Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
ERBLIST FEATURES FAQs, Articles, Reviews, Persona Directory, Hall of Memory SUMMARY PROJECT Summarizing ERB's works one chapter at a time FAN FICTION Shorts, Novels, Poetry, Plays, Pulps ERBmania! Articles, Contributors: Tangor Responds, Edgardemain, ERB: In Focus, Nkima Speaks, Beyond 30W, Tantor Trumpets, Dime Lectures, Korak in Pal-ul-don, Public Domain novels of ERB GLOSSARIES Worlds of: Barsoom, Pellucidar, Moon, Amtor, Caspak, Pal-u-don
Carson Napier (aka Carson of Venus, aka Homo Sapiens, aka Vodo, aka Sofal)
River of Death (Gerlat kum Rov)
The Narrow Canyon
Gap kum Rov (Prison of Death)
Zani, a political party
The Life of Mephis, stage play
EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS'
CARSON OF VENUS
The Members of ERBList
Copyright © 2001
Fredrik Ekman, Project Editor
David Bruce Bozarth, Managing Editor
Introduction by Fredrik Ekman
Carson of Venus is the third novel in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Venus series. The constantly recurring theme of this novel is disguise. Disguise and assumed identities. Carson Napier assumes no less than three false names in the novel, and he uses disguise several other times, usually either by coloring his hair or by wearing a wig. The first time is in chapter two, as he pretends to be a local from Houtomai, and the last time is in the very final chapter, as he assumes the role of a salesman of jewelry. His constant shifting of identities in between is fascinating, not least as he becomes the exotic "prince Vodo of Vodaro."
Like the previous two novels in the series, Carson of Venus is quite as much political commentary as it is adventure romance. As such, it is in my opinion the most successful in the series. Here we find the Zani, a political faction that is a satire of Nazism (note that Zani is an anagram of Nazi). The description of Nazis is quite accurate, including how they came to power largely because the nation lost a war (World War I) and how the regime discriminates, imprisons, tortures and kills people for their race ("they [replace with Jews or Atorians as desired] have large ears. [...] We must keep the blood of the Korvans pure.").
A few historical characters are also present in the text. The most obvious is the tyrant Mephis, who represents Hitler. This is most clearly seen in the phrase "Maltu Mephis!" which is the Amtorian equivalence of "Heil Hitler!" It is also interesting to note the similarity between the two names. Try inverting the two syllables of "Mephis" into "Hismep" and then exchange the letters s, m, p for the alphabetically proximate t, l, r. The result is "Hitler". Coincidence? I should think not. Another parallel between Hitler and Mephis is that both advanced to dictatorship from being a mere private soldier. Other characters that may be based on real persons, although not as obviously, are Spehon (Himmler) and Muso (Mussolini).
The end of the novel seems rushed, as if Burroughs suddenly realized that he was running out of time or space. Several potentially good subplots are hastily dismissed in few words. The very final paragraphs in particular suffer from this, as Carson and Duare seem to find the anotar immediately, even though it has previously been stated that it is impossible to fly all the way to Kooaad through the forest.
Carson of Venus was written in 1937. It was initially rejected by several magazines, which is strange, considering that this is an excellent novel, quite on the same literary level as the two previous in the series. Eventually, however, it was serialized in Argosy beginning January 8, 1938.
Later the same year it was serialized in the Italian magazine Unicum. This is interesting, particularly in the light of Italy rapidly becoming Germany's most trusted ally in an ever more alienated Europe. Was the magazine making a political statement, or did they simply fail to understand what they bought? I have not been able to find any substantial evidence either way.
The first book publication was by ERB, Inc. in early 1939, mere months before Nazi Germany's aggressive politics caused the outbreak of World War II.
