Friday, May 16, 2008
The Wizard of Venus (1941) and Pirate Blood (1932)
This 1970 volume posthumously publishes two of Edgar Rice Burroughs's novellas that were found after his death, The Wizard of Venus and Pirate Blood. It is obvious that neither one was ever shined up for publication -- although the Wizard of Venus, as a continuing volume in the Carson Napier novels, is more of a done deal than the rather bare bones pirate story.
The Wizard of Venus was written in 1941, fell prey to the changing nature of the pulp fiction market after the war, and was never published. It is a rather slight, but fun, story of Carson Napier, an American who has been conquering and living on Venus through a series of four books. He and his friend (a Venusian, I think, although I've never read any of the other Venus books, so I'm not totally sure), test out an airplane-type-contraption that Napier has invented. Sadly they get thrown off course and caught up in those crazy Venusian clouds. When they finally land, they find themselves in the middle of a war between several neighboring nobles, one of whom has convinced everyone that he is a wizard with the power to turn people into zaldars (which are kind of like pigs). [This is, by the way, apparently what he is trying to do to Napier on the cover of the book.] Because of this power, no one will eat a zaldar any more (because it might be family), and the wizard and his followers get all the good food.
One noble family has held out against the evil wizard, although their beautiful daughter has been captured and zaldarized. They confiscate Napier's ship and weapons and won't give them back unless he gets the wizard to turn their daughter back into a person. It isn't hard to figure out where this "Emperor's New Clothes" kind of story will go, but it is fun and the descriptions of the zaldar's are neat (even though the people seem to just be from the Middle Ages and not really from Venus).
Pirate Blood was written in 1932 and is an adventure story that loosely explores the nature vs. nurture question through the person of Johnny LaFitte, an ancestor of the famous pirate Jean LaFitte, who tries to ignore his bloodline and be a cop instead. It doesn't really work out for him. After a rather cool section where a bad guy takes off for the Philippines in a homemade dirigible with LaFitte on board, our hero finds himself second-in-command of a group of roughneck pirates and strangely attracted to the captive woman of his boss. There is a lot of excellent action and adventure in this one, although the second half is very choppy and Burroughs obviously meant to fill it out more before publication.
These are both very fun reads if you are into Burroughs, although if you are just checking him out for the first time I would delve into the Tarzan or John Carter of Mars series first.
[Yay to Choo for lending this to me!]