Fans of Heinlein’s “Between Planets” or “Citizen of the Galaxy” and his other early adventures with sideline social commentary will really love this book. I even think that fans of the recent BSG will love this book. Fans of C.J. Cherryh’s alien worlds will really love this book, for its interesting alien cultures and environments. Fans of John Carter of Mars will love this book, especially the last half.  You’ve probably got my drift. One other thing — while this book reminds me of many things, it is uniquely Ric Locke’s creation. I’m really glad that I read it.

One of the things I love about TDY is the fact that it isn’t a simply premised adventure. Peters’ life changes, and the nature of his adventures change over time — a lot like real life. The man who we meet at the beginning is still there at the end, but is only a part of the whole. I think that the Gatekeepers of Modern Publishing can’t accept this thing because they can’t define it in a two minute pitch. Buy it.  Read it. You’ll probably tell friends to buy and read it.