Foreword - (Bruce Salen)
The author recalls Carson Napier's initial space voyage -- intended for Mars, but to Venus instead. He recalls how Carson told his adventures, thanks to the mystical telepathic training that he had received from Chand Kabi, the old Indian mystic. The author muses -- did Carson and Duare make good their escape from Havatoo? Did they go to Vepaja? After several months of wondering, his curiosity is finally satisfied -- he receives new telepathic messages from Carson.
Chapter 1 - Disaster (Bruce Salen)
Carson and Duare flee from Havatoo in their aircraft, in the face of rifle-fire. Their escape is successful. Carson is ecstatic because he is with the woman he loves -- the woman who has finally admitted the she loves him. They fly, following a tributary of the so-called "River of Death" (Gerlat kum Rov). Duare names the aircraft an anotar after the words an (bird) and notar (ship). As they fly, Carson finds food. He shoots an animal with his pistol. Landing, he goes to the dead creature, but is soon attacked and beaten unconscious by a band of brutish females. They leave him for dead, and take Duare back to their village, and to slavery.
Chapter 2 - Warrior Women (Bruce Salen)
Carson cannot find the village of these warrior women. Flying around, he saves a man from a tharban, the ferocious Amtorian lion. The man is Lula, a man from the village of these brute-women. This tribe lives in caves -- which is why Carson saw no sign of their village from the air-borne anotar. Their village is Houtomai in The Narrow Canyon. Lula's wife is called Bund. After considerable coaxing -- and a ride in the anotar -- the cowardly, effeminate Lula agrees to take Carson back to the village -- but only if Carson agrees to stay out of the way, and tell none of the women how he came there. Carson disguises himself by coloring his hair black.
Chapter 3 - Caves of Houtomai (Bruce Salen)
Carson spends some time in the caves of Houtomai. He learns that Duare is a slave there. He meets the men Vyla and Ellie, friends of Lula. The chief of the village is the woman Jad. It takes some doing, but Carson rescues Duare. They flee, and head back to the anotar. The brute-women follow in hot pursuit. As Carson and Duare near the anotar, they find their way blocked by three savage tharbans. Savage brute-women behind them -- three even more savage tharbans in front of them. Can they -- will they -- escape?
Chapter 4 - A New Land (Fredrik Ekman)
Carson and Duare manage to save themselves by climbing a nearby tree, and the tharbans attack the pursuers instead, giving the couple time to reach the anotar. Carson kills an animal and after retrieving the meat they make a camp at the same island where he disguised himself. He also removes the disguise and Duare then spends the next day caring for his wounds. They follow the River of Death to the sea and later they recognize the coast of Vepaja. They do not wish to go there, so continue their flight westward across the sea until they encounter land. Flying in over a besieged city they are hailed by the defenders but shot at by the attackers. Not daring to land, they fly on until they find a lone man that they can question. His name is Taman and he says that they are in the land Anlap, more specifically the kingdom Korva. A civil war is being fought since Zanis took power and the city, Sanara, is besieged by Zani troops from the capital Amlot. Taman, a spy for Sanara, joins them in the anotar so that he can count the enemy forces from the air. Carson and Duare then decide to take him to the city.
Chapter 5 - Sanara (Fredrik Ekman)
In order to avoid being mistaken for enemies by Sanara's defending forces, messages are dropped over the city. The racing field is cleared of people and they land there. A cheering crowd meets them and it becomes clear that Taman holds a high rank in the city. They are seated upon a gantor, a huge elephant-like animal, and lead a procession through the city to Taman's palace, where they are allowed to freshen themselves before being introduced to his wife, the janjong (princess) Jahara, as Duare, janjong of Vepaja and Carson of Venus (the word Venus is meaningless here, since they call their planet Amtor). The Amtorian customs of marriage (or lack thereof) are detailed. The word for "wife" is "ooljaganja" which literally means "lovewoman". The current political situation is explained: A soldier named Mephis has seized power in the kingdom, capturing Jahara's father Kord. Kord's destiny is unknown, perhaps he has been killed. Meanwhile, his nephew Muso (who is not popular) rules the royalists in Sanara. Muso is afraid of Taman's popularity and therefore sent him on the dangerous mission upon which Carson and Duare found him. Dinner is served; a royal officer enters, bidding them to come visit Muso and his wife Illana, which they proceed to do. Muso appears interested in Duare. Carson explains to Muso the military benefits of the anotar and after swearing fealty to Korva's jong he is given a captain's rank in the army.
