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Ras Thavas - the Master Mind of Mars

Vobis Kan, Jeddak of Toonol - named only

Gor Hajus, the Assassin of Toonol - named only

Valla Dia, Princess of Duhor - named only

Xaxa, Jeddara of Phundahl - named only

Vad Varo - a.k.a. Ulysses Paxton

John Carter, Prince of Helium, Warlord of Mars - a.k.a. Dotar Sojat

Dejah Thoris, Princess of Mars

Vor Daj - a young padwar (goes around much of the story as Tor-dur-bar’s old hormad body)

Dars Tarus, Jeddak of Phundahl

Tor-dur-bar - hormad “four million eight” (container of Vor Daj’s brain as a spy)

Tun-gan - new name of Tor-dur-bar when his brain is transplanted to the body of Gantun Gur

Teeaytan-ov - hormad

Sytor - Dwar of the hormads, a red man

Janai - red Barsoomian girl of Amhor

Jal Had - Prince of Amhor

Council of the Seven Jeds - rulers of Morbus

Gan Had - a Toonolian warrior, prisoner of the hormads

Gantum Gur, assassin of Amhor - Tor-dur-bar gets his body & is named Tun-Gan

Third Jed, a.k.a. Ay-mad, Jeddak of Morbus

Pandar - Phundahlian warrior, double-crossing friend of Vor Daj/Tor-dur-bar

Anatok, Jed of Gooli

Zuki, warrior of the Goolians

Orm-O, a young slave from Duhor in the city of Amhor.

Ur-Raj, a padwar from Hastor

Vanuma, oldest wife of Jal Had

Dur Ajmad

Bal Tab, the green man



Phundahl - an ancient, backward & superstitious city-state

Toonol - an advanced, scientific city-state

Great Toonolian Marshes - the largest wet-lands on Barsoom

Duhor - a city-state of Barsoom

Twin Cities of Helium

Artolian Hills

Morbus - ancient lost city in the Toonolian Marshes

Reclamation Laboratory No. 3


Gooli, city on the Island of Ompt

The Zoo at Amhor


A new, swift cruiser

Thuria & Cluros - moon’s of Mars

directional compass

sompus trees

voiceless birds

pimalia & gloresta - flowering bush & tree






scaling ladders

creature of vat No. 4


zoo cages

exploding projectiles

Ruzaar - battleship of Helium

Synthetic Men of Mars

Summarized by
David A. Adams

David Bruce Bozarth, Managing Editor


This six-part serial was first published in Argosy Weekly, January 7, 14, 21, 28; February 4, 11, 1939. The first book edition was by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., March 15, 1940, followed by a reprint by ERB Inc. in 1948 and the first paperback edition by Ballantine in June 1963. It was the ninth book in the Barsoom Series and consists of 31 chapters.


"Synthetic Men of Mars has little to recommend it."

— Richard A. Lupoff

"One of Burroughs' most remarkable works, deserving of such superlatives as a dazzling feat of the imagination or a tour de force in the field of science fiction."

— Irwin Porges

"If Burroughs was attempting a totalitarian metaphor, warning against the dangers of communism or fascism, Liberty didn’t see it that way ... and turned it down ... Argosy (found it) just right, and offered twelve hundred dollars."

— John Taliaferro

"All of the Barsoomian novels are fascinating, and Synthetic Men of Mars is no exception. The adventures of Vor Daj in the body of Tor-dur-bar provide us with a psychological thriller not to be missed."

— David Adams

Chapter 1 - Where Is Ras Thavas?

Dejah Thoris has suffered a serious injury in a collision between two airships, and John Carter is determined to seek out Ras Thavas, the greatest surgeon on Barsoom to mend her broken back. He takes a new, swift cruiser to find Vad Varo in Duhor, for he had been the assistant of Ras Thavas. He takes a young padwar, Vor Daj with him. This story is one told by Vor Daj in the first person. It was sent to Jason Gridley by Ulysses Paxton who translated it into English.

