This is the extraordinary story of John Carter, who returns to the Red Planet in search of his beloved, Dejah Thoris. Along with his friend Tars Tarkas, mighty Jeddak of Thark, John lands in the Valley Dor, which is populated by vicious plant men, and discovers the Lost Sea of Korus, guarded by the great white apes and horrifying lions of Barsoom. It is here that he finds the princess Thuvia, who is a captive of the Holy Therns, high priests who eat only the flesh of humans slain by their plant men. But this is only the beginning of John Carter’s adventures under the double moons of Mars before he fights his way back to his own people as the Prince of the House of Tardos Mors.
"This book, #2 of 11 in Burroughs' John Carter series, is a direct sequel to the classic "A Princess of Mars," and a reading of that earlier volume is fairly essential before going into this one. "Gods..." was first published in serial form in "All-Story Magazine" in 1913, and comprises one of Burroughs' earliest works. It is amazing how much action the author manages to cram into the book's 190 pages; on just about EVERY page there is some kind of incredible happening or colorful bit. The book really is hard to put down, and yet, at the same time, the end of just about every paragraph could serve as a cliffhanger! The pace of the book is brisk and relentless, and really carries the reader along to another great cliffhanger at the conclusion. In this volume, our hero, John Carter, returns to Barsoom after a decade's absence, and goes to that planet's "heaven." But heaven turns out to be anything but, and our man gets caught up in battles with plant men and white apes, lost civilizations, religious taboos, the plots of an evil "goddess," duels in the arena and on and on. There are two action set pieces that Burroughs really puts over well. One is the slave revolt that takes place halfway through the tale; the other, a bravura, four-way air battle between the forces of the black, white, red and green men of Barsoom. Both of these sections are thrilling in the extreme; better than anything in the first Barsoom novel. It's also nice that Carter, an Earthman on Mars, fights alongside men and women of varied races, colors, and religious beliefs in a common cause; there's some kind of message there--one for tolerance and brotherhood--that we could all avail ourselves of today.
Having said all this, however, I must admit that there are problems in this novel that prevent me from giving it a top grade. These problems mainly take the form of fuzzy writing and internal inconsistencies. Burroughs, in this novel, does not do well in describing geography; his depictions of the Valley of the Therns, for example, are almost impossible to visualize (for me, anyway). A map of this planet (such as the one provided in LeGuin's Earthsea books) would have greatly helped, given Burroughs' inability to clearly set out his world. As for the inconsistencies: Burroughs, the "editor" of the novel, says he first read Carter's manuscript (for Book #1) 12 years previously; but if he had really obeyed Carter's will (that the manuscript not be opened for 11 years), then he would have only first seen the text of "A Princess of Mars" ONE year before! Tars Tarkas is said to be grieving over his kidnapped daughter in one section of this book; then, a few scenes later, he learns of this kidnapping for the first time. Huh?!?! The scene with Carter on the black-pirate cruiser contains many inconsistencies. Carter is said to be fighting five of these men; he kills three of them, and then three are left. Huh?!?! Six pirates are killed, all told, but later in the book, the number is said to be seven. Carter is said to have killed all these men single-handed, although the Thern princess, Phaidor, had helped him. These pirates are all asleep in the cruiser when Carter comes upon them, although they had been sacking the Thern temple scant minutes before. Does this seem likely? Inconsistencies such as this can drive an alert reader crazy. And don't even get me started on the redundant expressions such as "haven of refuge" and "craven cowards" that pop up all the time. Burroughs improved with age, but these early books are rife with problems that a good copyediting should have weeded out. Still, these minor problems are easily overlooked when one is caught up in the sweep of the story, and this story is as exciting as they come. It really is a tremendous feat of imagination, and one that any lover of swashbuckling fantasy should hugely enjoy."
Sandy (4 out of 5 stars)