Land, Sea and Air
Duare had escaped from the castle of the repulsive Skor, apparently
by jumping into the river. But how did Duare learn to swim? She had spent
her life in the tall trees of Vepaja.
This fact had occurred to Carson and apparently, in their adventures
in Noobol together up to that time, there had been no occasion to take
a dip, for he was ignorant of any swimming abilities she might have. In
Chapter 9 of Lost on Venus, Carson worried, "I did not know that
Duare could swim nor that she could not, but the chances were highly in
favor of the latter possibility, since Duare had been born and reared in
the tree city of Kooaad a thousand feet or more above the ground."
In Lost, one can only guess about Duare's ability to swim, since
we don't have her first-person account of what happened. But in Escape
on Venus, we learn for sure that she can hold her own in the water.
First, in the adventure in Mypos, Carson rescued Duare by blasting Tyros,
the jong, and, as warriors closed in, they escaped under water. Carson
narrated: "I led her to the mouth of the tunnel and followed her in. I
must have been wrong in my estimate of the distance to the lake. It was
far more than a hundred yards. I marveled at Duare's endurance, for I was
almost all in and virtually at my last gasp, had I dared to gasp, when
I saw light shining from above. As one we shot to the surface; and as our
heads broke it, almost simultaneously, Duare flashed me a reassuring smile.
Ah, what a girl!" EV, Chapter 16
Later in Escape, when Duare was stuck with Vik-Yor, the amoeba
man from Voo-ad, she had to swim to keep the precious anotar from being
borne away in a river current. "She looked into the deep flowing water.
What ravenous monsters might lurk beneath that placid surface! To lose
the anotar, was to forfeit her life and Carson's as well. It was that last
thought that sent her into the midst of the hidden dangers of the flood.
Striking out boldly, she swam strongly toward the anotar. A slimy body
brushed against her leg. She expected great jaws to close upon her next,
but nothing happened. She closed in upon the anotar; she seized a pontoon
and climbed to the wing; she was safe!" EV, Chapter 40
It's hard to imagine Duare being allowed down from the trees in Vepaja
to take a few swimming lessons in a creek or a lake. But those trees were
pretty big around. Maybe in his stay in the tree city, Carson never got
a chance to visit the tree with the Olympic-size swimming pool hewn out
of the inside of a towering Amtorius Sequoius! But if Kooaad did not have
some kind of swimming facility, then Carson must have eventually taught
Duare to take a dip, or she had learned by the "sink or swim" method. And
maybe that last option is, after all, the way she survived when she took
a leap into the river from the wall of Skor's castle!
Duare eventually proved to be a worthy companion of Carson. One of the
best decisions he made was to teach her how to fly the anotar, so that
she was his equal in its operation. Her knowledge came in handy in their
adventures during the war in Amlot in Carson of Venus.
In Escape, after Carson was captured and taken to Brokol, Duare
flew the anotar from Japal to distant Brokol and was able to rescue her
man from certain death in a Roman games-type stadium.
Later, when she escaped from the Voo-ad museum of natural history, she
was able to select the right parts from the anotar repair kit and reattach
the propeller properly while pausing to shoot down attackers, in order
When Carson and Duare shot to the surface in Myposa, he had thought:
"In two worlds; yes, even in all the Universe I doubt that there is her
John Carter of Mars, husband of "the incomparable Dejah Thoris," would
argue. But at least these bold beauties reside on different planets, millions
of miles away from each other, where they can't try to scratch each other's
eyes out to determine who's No. 1!
The Problem with People
Pirates of Venus
there are no men, one is comparatively safe, even in a world of savage
beasts." —Carson Napier, EV, Chapter 3
On a planet like Amtor, there are few nations which warmly welcome strangers.