Chapter 2 - The Mission of the Warlord

Vor Daj introduces himself as a fighting man in the service of John Carter. They are headed for Duhor under the control of its directional compass. By morning, they discover they are off course, so go to the nearer Phundahl to see its Jeddak, Dar Tarus. Disguised as panthans (soldiers of fortune) they hide their ship and approach the city on foot.

Chapter 3 - The Invincible Warriors

Carter decides to use his old name of Dotar Sojat. In the hills beyond the city, 20 malagors fly toward them. These are giant birds long presumed to be extinct. Each is ridden by a warrior, and one carries a woman. Surrounded by these men, they find that each is strangely deformed in a different way. They are led by a handsome, well formed man, who tells them they are prisoners. Carter & Daj fight 5 of the monsters, but discover they cannot be killed. Even beheaded, they keep on fighting. Finally, the heroes are netted, and taken by these “hormads” to Morbus.

Chapter 4 - The Secret of the Marshes

One of the severed heads being carried to Morbus asks Vor Daj to turn it to have a better view of the flight. The head reveals he can never die unless destroyed by fire. The head, Tor-dur-bar, is grateful for Vor Daj's assistance names him friend. Another severed head, Teeaytan-ov, tells Vor Daj he would make a better friend. The heads argue, and the handsome Dwar named Sytor puts an end to it. At the Toonolian Marsh island city of Morbus the heads are taken to Reclamation Laboratory No. 3. In the guard-room, they learn the girl is Janai from Amhor, a city ruled by a prince Jal Had. Pandar, a prisoner from Phundahl, explains this is the city of Ras Thavas and that prisoner bodies are sometimes used to house the brains of hormads, his creatures. Ras Thavas' science can grow human beings from a single cell, though most are of extremely low intelligence. The smart hormads are forcing Thavas to produce higher quality hormads, and they plan to conquer Barsoom by force of numbers; there are several million hormads on the island. Thavas can produce a hormad in nine days and he plans to march them into battle at the rate of two million a year. Thavas also produces malagors (large birds) for transportation by the same method. Everyone on Morbus eats animal tissue...and it may be human in origin.

Chapter 5 - The Judgment of the Jeds

Vor Daj feels sorry for Janai and tells her he would like to help. John Carter and the other prisoners are taken before the Council of the Seven Jeds, the rulers of Morbus. They are intelligent hormads who have wrested control from Ras Thavas. (They have hormad brains transferred into the bodies of normal men.) They wrangle over the girl, then the men prisoners agree to become hormad officers and train the monsters for battle. The alternative is death in the vats. The test of worthiness as an officer is to kill an armed hormad in a sword duel. The winners are John Carter, Vor Daj, Pandar, and Gan Had. John Carter and Vor Daj are put in service of the laboratory guard to see that Ras Thavas does not escape.

Chapter 6 - Ras Thavas, Master Mind of Mars

As Vor Daj is lead away with John Carter, he knows that he loves Janai but may well never see her again. Ras Thavas looks like a young man, even though he is over a thousand years old. He recognizes John Carter as an Earthman (Jasoomian) because of the red pigment he uses as a disguise. The other Jasoomian on Barsoom is Paxton, he who helped transfer the brain of Ras Thavas into this young body. Carter explains his need for his great skills as a surgeon to save Dejah Thoris, but escape seems difficult if not impossible. They go to observe the spawning of the monsters.

Chapter 7 - The Vats of Life

Monsters appear out of a huge tank, half of them so deformed they have to be killed by hormad warriors. All are deformed in some way because Ras Thavas has not learned the secret of creating perfect symmetry. He says that he hopes to create a new race of supermen. Carter calls them a Frankensteinian host, but Thavas points out that they all have a great desire to live no matter how deformed they might be. They meet the head of Tor-dur-bar who wants handsome body like Vor Daj. He can grow a new body in nine days, but it might not be a useful one. Carter says that if there is an Almighty God he may resent this usurpation of his prerogatives. Thavas explains the theory of evolution of life on Mars - from a spore to the Tree of Live, thus to plants and animals. Buds first produced Plant Men, six -legged worms, white apes, and humans.

