The Barsoom series, reviewed

Edgar Rice Burroughs‘s Barsoom series, beginning with A Princess of Mars, is a seminal work of early 20th century pulp science fiction. Like many works which spawned their own genres, it has been eclipsed by the works which followed it and were influenced by it, in particular those of the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

It isn’t widely read these days, and for good reason: it isn’t very good. Even its fans tend to admit that the first three books are the best, and the rest rapidly drop off in quality. But I decided to read them all anyway, in succession, to get a feel for the series as a whole.

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Iain Banks: the other secret Culture novel


It’s an open secret that Inversions, the SF novel by the late Iain M Banks, is set in the universe of the Culture. The book itself disguises this: the cover omits the “A Culture Novel” strapline of the other books such as Consider Phlebas, the narrative is solely about events on a late medieval world, and there is no explicit mention of Culture society or technology. However, there are enough subtle hints in the narrative for anyone familiar with Banks’s other works to deduce that the two main characters are agents from the Culture, who have infiltrated the pre-industrial society in order to influence it. At one point, one of them tells a child a fairytale about a land where people can fly betweens suns using “ships with invisible sails”; in the Epilogue, the other excuses herself from a dinner citing “special circumstances” (the name of the Culture’s black ops department).

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