And even the more accommodating peoples -- like those of Kooaad in Vepaja
and Ha-vatoo in Noobol -- while friendly to a degree, have the mechanism
in place to eliminate any wayfarers who didn't measure up. Places such
as Sanara and Japal were hospitable, thanks to the fact that Carson made
friends with a leading person of those lands before attempting to enter
The first totally unfriendly land the reader is introduced to is Thora,
although Carson only hears about it but never actually gets there. From
ERB's description, it sounds as if Thora is a Venusan equivalent of Earth's
Communists. The official name of the country, The Free Land of Thora, is
somewhat reminiscent of communist nation titles, such as The Peoples Republic
Like the Communist appellation of "comrade," they refer to each other
as "friend" (LV, Chapter 1) and to a ruler as an ongyan, Venusan
for "great friend" (LV, 1) The name of Moosko, the Ongyan, suggests
Zog, one of Carson's fellow pirates aboard the Sofal, said he had enjoyed
more freedom as a slave than as a so-called free-man of Thora: "Then, I
had one master; now I have as many masters as there are government officials,
spies, and soldiers, none of whom cares anything about me, while my old
master was kind to me and looked after my welfare." PV, Chapter
Lost on Venus
might seem that Thora would play a leading adversarial role in Carson's
adventures, but as it turns out, his closest brush with the Thorists came
from his brief time aboard a Thorist ship, on which he led a successful
mutiny (Pirates), and a short time in the Noobolian city of Kapdor,
which was in league with Thora (Lost). His adventures on Amtor never
took him to the nation of Thora itself.
Noobol was a big continent and had room for more than just the Thorist-linked
lands. Duare, reflecting on her geography lessons, said, "It is a sparsely
settled land reaching, it is supposed, far into Strabol, the hot country,
where no man may live. It is filled with wild beasts and savage tribes.
There are scattered settlements along the coast, but most of these have
been captured or reduced by the Thorists; the others, of course, would
be equally dangerous, for they would consider all strangers as enemies."
(LV, Chapter 3)
After escaping through sheer luck from a tribe of cannibalistic kloonobargan,
Carson and Duare made their way to the land of Morov, first ending up in
Skor's castle full of mindless zombies, and later in Skor's city of Kormor,
which was similarly populated.
Both the Thorist city of Kapdor and Skor's domains of the dead were
Through the brief look he had at the city of Noobol, Carson painted
an unflattering picture. "There were many people on the streets of Kapdor,
but they seemed dull and apathetic. Even the sight of a blond-haired, blue-eyed
prisoner aroused no interest within their sodden brains. To me they appeared
like beasts of burden, performing their dull tasks without the stimulus
of imagination or of hope". LV, Chapter 1
The people in Skor's castle were de-scribed in a similarly depressing
way: "Her eyes were glazed and staring. She moved with a slow, awkward
shuffle. And now, behind her, came two men. They were much as she; there
was something indescribably revolting about all three." LV, Chapter
Then there were the general surroundings. In Kapdor, Carson saw that
"the buildings for the most part were mean hovels of a single story, but
there were others that were more pretentious.... There were a number of
stone buildings facing the streets along which I was conducted; but they
were all box-like, unprepossessing structures with no hint of artistic
or imaginative genius." There was beauty in Kapdor, but it all belonged
to the headquarters of the regime.
Likewise, Lost, Chapter 7, was tell-titled as "The Gloomy Castle."
Carson reported, "The enclosure across which we passed was barren except
for the few trees that had been left standing. It was littered with refuse
of all descriptions and was unspeakably disorderly and untidy.... The only
spot from which any effort had been made to remove the litter was a few
hundred square feet of stone flagging before the main entrance to the building."
If Burroughs was deliberately trying to compare the gloomy people and
surroundings of Communist-like Kapdor with the revenants and habitat of
Morov, then he succeeded. ERB makes his point: Life under Communism is
like a living death.
Skor tried to blithely explain away the dullness of his subjects by
saying his specimens were that way only because they were dull people in
life (LV, Chapter 9). If any of his "specimens" came from Thorist
regimes, he'd have a point.
One other city in Noobol was much nicer, depending on one's definition
of nice. Havatoo appeared to be a model city, Carson even reflecting upon
it as "Utopian." (CV, 16) Carson, temporarily traveling with newly
acquired sidekick Nalte, was welcomed there. The city seemed to have solved
all of the world's problems and people lived together in peace and harmony.
In fact, unhappiness was not tolerated in Havatoo. To maintain that harmony,
undesirables, such as the unintelligent or "four strikes and you're out"
wrong-doers (CV, 12), were "destroyed" for the good of everyone
else. It was a bit dicey for Carson because the leaders at first decided
to destroy him because of his poor breeding, but then relented when he
made a chance remark about his space travel and they realized he could
contribute to their culture by becoming a teacher of astronomy. As a side-line,
Napier introduced the concept of flying machines, the airplane.