Chapter 8 - The Red Assassin

Vor Daj gets the chance to be at the palace of the Seven Jeds and witnesses the interrogation of a new red man prisoner, Gantun Gur, the assassin of Amhor. Tor-dur-bar gets a new body, but not a perfect one. Vor Daj suggests that Ras Thavas put Tor-dur-bar’s brain in the body of Gantun Gur instead, and he does (aided by Carter and Vor Daj!). Vor Daj asks Thavas to put his brain into the old body of Tor-dur-bar so he can get into the palace of the Seven Jeds to look for Janai. He agrees to help him in this strange plan.

Chapter 9 - Man Into Hormad

After the operation, Vor Daj fears that if something should happen to Ras Thavas he will be condemned to a life in this deformed body. The only other man who knows how to do this brain transfer is Vad Varo (Ulysses Paxton). Only Carter and Ras Thavas know of the transfer because Tor-dur-bar was kept unconscious until the operation was over. Vor Daj goes to work at the vats and talks to Teeaytan-ov, who is a member of the bodyguard of the Third Jed, learning that Janai is well but being fought over by two Jeds. Vor Daj convinces Teeaytan-ov to recommend him as a candidate for bodyguard service by showing how strong he is, throwing Teeaytan-ov up to the ceiling and catching him again. Vor Daj is extremely deformed in face and body but abnormally strong. Tor-dur-bar has become Tun-gan, a name instead of a number. Suddenly, Tor-dur-bar (Vor Daj) is summoned before the Council of the Seven Jeds!

Chapter 10 - I Find Janai

In his strength test to become a member of the guards, Tor-dur-bar throws a hormad so hard up to the ceiling that it hits and is knocked unconscious. He becomes a guard for the Third Jed, and makes his way to see Janai, telling her that Vor Daj is trying to rescue her. The First Jed comes in and clumsily duels with swords with the Third Jed over the possession of Janai, and during the battle Tor-dur-bar persuades Janai to leave with him.

Chapter 11 - War of the Seven Jeds

Luckily, Tor-dur-bar finds a vacant apartment nearby where Janai can stay in safety. He then goes to the Council room with the Third Jed where this ambitious hormad challenges the others, stating that he wishes to be the jeddak over all. Tor-dur-bar throws a couple of hormads around, but the others do not want a Jeddak of Morbus, so they have to fight their way out of the room. They leave through the gates and quickly subdue all the island of Morbus except for the city itself. The Third Jed takes the name, Ay-mad, Jeddak or Morbus, and makes Tor-dur-bar a dwar, a captain. He tells him that he will get a better body once they have taken the city.

Chapter 12 - Warrior’s Reward

Tor-dur-bar helps Ay-mad take the city by means of scaling ladders, and Ay-mad does become the Jeddak of Morbus in fact. Unfortunately, Ras Thavas has disappeared. As a reward for his services,Tor-dur-bar is placed in control of the laboratory. He also asks for Janai, but she too is missing. He is to have her when she is found -- if she freely chooses to go with him. Tor-dur-bar goes to where he has hidden Janai and explains the situation to her. If she is asked, she must choose him over Ay-mad, and he promises that he will then take her to Vor Daj.

Chapter 13 - John Carter Disappears

Tor-dur-bar goes to the laboratory and Tun Gan tells him that John Carter disappeared with Ras Thavas. He then goes into the small laboratory and discovers that his body (Vor Daj) is missing. At the foot of the table is a mysterious message, “3-17.” Everything is in chaos with Ras Thavas gone, so Tor-dur-bar tells them to throw all the deformed body parts (which are running, or crawling around) into the incinerator. In No. 4 vat room, a gigantic blob has been formed with human parts sticking out in all directions. Since it can’t be killed, they decide to lock it in. Tor-dur-bar leads a party to “find” Janai and takes her to Ay-mad for the agreement to be met.

