Barsoom is a fictional representation of the planet Mars created by American pulp fiction author Edgar Rice Burroughs. The first Barsoom tale was serialized as Under the Moons of Mars in 1912, and published as a novel as A Princess of Mars in 1917. Ten sequels followed over the next three decades, further extending his vision of Barsoom and adding other characters.
The world of Barsoom is a romantic vision of a dying Mars, based on now-outdated scientific ideas made popular by Astronomer Percival Lowell in the early 20th century. While depicting many outlandish inventions, and advanced technology, it is a savage world of honor, noble sacrifice, and constant struggle, where martial prowess is paramount, and where many races fight over dwindling resources. It is filled with lost cities, heroic adventures and forgotten ancient secrets.
John Carter, a Confederate veteran of the American Civil War, goes prospecting in Arizona immediately after the war's end. Having struck a rich vein of gold, he runs afoul of the Apaches. While attempting to evade pursuit by hiding in a sacred cave, he is mysteriously transported to Mars, called "Barsoom" by its inhabitants. Carter finds that he has great strength and superhuman agility in this new environment as a result of its lesser gravity.
At the end of the first book, A Princess of Mars, John Carter is unwillingly transported back to Earth. The Gods of Mars begins with his arrival back on Barsoom (Mars) after a ten-year separation from his wife Dejah Thoris, his unborn child, and the Red Martian people of the nation of Helium, whom he has adopted as his own. Unfortunately, Carter materializes in the one place on Barsoom from which nobody is allowed to depart: the Valley Dor, which is the Barsoomian afterlife.
John Carter discovers that a First Born knows the secret of the Temple of the Sun and he and the Holy Hekkador Matai Shang want to rescue the Holy Thern's daughter, who is imprisoned with Dejah Thoris and another Barsoomian princess, Thuvia of Ptarth. John Carter follows them in the hope of liberating his beloved wife.
Carthoris is madly in love with Thuvia. Unfortunately Thuvia is promised to Kulan Tith, Jeddak of Kaol. On Barsoom nothing can break an engagement between a man and woman except death, although the new suitor may not cause that death. Thus it is that Thuvia will have none of him. This situation leaves Carthoris in a predicament.
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Tara meets Prince Gahan of Gathol, and is initially unimpressed, viewing him as something of a popinjay. Later she takes her flier into a storm and loses control of the craft, and the storm carries her to an unfamiliar region of Barsoom. After landing and fleeing from a pack of ferocious Banths (Martian lions), she is captured by the horrific Kaldanes, who resemble large heads with small, crab-like legs.
On Mars, Paxton is taken in by elderly mad scientist Ras Thavas, the "Master Mind" of the title, who educates him in the ways of Barsoom and bestows on him the Martian name Vad Varo. Ras has perfected techniques of transplanting brains, which he uses to provide rich elderly Martians with youthful new bodies for a profit. Distrustful of his fellow Martians, he trains Paxton as his assistant to perform the same operation on him.
The tale of Tan Hadron of Hastor, a lowly, poor padwar (a low-ranking officer) who is in love with the beautiful, haughty Sanoma Tora, daughter of Tor Hatan, a minor but rich noble. As he is only a padwar, Sanoma spurns him. Then Sanoma Tora is kidnapped...