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Old Mars!

Color me happy. After literally ages I’ve been able to complete the trilogy of Martian adventures that Michael Moorcock wrote in the mid-60s using the pen-name Edward Powys Bradbury. I read the first book in the series, City of the Beast (also known as Warrior of Mars), back in the mid ’80s, having found a battered copy of the NEL edition on a bookshelf in a bookstore long gone now. I was just out of the Barsoom series, and I wanted more of the same, only different – yes, it’s a bit confused.
In the span of a short summer I read Leigh Bracket’s Martian novels, C.L. Moore’s Northwest Smith stories, a sampling of Lin Carter’s Callisto books, a few Dray Prescott Skorpio novels, and then Michael Kane’s Martian adventures.

It was, and it is, of course, Moorcock playing at being Edgar Rice Burroughs, and as far as planetary romances go, it’s quite a fun ride. But afterwards, I always skipped the two follow-ups, Lord of the Spiders and Masters of the Pit. Usually when I was in the mood I was short of cash, and when I had enough money, there was something more urgent that caught my interest.
Then, over the weekend, a friend clearing his collection passed me the missing books – in the versions known as Blades of Mars and Barbarians of Mars.

Good solid muscular adventure, written with a modicum of sophistication by a very young man – and to be completely honest, there is little I remember of the plot in that first book but the introductory framing device. So, I’ll read the three books back to back and maybe I’ll blog about the experience.
After all, it’s Moorcock at his most commercial, but still it’s got a little something that elevates the adventures above the run of the mill books in this genre.

Interestingly enough, I thought the Warrior/Blades/Barbarians titles were a later editorial choice – but it turns out they were the original titles.

“I wasn’t ashamed of the books…but at that moment [when Moorcock was editing New Worlds magazine and trying to break down genre conventions in imaginative fiction] it didn’t seem a particularly good idea to have my name attached to what were escapist books to be read primarily by teenagers, so I gave the publisher a choice of titles and combinations of names and eventually there appeared, under the unlikely name of Edward Powys Bradbury, the books originally published as Warriors of Mars, Blades of Mars and Barbarian of Mars.”

Michael Moorcock

I’m in sort of a planetary romance/sword & planet/science fantasy mood these days, and while more recent titles keep piling up, I hear the siren call of the books I read (or I wanted to read) when I was a kid. A sure sign that the mid-life crisis is looming larger.
But, after all, who cares?

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