The Moon Maid

Reviewed by: David Bruce Bozarth 1999-08-21

Time has tempered my original contempt for this Lunar Series by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I will define "contempt" as "indifference" compared to the wonder and enjoyment I had reading the tales of Barsoom and Tarzan in the early 1960s. Having recently re-read ERB's Moon novels from a vantage point of 4 decades of life experience, I find that initial contempt was wholly misplaced.

The Moon Maid, while perhaps weaker than the more powerful The Moon Men or the follow-up fantasy The Red Hawk, exhibits all the hallmarks of ERB at his most imaginative and enthusiastic. The writing is crisp, the characters are as sharply drawn as ERB ever allowed a character to be depicted, and the action is--basically--non-stop. What sets The Moon Maid apart from Burroughs' other works is the framing device, the handle upon which he hangs the trilogy. Set in the future (the future as it would appear from 1923) Burroughs is a passenger on a transoceanic airliner. He encounters an Admiral with a strange tale of time and incarnations past and future. This stage setting is unique to all the works of ERB.

The tale told recounts the exploits of Julian the 5th and an intrepid band of space-going ambassadors to Mars, known to that planet's inhabitants as Barsoom. Their ship is named for that planet and though the crew is small and the trip is long and dangerous, they depart with high expectations. Without revealing details that would spoil your reading, the Barsoom never makes it to Mars. An emergency descent upon the Moon leads to the discovery the that there are tremendous craters which give entrance to a hollow world inside the Moon. They find an atmosphere, weather, plants and animals, and strange creatures. We also have the expected Burroughsian alien human races with unusual political systems. And it is in the latter categories that I have revised my original "contempt" for the Moon novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

There is high adventure, action, strife and conflict, and the prerequisite princess (damsel) in distress. Julian 5th rises to the occasion in true red-blooded fashion; yet his course is not an easy one. Not only does he face the animosity and dangers of alien races and an inclement environment, he must deal with treachery among members of his own crew. How Julian 5th and his Nah-ee-Lah survive the malevolent forces arrayed against them is what makes the book work.

Burroughs, at the time The Moon Maid was written, was well into his stride of master storyteller; yet I can say, even after this recent read, that the Lunar books ERB are not as well-conceived or executed as his early Tarzans or Barsoom novels but that "contempt" I once felt has been eradicated and replaced with an admiration for the determination of this author to provide entertainment for the fee paid.

The Moon Maid appears in several different printings: an ominbus with all three tales combined or as three separate novels. The three parts together consitute a single whole.