Chapter 6 - A Spy (Fredrik Ekman)
After one month of demoralizing the enemy forces with air raids, Carson is summoned to Muso who sends him on a top secret mission behind the enemy lines. He is to deliver messages to two alleged Sanara spies. Lodas lives outside Amlot and is to help Carson inside the city, where he is to find Spehon. Carson is also given dye to color his hair. Muso acts tensely and nervously, among other things trying to make sure that Carson cannot read, a question which Carson carefully avoids giving a straight answer to. Carson is also forbidden to reveal his mission to anyone, including Duare. Even though he does not like it, he does as Muso bids and leaves Duare, full of ill forebodings. Landing at Lodas' farm he delivers the first message and together with Lodas develops a plan that will both get him inside the city and avoid arousing the suspicion of Lodas' hired hands. Lodas pretends to be angry and force Carson away, while in reality Carson moves the anotar to an island off the coast where Lodas picks him up. Carson is hidden in a cart of hay and is thus brought inside the city and to the home of Lodas' brother Horjan. Horjan, apparently not a royalist, is not at all happy about housing a spy, but agrees to do so over the night. Carson does not want to reveal his true identity and therefore takes the assumed name Homo Sapiens ("Call me Homo").
Chapter 7 - Zerka (Fredrik Ekman)
After a dreary day in a small room Carson overhears Horjan and someone else. They want to turn Carson in, hoping for a reward. Carson runs away to a restaurant, where a lady invites him to her table. A kordogan (officer) starts to question Carson. The woman (titled Toganja) interferes on his behalf. He claims to be Vodo, tanjong (prince) of distant Vodaro, having run away from home to become a mercenary. Her name is Zerka and she explains about the city and its customs. More guards arrive and start to beat another guest (calling him a mistal, an animal but also a derogatory term) because his grandmother was nursed by an Atorian. Zerka explains that the current regime wants to maintain the pure blood of the kingdom. Zerka invites him to join her tomorrow, also offering to show him a place where he can spend the night. He accepts and as they travel through the city he compares it with other cities that he has seen: Kooaad, Kapdor, Kormor, Havatoo. Nightlife is high in spite of the war. Zerka explains how both the previous and current regimes encourage an active social life to keep up morale. Before parting, she gives him a ring as a token of being under her protection and advises him not to mention being a tanjong. A jong that came to the city searching for his kidnapped daughter was captured and sent to the Gap kum Rov. She will not say the jong's name.
Chapter 8 - Muso's Message (Fredrik Ekman)
When, at the hotel, Carson fails to show any papers two Zani guards approach him. He knocks down one and shows Zerka's ring to the other. After that, they leave him alone and he is given a room. Before going to bed he decides to read the message that he is to deliver to Spehon. It contains instructions to Mephis for Sanara's surrender on the condition that Muso is made jong ("let three blue rockets be shot into the air before the main gate of Sanara on three consecutive nights"). Too tired to find a hiding place for the message he goes to sleep. In the morning he goes out on the balcony for fresh air. He returns to find his things searched, the message gone! Thinking that someone has found him out he is determined to leave the city immediately. Seeking Zerka's aid he fetches a transport to her palace. She questions him regarding what has happened, but he says nothing about the message. She then provides him with a personal assistant, Mantar, who instructs him to always reply with the phrase "Maltu Mephis!" whenever someone else uses it.
