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Summarized by
David Adams


Ulysses Paxton

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Ras Thavas

Vad Varo (Paxton)

Xaxa (Jeddara, Phundahl)

Valla Dia

Kor San (Jeddak, Duhor)

Jal Had (Amhor)

Dar Tarus

Gor Hajus

Hovan Du

Bal Zak

Mu Tel (Prince, Toonol)

Vobis Kan (Jeddak, Toonol)

Sag Or

Kara Vasa

John Carter


This is the sixth book in the Mars series. It was first published in the Amazing Stories Annual for 1927. A. C. McClurg's First Edition was released March, 1928 and Grosset & Dunlap's first reprint followed in 1929. The fourteen chapters (preceded by a "letter") move in a rather straight-forward way through a science fiction, adventure story. The main interest centers around the complications caused by human brain transfers. Burroughs offers philosophical musings on the futility of war and a hilarious treatment of the follies of a false religion. The action is fast-paced, although the many characters might be confusing to the casual reader. The novel is however highly entertaining and rewards the reader with an hour or two of typical Burroughsian magic.

A Letter

This framing device consists of a letter written by Ulysses Paxton, a Captain of the U.S. Army, to Burroughs in which he describes his fatal injuries on a WW I battlefield and subsequent transportation to Barsoom by following John Carter’s example in A Princess of Mars. The rest of the novel is presented as Paxton's manuscript delivered with the letter. Paxton describes Burroughs as "the medium through which Earthmen shall become better acquainted with the manners and customs of Barsoom."

Chapter One: The House of the Dead

Ulysses saves a large-headed old man by killing a man with a club. He then observes the old man perform a human-to-human brain and blood transfer, the patients being an old woman and a young woman.

Chapter Two: Preferment

Ulysses learns the Barsoomian language. Ras Thavas, the old surgeon of Toonol, is named as the host-jailer he has lived with for three weeks. Ulysses learns the secrets of transferring blood, which revitalizes old, worn-out body organs. Ulysses is called "Vad Varo." He is chosen as Ras Thavas’ assistant because he is a stranger on Barsoom with nowhere to go to reveal the secrets. Ulysses becomes the scientist's bodyguard and is given weapons. [The story of the young man who tried to kill Ras in chapter one is told, an unsatisfactory brain-transfer -- for him ...] [Xaxa, Jeddara (Queen) of a hereditary monarch in Phundahl is described as ignorant, arrogant, and selfish. It was she who received the new, young body in chapter one.] We learn that the young woman was a prisoner of war who had been "preserved for ten years.

Chapter Three: Valla Dia

Ras Thavas instructs Vad to restore the young woman (now in Xaxa’s old body). She is horrified at first, but quickly accepts her fate once it is explained to her. Vad is ordered to observe her psychological adjustment to her new condition. They exchange names -- she is Valla Dia from a people not friendly to Heliumites and John Carter. The case of the half-man, half-ape and vice verse is also investigated. Vad makes a pact with the ape-man to help him later if he can.

Chapter Four: The Compact

Vad does organ transplants. Ras tells him that he is chosen to transfer his 1000-year-old mind into a younger body. Also, Ras plans to arrange his immortality by a periodic replacement of worn-out organs and/or bodies. Valla refuses the chance to get a younger body. She relates her life in Duhor, her homeland. She is the daughter of Kor San, Jeddak of Duhor. The ruthless Amhorian, Jal Had, wanted to marry her and was refused. Jal Had conquered Duhor. Valla disguised herself as an ugly woman when all captured females were sent to Amhor. These women were taken by a fleet from Phundal and became slaves. Valla was sold to Ras. Vad loves Valla. He wants to take her back to her homeland. He transfers Ras’ brain to a new body, but he exacts a promise from the scientist to restore Valla’s body.

Chapter Five: Danger

Vad overhears Ras’ plan to kill him and Valla. Vad hides Valla in the pits beneath the laboratories then denies knowing her whereabouts. Vad sneaks out at night to put her in suspended animation. He promises her that when she awakes she will be in her own body again.

