The Outlaws of Mars by Otis Adelbert Kline
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If I could put Kline in a bottle.
The Outlaws of Mars by Otis Adelbert Kline
Once more this is a book I read way back in my teens; and about the time that I was reading Edgar Rice Burroughs. An interesting story about these is that after Kline wrote his Venus stories, Edgar thought they were imitations of his Mars series and then Edgar wrote his own Venus series and then in retaliation Kline wrote two Mars stories. I'm not sure about that because the timeline of publication looks like Kline wrote his Mars books before Edgar wrote his Venus books. But it still makes for some lively discussion.
Where Burroughs wrote his early mars series in first person Kline chose to use a third person narrator to tell his stories. The stories back then are around 50K to 70K words so they are not long reads. The science once more is a bit dicey and even back when I read it the first time it required a bit of suspension if disbelief. And once again there is this striking love at first sight thing going. But the novel is relatively short and there just isn't the time for those long protracted slow brewing love stories. And the love is integral to these stories. This book is the second of the authors Mars series.
Jerry Morgan is at a crossroad in his life and is out to visit his uncle, Richard Morgan. Back then there were no cell phones and even landlines could be rare so Jerry expects that his visit will be a surprise. What he's not planning on is that he's the one that will be surprised. It doesn't appear that his uncle lives in the house he arrives at. When his uncle finally does arrive it seems as though he doesn't need cell phones because he might be telepathic. This is not too surprising when we later find that the ship that will take Jerry to Mars is powered be telekinetic power. Not only that but somehow it will take Jerry to a Mars of the past.
Jerry doesn't take much convincing, perhaps uncle Richard is taking advantage of his vulnerable condition, and within a short time they are preparing to send Jerry on an expedition to a far away place and time. It's all quite well planed out and the voyage doesn't seem to take much time, but there's a wrinkle when Jerry arrives and the expected person who will meet him is not there.
Jerry manages to stumble into a garden. Gardens are grown on rooftops of palace buildings. He meets the pretty young Martian woman and saves her from the jaws of a vicious beast. When he's taken prisoner for having murdered the Princess Junia's pet that begins the series of blunders he'll manage before his appointed tutor can teach him the language and customs. He takes well to the language, but customs are going to take some getting used to.
When someone tries to poison Jerry, he begins to believe it is Junia's cousin Thoor Novil who has displayed a dislike of him. Thoor's sister Nisha has a different yet still unhealthy interest in Jerry, who by now has fallen deeply in love with Junia and can’t be tempted. And when it is believed that Junia's hot headed brother has been murdered, Jerry becomes a prime suspect. Though Jerry knows who the real killer is he also knows that the knowledge could cause war between the Martians and chooses to keep it to himself. To save himself and keep the secret, he has to go on the run, where he will be taken by the outlaws of Mars and begin the rough road to self preservation and redemption in order to win the heart of Junia, who now believes Jerry killed her brother.
And once again the main plot seems to be that the hero, Jerry, will do anything to win the heart of the woman he's fallen in love with. And though the story could almost be called the Lawrence of Arabia of Mars; this element of a romance between people of diverse cultures driving the story changes the character inner motives enough to make that analogy very thin to nonexistent.
Though I admit I have not revisited this novel as much as all the Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars novels there are some elements of the story that have stuck with me enough that I always have fond memories of the story and when I do reread it I find it just as enjoyable as it was back in the Sixties.
While John Carter of Mars seems often to be a larger than life character, Jerry Morgan seems easier to identify with though if we broke them down further we'd probably see that the two are very much the same based on the final analysis about their motives within the stories.
This is one more of the great Classic SFF with that small window through which we can examine some of the strange cultural notions that were prevalent in the early nineteen hundreds into the first quarter of that century.
Though this time I read this in e-book form I once again recommend those sensitive to grammar and spelling problems should stick to the older hard copies. The e-books seem to be derived from an ocr version that has flaws and any latter attempts to clean erroneous scan problems were ineffective.
Recommended for those SFF fans interested in getting a glimpse of where some of it all started.
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