Chapter 9 - I Become a Zani (Fredrik Ekman)
Mantar brings Carson before Spehon, the chief of guard. Carson is certain that Spehon has the document and that he will now be imprisoned and executed, but instead he is appointed a tokordogan (approximately the same as a lieutenant). A haircut leaving only a narrow strip of hair completes the transformation. On their way from the barber, Mantar and Carson encounter a procession with Mephis. All men that are not Zani must stand on their heads and everyone must shout "Maltu Mephis!" while the procession passes. Carson asks Mantar to let him see the waterfront. There he is told that he may request anything from anyone who is not a Zani whenever he needs it. Carson plans to escape in a boat, but first he must find out if Duare's father Mintep is imprisoned. Except for Mantar all the other officers are brutes and boors. After several days he is invited to Zerka and they spend a day together. Both try to learn more about the other, but both are also very careful not to reveal anything of significance. She does reveal, however, that she lost her husband (ooljagan) in the war preceding the revolution.
Chapter 10 - The Prison of Death (Fredrik Ekman)
One of the things Carson and Zerka do together is attend a theater. The audience is always seated with their backs to the actors, watching the act in mirrors. This is because acting was previously looked down upon and no-one was allowed to look directly at the actors. All the theaters in Amlot play The Life of Mephis over and over again (the entire play takes 101 nights) and citizens are required to visit the theater at least once every ten days. The next day Carson is appointed duty at the Gap kum Rov (Prison of Death), which turns out to be on a small island. The governor of the prison, Torko, at first dislikes Carson, but when he mistakes Carson's sarcasms for flattery and then realizes that Carson is protected by Zerka he changes his attitude. He tells that Zerka is a good Zani and that she invented many of the silly customs that the people of Amlot have to endure. Torko is extremely cruel to the prisoners. He shows his terrible tools for torture, and also a trapdoor for dumping ashes of incinerated prisoners into the bay below. After a week, Torko goes away, leaving Carson in charge. One day Mephis visits the prison to talk with Kord, the dethroned jong. Kord is offered his throne on a number of conditions. He refuses and is promptly shot to death.
Chapter 11 - The Net Draws Closer (David Bruce Bozarth)
Carson sings a tune to discover the whereabouts of Mintep. He has a response, "Here," and moves on. Processing prisoners, Carson encounters Horjan, who recognizes him. Double talk follows, designed to assure Horjan's silence. Pressured now to escape, complicated by knowing Mintep whereabouts, events cause Carson to arrest Narvon (Carson sees Zerka duck behind curtains). Napier prevents his detachment searching the quarters then escorts Narvon to Torko. Torko confronts Carson for being too lenient with prisoners. Carson realizes his actions have drawn attention to himself. Carson witnesses the torture of Narvon, who refrains from giving information until the very end, when his confession regarding accomplices is "It was the Torganja Z--" then he died.
Chapter 12 - Hunted (David Bruce Bozarth)
Carson decides he must warn Zerka of Narvon's incomplete confession during a fishing trip. Torko relieves Carson of prison duty. Summoned by the commandant, Napier is ordered to question with kindness one of twelve prisioners from the Sanara front. The fellow provides information, revealing Muso has turned out Illana to take another woman. who does not wish to be the mate of the jong--but Muso will have her since her man, Carson of Venus is reported dead in Amlot. Later, sneaking through dark streets to the quay, Mantar recognizes Napier. "I have an order for your arrest." Horjan was the informant. Recalling Zerka's statement he could trust Mantar, Carson reveals his path is to Sanara. "It is fortunate that none of my detail knew Vodo by sight. Good luck!" Escaping in a small boat, pursuers fire from the shore. Napier returns fire and sails away, regretful to leave Mintep behind. Altering course, Napier lands at Zerka's palace. Warning her of Narvon's confession he offers to take her with him. She names him "Carson of Venus," explaining when she first knew his identity. Zerka reveals plans for a counter revolution. Carson sadly relates it will fail as Kord was murdered by Mephis. Zerka gives Carson the stolen message, which he will use to embarrass Muso and put Taman in power. The woman declines to leave. Her part in the coming revolution is the murder of Mephis. Carson reveals his plane is nearby, that he will return, and if there are signals at the flat-topped mountain (Borsan) near the farm of Lodas he will bomb as directed, or if no signals, will bomb indiscriminately.
