(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

With the publication of A Princess of Mars, his first novel, Burroughs began a series that would have a profound effect on the development of the genre of science fiction. Each volume originally was serialized in a popular journal, and Burroughs did not alter the episodic quality of his Barsoom stories when they were published as separate works.

The record of the deeds of John Carter and his family have endured partly because the reader encounters ideas and concepts that are usually the purview of philosophers and theologians. Many of the carefully crafted details in the stories might initially shock, but as a whole they become essential ingredients in the creation of a vision of another world that still captures the imagination. Burroughs is as successful as Jules Verne in predicting the shape of things to come, and his vision of the moral dilemmas that haunt his own century is both extraordinary and frightening.

Having deposited his hero on the surface of Mars, Burroughs casually mentions that Carter is naked—in fact, all Martians, male and female, prefer that state. The only accessories they wear are decorative harnesses and belts that provide protection and denote their status and accomplishments. By discarding the external adornments that occupy significant attention in other works of science fiction, Burroughs is able to concentrate on the internal habiliments of his characters. He is more concerned with the psychological than...

(The entire section is 573 words.)