In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle enjoys the first of Michael Moorcock’s pulp science fantasy novels in his ‘Kane of Old Mars’ trilogy
It was Edgar Rice Burroughs who started it all: the vogue for bestselling adventure novels set on other planets, with an intrepid hero and plenty of fantastical monsters and villains to face and, ultimately, vanquish. In the wake of Burroughs’ hugely popular and influential series of books set on Mars, known as the ‘Barsoom’ books and featuring his adventure hero John Carter, many popular writers turned their hands to the ‘planetary romance’ in the Burroughs vein, from Leigh Brackett (whose stories featuring Eric John Stark in adventures set on both Venus and Mars are hard to track down, but worth it) to John Wyndham to Isaac Asimov to Michael Moorcock – whose trilogy of Michael Kane novels are unabashed pastiches of Burroughs’ Barsoom novels.
In fact, even Burroughs was standing on the shoulders of other writers. There had been