Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
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Aircraft depictions on this page are fantasy creations suggested by descriptions by Edgar Rice Burroughs, but may not actually appear in the Poloda novels. Above is a detail of Frank Frazetta's frontispiece for the Ace edition of Beyond the Farthest Star.
450,000 LIGHT YEARS AWAY...
By 1939 it was becoming obvious to most people of the world that war such as the Earth had never seen was about to engulf the planet.
Edgar Rice Burroughs penned a tale in 1940 that foretold the horrors of unrestricted warfare and predicted the assault of military forces against civilian cities, propoganda machines run amok and the indoctrination of youth into ideologies that would cause them to betray family and friends to oppressive governments. These predictions, sad to say, have been proven historical realities in the aftermath of what is known as World War II.
These predictions were presented as parables on a world at war 450,000 light years from Earth--a world which had suffered from heavy mechanized and aerial conflict for over 100 years. The war on Poloda was costly in lives, both military and civilian, and was conducted via advanced technologies as embodied in air armadas of immense size and destructive capability. Burroughs presented these horrific extremes in a tale of speculative fiction; then was dismayed to see the real world (his world) not only paralleled the atrocities of Poloda but went beyond those fictional extremes by several magnitudes.
Beyond the Farthest Star begins when an Earthman, known only by his Polodan name "Tangor," perished in the skies of 1939 wartime Europe and reappeared naked in the nation of Unis on Poloda, a nation involved in a bitter struggle with the Kapars across the ocean. Tangor is befriended by a family located in the beleaguered nation and eventually becomes an aviator eager to protect his adopted country from the daily bombing raids of the Kapars.
Tangor learns first hand the tragic family lives and the enduring determination of the Unisian people. He proves himself in aerial combats and also becomes involved with a lovely girl. His assimilation into the Unisian population becomes complete when he is chosen to become a secret agent.
Poloda is environmentally much like earth. Many creatures are found which are exact counterparts to those of our planet, but we see little of the world itself as it is War, in all its horror and brutality, that is the landscape upon which the story is told. Underground cities, ghetto-like holding areas, neutral nations afraid they will be drawn into the conflict, espionage and fear--this is the bleak canvas upon which Tangor must survive--and win if possible.
In many ways the technology of Poloda is a mirror of 1939 Earth. Aircraft are metal machines powered by engines turning propellers. Descriptions of aerial combat is no different than those found regarding air battles during World War II over Europe. Ships appear to have the same design and function of terrestrial ocean-going transports. Homes and offices are equally familiar. It is the concept of one hundred years of technologically advanced warfare that is different. The social structure of families in relation of duty to country is more extreme. Tangor finds it possible to fit in; yet, feels outside of a society which assumes the death of husbands and sons, the continual bombardment and destruction of cities and services. All of this is both normal andquite ordinary—and that is horrifying.
POLODA—Slightly smaller than Earth. Five major continents. Three major oceans.
Burroughs invested a great deal of time devising the background for Beyond The Farthest Star and Tangor Returns, the sequel that remained unpublished until some 14 years after the author's death. He created an alphabet, numbers, social structures and traditions that provide a realistic backdrop, much as he did with many other stories of distant worlds over his long writing career. But he went a bit further when creating the world of Poloda by inventing an entire solar system of a most unusual nature. (He actually consulted with an astronomer regarding the feasiblity.)
The Omos Solar System contains eleven planets orbiting a sun very like ours, with all the planets in a SHARED orbit. Each planet is approximately the same size. What is most unusual about this system of planets is that they all share a common atmosphere. A doughnut-shaped belt of breathable air which connects all the planets of the Omosian star system.
At the end of Tangor Returns our hero and Handon Gar, a Unisian, are about to embark on a voyage of interplanetary discovery in an airplane designed to transverse the planetary distance and is equipped with a solar-powered generator (read perpetual motion) as the motive force.
Ed Burroughs did not return to Poloda to give us more stories before his death in 1950, but the possibility that he intended an entire series of tales on strange and exotic worlds seems quite evident, particularly because of the preparation made for language, numbers, alphabet and astronomy. For an outline of what MIGHT have happened after Tangor and Handon Gar departed in their solar-powered airship see The Brothers Bozarth's Beyond Poloda, wherein a fan-based exploration of the Omosian system begins.
The Poloda Series
Beyond The Farthest Star
(usually treated as one book)