Chapter 14 - When the Monster Grows

Janai chooses Tor-dur-bar, and they are dismissed from the throne room. Tor-dur-bar sees plans for corridors beneath the laboratory, but gives it no further thought. The gigantic blob continues to grow. Tor-dur-bar finally connects 3-77 with corridor 3, cell 17 but finds the door locked. He finds the key and his body and blood lying there.

Chapter 15 - I Find My Master

Tor-dur-bar finds a trap door in the floor of the cell and a corridor beyond. At the end of the tunnel outside the city, he finds John Carter and Ras Thavas. They are on an island 2 miles beyond Morbus. Carter and Thavas plan to go to Helium to save Dejah. Tor-dur-bar must go back and try to save Janai. The blob threatens to grow until it takes over the entire planet.

Chapter 16 - The Jeddak Speaks

Tor-dur-bar (Vor Daj) wonders if he will ever get his own body back now that Ras Thavas is gone. He meets Tun Gan, and they check to see of Janai is safe. She is afraid of Tun Gan because he has the body of Gantun Gur, the assassin of Amhor, the murderer of her father. They explain the brain transfer, and she is relieved to hear it. Tor-dur-bar trusts Tun Gan, and since they are surrounded by spies, he enlists the aid of a few men he trusts: Sytor, Pandar, Gan Had, and Teeaytan-ov. The tissue growth of vat No. 4 almost fills the courtyard, and the production of new hormads has almost ceased. Tor-dur-bar is summoned before Ay-mad and put in charge of the conquest of Phundahl, leaving Janai behind in the hands of the evil Jeddak.

Chapter 17 - Escape Us Never

The growth of the mass from Vat No. 4 has accelerated, and it is eating everyone who tries to get near it. Tor-dur-bar decides he must escape with Janai and his trusted friends. He tells them that Dotar Sojat is really John Carter, and that he will return with a fleet from Helium. Janai hesitates at the plan because Vor Daj is thought to be dead by everyone except Tor-dur-bar. Sytor whispers to her. They take the brain transferring equipment to the pits and the tunnel to safety, pursued by the new governor of the Laboratory Building and guards.

Chapter 18 - Treason Island

They battle in the pits where Teeaytan-ov is killed, Pandar wounded, but Sytor does not fight. The heroes kill the guards and the Governor. Sytor whispers to Janai. They enter 3-17, and Janai sees the body of Vor Daj lying on an ersite slab. She is angry that Tor-dur-bar did not tell her about his condition, but Sytor smiles, perhaps guessing the truth.

Chapter 19 - Night Flight

They survive on the island and built two small boats. Janai, Sytor and Pandar spend much time together. Sytor convinces Janai that the brain of Vor Daj has been destroyed and Tor-dur-bar only wants the body so he can have her. He decides to tell Janai the truth, but during the night she leaves in one of the boats with Sytor and Pandar. The other boat has been scuttled. They (Tor-dur-bar, Gan Had, Tun Gan) repair the boat in three days and head for Phundahl because Tor-dur-bar guesses they might go there as it is Pandar’s home. However, they are traveling in the confusing by-ways of the Toonolian Marshes. They are chased by savages, then see malagors - three of which are carrying double -- one of the prisoners being a woman. Because it is growing dark, the malagors and their riders camp on an island, and Tor-dur-bar discovers it is indeed Janai, Sytor, and Pandar. While he is away scouting, Gan Had and Tun Gan leave with the boat. Tor-dur-bar steals a malagor and heads for Morbus. Back at the island, he chases the malagor away and goes to see his body in 3-17. All is well, but he hopes that John Carter and Ras Thavas will return soon.