Chapter 13 - Danger in Sanara (David Bruce Bozarth)
Napier eventually arrives at Lodas' cove, finds the anotar, and takes off. Arriving Sanara at night, Napier noiselessly lands. Napier contends with a doorman at Taman's palace I guess putting a man in front of a door anywhere in the universe must do something to him. The tremendous responsibility implicit in such a cosmic assignment seems to remove all responsibility for good manners. Notified that his wife and Taman are at Muso's palace, Carson arrives in time to object to the jong taking Duare as a mate. Later, at Taman's palace, Carson reveals Muso's treachery to a group of high placed officials. Carson asks General Varo who will protect him from assassination, for Muso still desired Duare. Varo suggests they stay with Taman. Taman declines, revealing three attempts on his life in ten days. Carson offers an alternative plan; writing a report to allay Muso's suspicions, an "assignment" from General Varo, specifications on how Carson might know it is safe to return (release of balloons during an anotar overflight) and two officers--one to guard Duare, who will go along, and one to enter Amlot to attempt the rescue of Mintep.
Chapter 14 - Back to Amlot (David Bruce Bozarth)
After take off the officers Ulan and Legan retire to the cabin. At dawn, over the Zani camp, a message is dropped by parachute--from General Varo and designed to prove Muso's treachery. Flying onward, the anotar lands on Lodas' island. Legan remains with Duare, who is an efficient pilot now. She is given a map. Ulan and Napier depart at night in the small boat, carrying a 20 foot cut sapling. At the Gap kum Rov, Carson uses the sapling to enter the chute where the ashes of dead men were ejected from the prison. Using a duplicate master key, Carson locates Mintep. Successfully away, Carson stops at Zerka's palace and--as Zani guards capture him--commands Ulan to sail away with Mintep.
Chapter 15 - Tragic Error (David Adams)
Carson is dragged into the room. He discovers Zerka and Mantar bound before a number of Zanis, including Mephis and Spehon. They are hustled off to the Gap kum Rov, "Prison of Death," but are not tortured because Carson hints about "orders" he keft that will set them free from Amlot shortly after dawn. Zerka explains she was arrested because of her friendship with Carson. Also reveals she thought up the "Maltu Mephis!" gesture and other things to make the Zanis look ridiculous. Carson baits Torko, saying he will reveal that Torko was the one who helped Mintep escape. When Torko runs off to check on Mintep, Carson shows them the master key to the prison and explains how he freed Mintep. When Torko returns after finding Mintep gone, Carson tells him they will soon be bombed unless they are set free. When the bombing doesn't begin on schedule, Carson and the others are taken into the courtroom before "ogres out of a fairy tale." Just as they start to torture Zerka, she tells Mephis that she has poisoned him, and the bombs begin to fall. The Zanis shout "Maltu Spehon!" as Mephis dies, and Carson and his friends are released in a boat. Duare does not recognize Carson since he is with Zerka and Mantar, so she continues to bomb the city from the anotar, then flies away toward Sanara.
Chapter 16 - Despair (David Adams)
Carson and his friends sail up the coast toward Sanara, camping and foraging for food along the way. They make primitive weapons and observe blue rockets that signaled the springing of the snare for Muso at Sanara. Arriving at the city, they make plans to enter, then spot the anotar leaving toward Vepaja. Thinking that Duare has gone home, Carson decides to enter the city alone. He discovers that the Zani lines around the Sanara have been deserted, so he runs back for his friends, and they go into the city where Taman has replaced Muso as jong. (ERB gives a synopsis of all of Carson's escapes from cities on Amtor.)