Chapter Six: Suspicions

Vad accuses Ras of doing away with Valla. Ras spies on Vad and Vad has spies to watch spies. Vad then plans to revive three helpers: Dar Tarus, the warrior of Phundahl he had killed, Gor Hajus, the assassin of Toonol, and (later) the white ape-man. Ras shows Vad the marshes and the city of Toonol from a high tower. They see the hordes of white apes that prevent intruders from entering his island. Vad learns of Ras’ three flyers.

Chapter Seven: Escape

Vad finishes the revival of Dar and Gor then revives the ape-man, Hovan Du. They trick Ras into thinking Vad has flown off in a ship, then all four hide on another ship that goes to Toonol for supplies, or a patient. As they leave the closet where they were hiding they are met by ...

Chapter Eight: Hand Up!

Bal Zak, the captain of the ship, Vosar, who had previously seen them sneak aboard. Bal Zak proves friendly and offers a plan. Toonol is described. They fly equilibrimotors. They are stopped by a policeman, but Gor splits his skull with a short sword. Vad has trouble landing, but finally lands in the garden of Mu Tel. He is attacked by a calot ... a Barsoomian watch-dog.

Chapter Nine: The Palace of Mu Tel

Vad meets Mu Tel ... his friends are already there. Mu Tel is the good nephew of the evil Vobis Kan, Jeddak of Toonol. Gor is his old friend. Vad is stained red for a disguise ... all are given weapons. Panthans are described as soldiers of fortune. Earth is observed by the Barsoomians, noting that the war is over. "War never brought peace ..." is the philosophical musing of Mu Tel. Toonolian ways are described. They worship science, but are unbalanced for it. The heroes get a flyer from Mu Tel. They are chased by a patrol boat. Vad and the ape-man board the patrol ship followed by the two others. The ship men agree to fly them to Phundahl.

Chapter Ten: Phundahl

They land unobserved, have supper, then go to the temple of Tur. Dar Tarus was a follower of Tur. Religious rites are parodied. Hovan Du, the man-ape, performs to amuse the palace guards. They think the Queen might like to see the show.

Chapter Eleven: Xaxa

They are taken to Xaxa, and made to give up their weapons. Ras has warned Xaxa, so they are captured ... Dar is not along. Hovan attacks the guards, but Xaxa escapes. Hovan takes Sag Or, the man who had received Dar’s body. They go behind the throne along Xaxa’s secret passageway. Gor and Vad hide in Xaxa’s temple inside a statue of Tur, which is dusty and contains a skeleton, a Burroughsian mystery to be solved. They discover a speaking tube with amplifier in Tur’s mouth and a periscope in the eyes. Tur’s ears can hear everything in the temple.

Chapter Twelve: The Great Tur

Vad and Gor watch from inside the statue of Tur as Xaxa traverses the aisle in a chariot pulled by banths (Barsoomian lions). Dar Tarus, captured, is with the procession, intended to be a human sacrifice. Vad talks through Tur and saves Dar. He orders everyone out except Xaxa. They all get away on a flyer ... Xaxa to give up her Valla body ... Sag Or to give up his Dar body. Dar is searching for his lover, Kara Vasa, who is reported to be in Helium.

Chapter Thirteen: Back to Thavas

With the aid of the white apes, they find a place to hide the ship. Hovan and Dar set them down inside the outer walls of Ras’ laboratory, then take the ship into hiding ... but they return on foot for the climax. Vad restores Valla. Dar is restored. Xaxa and Sag Or are awakened in their old bodies. The heroes, with the aid of the apes, rout 20 Toonolian warriors. They take Xaxa back to Phundahl. Valla pretends to be Xaxa to get them into Xaxa’s palace. She invites the nobles to a feast to explain the will of Tur.

Chapter Fourteen: John Carter

There is a grand procession into Xaxa’s temple. Tur speaks with Vad’s voice. He orders the switch of bodies, which has, of course, already been done. Dar is made Jeddak of Phundahl. Xaxa dies of apoplexy. Hovan Du and Gor Hajus decide to stay with Dars in Phundahl. Ras visits the court of Dar Tarus. In exchange for military help to oust the Toonolian warriors occupying the scientist's island, Ras pledges himself to good works. Valla goes back to Duhor with Vad. John Carter and Dar make peace. Vad and John Carter meet. Kara and Dar are reunited and wed. Vad and Valla are married.