When Carson rescued Duare from Kor-mor and brought her to Havatoo, their
stay was short-lived -- the Havatooans decided Duare had too much
baggage, having lived for awhile in the dead city and might have picked
up who-knows-what in germs, bad habits, etc. So Carson and Duare make a
sudden aerial exit in the newly constructed anotar.
Carson of Venus
primary location of Carson of Venus was the kingdom of Korva in
the country of Anlap and centered around the cities of Sanara and Amlot.
But there was a brief interlude at the start of the book where Carson and
Duare played capture and escape with a tribe of people in which women dominated,
and the weak men answered to names such as Lula and Ellie.
The Nazi-like Zani controlled the city of Amlot and were besieging Sanara,
but with Carson on the job the war was soon won with the right side winning
control, the right side being not only the more decent guys, but also being
the guys with whom Carson was friendly, and he not only won the right for
him and Duare to live in Sanara, but also became the adopted son of Taman,
the new jong of Sanara.
ERB began writing Carson in 1937 and the rise of Adolf Hitler's
Nazi Germany influenced him to bring a Nazi-like regime in as Carson's
new foe. The story is a masterpiece of satire, with ERB using his Zani
characters to show that much of Nazi practice was plain silly, while --
at the same time -- illustrating the horror of it all.
On the silly side, ERB mocked the "Heil Hitler" salute of the Nazis
with the Zani cry: "Maltu Mephis." Men not in uniform had to stand on their
heads when Mephis passed by, probably a parody of the Nazi salute. Carson
referred to these customs as "the silly flubdub of Zani ritual."
ERB's version of the goose-stepping Nazi troops was told with a straight
literary face, making it all the more hilarious: "The entire company took
three steps forward, hopped once on the left foot, took three more steps
forward, leaped straight up to a height of about two feet, and then re-peated"
and all the while the men chanted 'Maltu Mephis' in a sing-song voice."
As Zerka and Carson watched the troops, Zerka told him that this marching
routine was the brainchild of Mephis himself. "I could easily imagine that
might be so," said Carson -- dryly, no doubt.
On the horror side, the rule of Mephis, like that of Hitler, went hand
in hand with "race purification."
In Carson, Chapter 7, Zani guards confronted a man whose great-grandmother
had been nursed by a woman of Ator. The guards beat him, then dragged him
away. Zerka explained the warped Zani rationale: "The milk and therefore
the blood of an Atorian entered the veins of an ancestor, thereby contaminating
the pure blood of the super race of Korva."
Later, the Zani officer Spehon gave a little more specificity to the
evils wrought by Atorians, saying the Zanis kill them "...because they
have large ears. We must keep the blood of the Korvans pure." (Chapter
Mephis's ally, Muso, the corrupt jong who headed Sanara until he was
overthrown, was probably ERB's version of Italy's Mussolini. As of the
1937 writing of Carson, Mussolini and Hitler were two European strong
men who were sometimes friendly, sometimes uneasy with one another, but
their alliance was solidified in 1938, making ERB's relation between Muso
and Mephis a bit prophetic.
The Del-Rey paperback of Carson of Venus shows the copyright
date as 1930 -- a neat trick for a book not written until 1937 and not
published for the first time until 1938! Someone with only the Del-Rey
paperback might incorrectly conclude that all of ERB's Nazi-Zani references
were an amazing bit of prophetic writing!
ERB is indeed prophetic in Chapter 10, "The Prison of Death," in which
he describes the horrors of Zani imprisonment and torture, and even includes
a furnace where the bodies of the slain prisoners are cremated. Though
the Nazi persecution of the Jews and others was well under way, in ever-escalating
phases in the 30s, the death camps and furnaces were a thing yet in the
future when ERB wrote this novel.
Assigned to prison staff duty, Carson was given a tour by a Zani guard
who showed him an imprisoned doctor whose crime was that he had alleviated
the agony of an Atorian who was dying of an incurable disease. "Can you
imagine?" asked the guard. Carson's reply was far over the head of the
guard's discernment abilities: "I am afraid that my imagination is permanently
incapacitated. There are things that transcend the limits of a normal imagination.
Today you have shown me such things."
