Carson Napier should have a perfect life— he has his girl, his airship, and his freedom. But while exploring the vast world of Venus, or Amtor as the natives call it, he gets drawn into a bloody war.

“No land, no ship, no living thing impinged upon the awful serenity of the scene— only our silent plane and we two infinitesimal atoms wandering aimlessly through space.”

page 51

From soldier to spy, Carson faces imprisonment, treason, torture and death. It is sure to be an adventure!

Why is this on our bookshelf?

I never thought of the creator of Tarzan as being a sci-fi person, but after reading The Man from Mars, Super Boys and other books that dealt with the orgins of science fiction, I realized he was a huge player in the early sci-fi world.

So when the nominees for the 1939 Retro-Hugo Award for Best Novel were announced, I took it as my chance to finally read a book by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Carson of Venus. Of course, it was only after I started reading it I realized it wasn’t the first in the series….


Rating (3 stars)

Despite having not read the first two in the series, I didn’t have much problem jumping into the story.

Carson of Venus  reminds me of other early sci-fi, such as Out of the Silent Planet and even H.G Wells The Time Machine. I’m used to modern sci-fi dealing a lot more with technology. This type of sci-fi uses it as a premise to put the reader in a different world, whether a different planet or the far-flung future.

Freed from the constraints of reality, the author then uses the world as the backdrop for adventures. Because of this, in some ways, this early sci-fi doesn’t really feel like science fiction to me. Carson of Venus often felt like Tarzan except in an alien jungle or even a swashbuckling Errol Flynn movie, except in alien waters.

I don’t really mind this, but it is a different take for me.

Of course, there were some very science fiction moments— early on, Burroughs explains that Carson’s wonderful airship is powered by materials that provide for 100% efficient and complete combustion.

Casual sexism in early sci-fi never fails to shock me either. It is so blatant, which amused me in Heinlein’s Double Starbut annoyed me more here. On the plus side, Carson’s best girl does get to pilot the airship and join in the action on occasion.

After a bit of jungle adventuring, the primary plot of the story involves war, intrigue spying and more. Reading it in novel form, it is very apparent that it was published in serial form. I’m not used to this, so the pace of the novel was quite strange for me.

Overall, this was a fun adventure novel, and enjoyable, but beyond that, I didn’t see much substance, just good fun.