Chapter 17 - Forty Minutes! (David Adams)
Carson is made a noble of Sanara, and Zerka and Mantar are promised rewards. He meets queen Jahara and princess Nna and is told that Duare flew home following her father's orders that she return to Kooaad and face trial for loving Carson. He also learns that Muso has escaped from prison and is hiding somewhere in the city. Carson wants to try to sail the fishing boat all the way to Vepaja to save Duare. The janjong Nna is abducted by Muso, and Taman is instructed to abdicate in favor of him as the price of ransom. General Varo has eleven hours to find her. Aided by his body servant, Carson goes into the streets disguised as a poor man, listening for clues in bars. One ugly customer thinks that Carson, together with Prunt and Skrag, has killed the old villain Kurch. Carson convinces him that he actually participated in the kidnapping of Nna and pays 500 pandars (one pandar is worth about one dollar) to be taken to where Nna is kept. In forty minutes of Earth time the ransom must be paid.
Chapter 18 - A Tanjong (David Adams)
Carson leaps through a trap door into the room where Muso is holding Nna. He shoots three of Muso's henchmen, then sword fights Muso until Nna ends the battle by zapping the villain with an r-ray pistol. Ulan, of the Jong's Guard, arrives, and Nna is returned to her father. Carson is elevated to royalty, adopted as Taman's son, and made tanjong of Korva. After his acceptance speech, Carson notes that "as a maker of speeches, I am a fairy good aviator." He does however miss Duare.
Chapter 19 - Pirates (Stan Galloway)
Carson immediately begins preparing for the trip to Vepaja, despite advice to stay in Korva. With pomp, he sets off. He sees much sealife, including the three-eyed rotik, which is the size of an ocean liner. On the eighth day he is intercepted by pirates on the ship Nojo Ganja. Carson identifies himself as Sofal, a pirate, and offers the captain to serve as an officer. The captain sends him to work on deck under the supervision of Folar. Folar is taunted into fighting Carson. Rather than kill the man, Carson disarms him and asks for a truce. Folar puts him under the command of Nurn. The crew tells Carson that Folar will get revenge. Later Nurn reveals the pirate mission is to capture Carson for the Thorist reward of a million pandars. Carson thanks his fate of donning the black wig before the pirates had gotten close; the only distinguishing feature they know of him is his yellow hair. Carson says he has friends in Kooaad, the place the pirates expect to find Carson, and volunteers to pilot the ship there and go into the city as a spy. Nurn warns Carson to watch out for Folar and goes to relay Carson's offer to the captain.
Chapter 20 - To Kooaad (Stan Galloway)
Folar approaches Carson. In a quick-draw shoot-out Carson kills Folar. He is taken to the captain who dismisses the charges, sending the crowd away. Carson tells him to turn south, which the captain orders done. Carson is given officers quarters. That night he spots Vepaja. Approaching the captain's quarters, he overhears plans to "see that he's put out of the way" when his usefulness is finished. He then reports the sighting and guides them to the harbor. Sent to negotiate landing privileges, Carson pretends to the guards, whom he recognizes -- Tofar and Olthar, to represent a trader of jewels and offers to take his wares to the jong's palace with them when they finish their duty. The pirate captain makes him promise to entice "Carson" back to the ship. Perfunctorily, Carson is blindfolded to keep the city's location secret. When they arrive, Carson asks to ply his wares at the palace. Carson gives Tofar a ring in gratitude for his assistance. Inside, Carson gives a piece to Vejara, one of Duare's ladies-in-waiting. He learns that Duare has been condemned to die by the council of nobles. Revealing his identity to Vejara, Carson asks her to secret him into Duare's rooms. She complies. Duare embraces him. She explains that she could not break her word by escaping, but that she "cannot help it if someone takes [her] by force." Carson carries her by a secret stairway to the ground and the anotar, which they fly toward their new kingdom, Korva.