Escape on Venus
on Venus, Carson and Duare made it into the Northern Hemisphere of
Amtor and encountered peoples unknown to those in the south. Here were
a wild batch of denizens, with our lovebirds encountering and then escaping
from weird people after weird people.
Unconventional methods of reproduction and/or child-rearing were featured
among three of the humanoid-type groups they encountered in this volume.
First were the Myposans, who had fish heads and aquatic qualities,
especially when young. Carson, enslaved, was assigned to help keep flying
predators, called guy-pals, from plucking fish out of the pools. But these
weren't ordinary fish, they were the tadpole-like young who were developing
into amphibious, human-like adults.
ERB couldn't resist giving one of the adult "fish" the name of Kod.
After escaping and finding refuge in Ja-pal, the land of the Myposans'
enemies, and totally human for a change, Carson was captured and had a
solo adventure in the land of green men, Brokol, where was found the second
instance of unusual child-rearing: The kids literally grew on trees. Perhaps
Brokol was short for broccoli.
Captives in Brokol were generally sacrificed to the fire goddess. Before
meeting her, Carson heard of her in a rare conversation with a soldier
of the normally taciturn Brokolians. "...she is not a woman; she is more
than a woman. She was not born of woman, nor did she ever hang from any
plants." EV, Chapter 24
After they came to the city, Carson learned firsthand what that meant.
As he and fellow prisoner Jonda, also a real human, were marched to meet
the goddess, they passed trees with little Brokolians, ranging from one
to 15 inches, some squirming like newborns. Jonda said to Carson: "Pretty
nearly ripe and about to fall off." EV, Chapter 25
Brokol was the only land Carson encountered where the people had any
kind of a religion, and that particular religion, in true ERB fashion,
was overthrown while Carson was there. Carson wasn't the one responsible
for doing the overthrowing, but his arrival in Brokol set in motion the
events which led to the downfall of the goddess, who was actually a U.S.
citizen who had probably been mysteriously transported there from Earth.
So, while she had certainly been born of a woman, she had never hung from
Duare, meanwhile, had been safe among the tribesmen of Timal, allies
of Japal. After Kandor helped Duare repair the anotar, she flew to Brokol
in time to rescue Carson and Jonda from kloonobargan in a Roman games-style
Next in Escape, Carson and Duare fell into the hands of the fine
citizens of Voo-ad, most of whom had a red line centered on their body.
That red line was an element of the third unusual method of reproduction
that is found in this book. At a certain time in their lives, these "amoeba
people" reproduced by literally splitting along the red line so each half
could grow a new half.
Carson and Duare were tricked into eating a paralyzing drug and then
suspended in the city's Museum of Natural History as exhibits... forever.
Ero Shan, Carson's friend from Havatoo (Lost on Venus) was also
on display. So at least they had company.
Through the aid of a rebel named Vik-yor, Duare was re-ambulated and
escaped. Her plan was to come back and rescue Carson and Ero Shan but first
she had to go through a solo adventure with Vik-yor until she was able
to get the upper hand from him and return and effect the rescue.
After he and Ero Shan were freed, Carson released all the other people
in the museum, many of whom were warriors who were highly irritated at
having had to hang around for so long, and as the trio flew out of the
city the freed warriors sacked and torched it.
Finally in Escape, Carson, Duare and Ero Shan encountered a land
of four warring cities where combat engagements were fought with huge land
battleships. They were initially captured because of Carson's stupidity
in flying the anotar too close to their warships. He eventually received
a fitting punishment -- becoming a slave whose job was to shovel manure.
After their adventures in that land, the trio had to escape on the ground
and went over the mountains riding in a small scout ship swiped from the
Falsa navy, aided by the Cloud People that Carson had be-friended.
The Wizard of Venus
last adventure is The Wizard of Venus, in which Carson and Ero Shan
went on an excursion without Duare (Duare loathers rejoice) and ended up
in an Arthurian land where they had to outwit, outplay and outlast the
self-styled wizard, Morgas, in order to survive.
Here, for the first time on record since he got to Amtor, Carson employed
the illusionary telepathic powers he had first demonstrated to ERB back
in Pirates. And thus we learn why Carson hadn't used his powers
all along: It would have been too easy for him to get out of his previous
pickles and would have made for less exciting reading!