Chapter 20 - The Mighty Jed of Gooli

At Morbus, Tor-dur-bar finds the blob of tissue growing, even driving Ay-mad out of his palace. He is caught in the mob of fleeing hormads and waits outside the city gates for the hormads to bring in Janai on the malagors. He manages to trick the captain of the gate to turn Janai over to him along with a malagor so he can carry her (he says) to Ay-mad. He learns that she had gone with Sytor and Pandar against her will. They land on a distant island, the island of Ompt, and are captured by 50 warriors and taken to the city of Gooli and its Jed, Anatok. [The Goolians are a primitive form of humanoid with long, powerful legs for leaping and long tails for balance, and the females are pouched like kangaroos. They are self-important, believing themselves to the the most advanced, most intelligent, fiercest, people on Barsoom although they are only savages who live in grass huts and are arrant cowards as well, refusing to fight unless the odds are 10 to l in their favor.] Anatok tells them that they are now slaves but will serve in the most splendid city in the world. Tor-dur-bar is willing to fight, which pleases Anatok very much.

Chapter 21 - Duel To The Death

Tor-dur-bar has to sword fight a bragging young buck, Zuki, but before the fight he gets a promise of freedom for himself and Janai if he should win. The Goolians brag about their great treasure and show him a chest of sea shells. Then, he discovers that he must fight Zuki and 10 of his “assistants.” Before the fight can begin, six savage man-eaters arrive and frighten most of the Goolians into flight. The Goolians are used to giving up five “sacrifices” to them instead of fighting. Tor-dur-bar kills three of them, and the other three run away. The Goolians are a race of braggarts and cowards and are only too glad to give freedom to this brave man.

Chapter 22 - Off For Phundahl

Tor-dur-bar and Janai build a boat without help from the Goolians, who are a very lazy people. They brag about the good boat they have built, and the couple sets out toward the west through the Great Toonolian Marshes.

Chapter 23 - Captives of Amhor

After a week of travel, they see a great battleship of the air and think it is John Carter and Ras Thavas. They are hoisted aboard and find themselves prisoners on a ship of Jal Had, Prince of Amhor. Suddenly, another prisoner leaps overboard and rows off in the abandoned canoe. Tor-dur-bar is placed in a cabin with Tun Gan. He was a prisoner with Pandar, but Pandar was the man who has just jumped overboard. Tun Gan doesn’t mind going to Amhor because they think he is Gantun Gur, the assassin of Amhor. At Amhor, Janai is taken aboard a royal craft, and Tor-dur-bar is locked in the hold as a specimen of the wild beast of the Toonolian Marshes.

Chapter 24 - Caged

The flight traffic patterns for ground fliers at Amhor is explained in detail -- it is common to all cities of Mars. The principal business of Amhor is the raising of thoats and zitidars -- the mecca of stockmen on Barsoom. Tor-dur-bar is placed in a cage in a zoological garden, which includes various types of Martian humans. The creatures are described in great detail, but Tor-dur-bar says that he was by far the most hideous creature in the zoo. His sign reads: HORMAD FROM MORBUS, A MAN-LIKE MONSTER CAPTURED IN THE WILDS OF THE GREAT TOONOLIAN MARSHES. Jah Had comes to look at him with Janai in tow. She puts in a good word for him, and the Prince says that he will be rewarded by having scraps from the royal table. Tor-dur-bar tells the slave boy who comes to feed him that he is a friend of John Carter. The boy promises to keep him informed about the fate of Janai.

Chapter 25 - Prince In A Zoo

The young slave from Duhor is named Orm-O. Tor-dur-bar develops a friendship with a red man from Hastor held in the next cage named Ur Raj. He remembers Vor Daj as being a splendid officer. Tor-dur-bar reminds him of a conversation he once had with Vor Daj about a way to detect and locate enemy ships by the sound of their motors. Tor-dur-bar becomes a great mystery to Ur Raj. Orm-O reports that Janai is safe so far because the oldest wife of Jal Had, Vanuma, will not permit him to have her as a rival. She is already talking to Gantun Gur, the assassin of Amhor, about this beautiful, young woman. Tor-dur-bar talks to Gantun Gur, who is still loyal, and tells him to get word to Vanuma that if Janai should be killed her own life would be forfeit.

