There are two groups of readers for this book: those who have read Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars
, and those who haven't.If you haven't
... then you may or may not like this book, depending on your tolerance for old-school sci-fi adventure tales. Because Jane Carver of Waar
is not even a little bit subtle about the material it's imitating: it's quintessential "high concept" science fiction, that concept being: what if John Carter was a chick? And of course, if you have no familiarity with the Confederate-gentleman-turned-warlord-of-Mars, then Jane Carver has to stand on her own and you're not going to get a lot of the jokes. That said, it's fun and fast-paced and Jane is kind of awesome in a ridiculous pulp fiction way, but you're only going to love it if you can get into planetary romances with swashbuckling sky pirates and alien hotties wearing nothing but jewel-encrusted dental floss.
There is, however, a modern sensibility to this novel: Jane gets to team up with a couple of mostly-naked princes
— to her immense gratification, Waarian men wear as little as the women. And Jane is an unabashedly lusty lass (and for all that, it takes her quite a while to get some).If you have
read the Barsoom books — well, then, this book is a treat. There's always a risk in reading something that is a parody/"tribute" to a classic work: either it will be too earnest and just read like a cheap knock-off, or it will be too acerbic in its satire, or even mocking, as if to make readers who love the original, however cheesy it may be, feel like saps. (Lev Grossman's The Magicians
is one of the biggest offenders in that regard.)Jane Carver of Waar
is a shameless imitation, but it's a loving one. Jane, an ex-Airborne Ranger biker chick, gets popped off to "Waar" through a magic cave in just the same way John Carter went to Mars, and the adventures that follow are pretty much a mirror of those of everyone's favorite Virginian. The "Orans" are purple instead of red, and instead of initially being captured by green-skinned Tharks, Jane is captured by tiger-centaur Aarurrhs. Exactly like John Carter, Jane finds that Waar's lower gravity gives her superhuman strength and the ability to leap great distances.
There are some divergences because of Jane's sex. She doesn't have a princess to rescue: instead, she befriends a hapless Oran prince named Sai, whose beloved Wen-Jhai was bride-napped by another Oran noble. Sai is honor-bound to meet the dastard's challenge and steal his fiancee back; the only problem is, the other guy is one of the greatest swordsmen on the planet, and Sai is, well, kind of a wimp. And a coward. They make a cute couple, and when Sai's best friend, Lan, joins in the fun, the three of them go from one adventure and narrow escape to another in pursuit of Wen-Jhai.
Jane, being a woman, notices all the sexism that John Carter didn't see fit to comment on in his own adventure, and has great fun shocking and scandalizing everyone from the Orans to the Aarurrh. She's a crude, brazen Valkyrie, but she also gets her butt kicked fairly regularly. Her adventures are perfectly in keeping with the Edgar Rice Burroughs tradition, but told with a 21st century viewpoint.
Edgar Rice Burroughs fans can read this book without fear that it's making fun of our beloved John Carter. It's almost a worthy "sequel" to the Barsoom series. If you haven't read the originals, though, you may well find this book fun, but I'd really recommend reading A Princess of Mars
first so you'll catch all the references and winks.