Chapter 26 - The Rite Of The Adder

In the morning of the following day dirge-like music proclaims that a member of the royal family has died. The green man in an adjoining cage has a plan for escape, which he explains to Tor-dur-bar. Ur Raj plans to go along, even though he thinks it quite impossible. Vanuma has been poisoned, and Jal Had plans to marry Janai after the 27 days of mourning. Dur Ajmad, a noble of royal descent and a relative of Vanuma suspects that Jal Had has poisoned his own wife and would like to take over the throne. Suddenly, there is an alarm at the palace, and when everyone, including the zoo-keepers, begins running that way, Tor-dur-bar pretends that he has been bitten by a snake and rolls on the floor. The stupid guard comes too close and is killed -- his keys open the way to escape. Ur Raj and the green man beside him, they release all of the animals and drive them toward the palace. The beasts attack the guards, and the heroic trio enter by a side door.

Chapter 27 - Flight Into Jeopardy

Bal Tab, the green man, wonders how they will find Janai, but are quickly led to her by Orm-O, the slave boy. They kill the guards and enter the room where Jal Had is holding Janai in his arms. Bal Tab kills Jal Had and they run to the hanger on the roof of the palace. One guard there runs for help while the other is killed by Tor-dur-bar. Ur Raj takes the controls of a ship, and they fly off. When a patrol ship questions them, they say they have Jal Had aboard and are going to a secret destination. A dozen more ships begin the pursuit.

Chapter 28 - The Great Fleet

There is a running battle with the speedy patrol boat, both sides firing exploding projectiles. Bal Tab is killed. A great fleet of battleships appears above them -- the fleet from Helium! The ships from Amhor turn back. Aboard the ship from Helium, they learn that they were being searched for in Amhor. They had rescued Pandar from savages near Morbus, and he had told them of their capture. John Carter and Ras Thavas are there too aboard the Ruzaar. Vor Daj wonders if his body is still in existence.

Chapter 29 - Back Toward Morbus

They all head back to Morbus for the body of Vor Daj. Dejah Thoris has completely recovered. Janai suggests that the brain of Tor-dur-bar should be placed in the body of Vor Daj (since she believes his own brain has been destroyed.) She considers him to be her most loyal friend, one with nobility of character. They sail past Phundahl without incident.

Chapter 30 - The End Of Two Worlds

They pass over the Great Toonolian Marshes -- the last of the great oceans of Barsoom. John Carter muses that when they pass away it will mark the passing of the entire planet. So too, he says, Earth will pass away -- another Toonolian Marsh where the Pacific Ocean rolls today. Then, from Carter this statement: “The fate of a friend transcends that of a planet.” Tor-dur-bar says he will kill himself if the body of Vor Daj has been destroyed. Again, John Carter speaks wisdom: “It is the character that makes the man, not the clay which is its abode.” When they arrive at Morbus, they find that the writhing mass of tissue has covered the entire city and has reached the island as well. They drop incendiary bombs on the mass and burn it away from the entrance to the tunnel. They find Vor Daj’s body still intact in 3-17. Ras Thavas begins the transfer.

Chapter 31 - Adventure’s End

The transfer of Vor Daj’s brain back into his own body is successful. He goes to Janai, and she asks him how Teeaytan-ov died. He answers, and she knows that his brain was in Tor-dur-bar’s body -- she had suspected it for some time. They kiss. They drop bombs on Morbus for ten days until the great mass is entirely exterminated. Pandar is returned to Phundahl. Janai claims the brain of Vor Daj as her own as well as his body.

The End