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‘This Holocaust of Hate’
Pirates of Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs

1932, New English Library, 159 pages

Thanks to Tony Cox for the loan of this book.

A dreary premise for getting one of his Earth’s Core heroes, Carson, to Venus and put him in psychic contact with a biographer, mars the early going of the book Pirates of Venus. The journey to Venus, an accident caused by flying too near the moon, is done in fine Post Victorian, almost Steampunk style. Also, Carson’s experience on Venus and the fascinating forest ecology is pleasingly rendered into a tale somewhere between Robinson Caruso and Gulliver’s Travels.

As with most Edgar Rice Burroughs heroes, Carson is highly intelligent, highly athletic, good looking and possessed of a passionate—even feminine—righteousness, a regular mob rule social justice warrior. Despite having Hollywood political charisma, looks, improbable innocence and untiring devotion to the worship of and service to women, Carson gets no pussy!

Burroughs’ tried and true method of getting teenage boys and young men before the rise of 1960s slutdom to turn the page in his romantic adventures was the use of negative serendipity to doom the hero and his love interest to misunderstanding and also making them magnetize by having her abducted multiple times. Tarzan’s Jane, for instance, was abducted more than any other dame in distress in literary history.

Despite the irritating period pulp tropes, which is what gave Burroughs a shot at movie deals—ever the dream of the writer, with him being perhaps the first writer to make more money on movies than books—the consummate pulpist churns out a story that grips the reader with its questions of honor and camaraderie. Ever big on current events and sensitive of European atrocities in Africa, Burroughs centers his story on a conflict that combines elements of the first modern Italian invasion of Iron Age Ethiopia in 1895 [1] and the second in 1935 [which I think Burroughs predicted in his Tarzan series, with it occurring 3 years after this book was written] and Belgian man-hunting in the Congo, with communist versus populist democratic politics that read like what was going down in Germany and the U.S. in the 1920s and early 30s, with the beleaguered folk the hero throws in with being lower tech forest dwelling democrats with a limited monarchy assailed by communist fiends in air ships armed with X-ray guns.

The warfare and political violence and tension is riveting, with the political skullduggery and slaughter of enemies reading like a prediction of the Spanish Civil War 4 years later.

As always, Burroughs had a good sense for adventure and masculine reflection as exemplified by the following passage:

“The little simple things one does in moments of stress or excitement often seem entirely beyond reason and incapable of explanation; but I have thought that they may have been dictated by a subconscious mind reacting to the urge of self-preservation.”

Burroughs was perfect for me when I was a teen, but holds up to only 3 of 5 stars as a middle aged man, while Howard somehow managed to write at 5 for the youth and the gray beard.

Pirates of Venus is worth a read and the classic 1960s cover of this edition with a nearly nude model that looks like Jane Fonda is a pleasing artifact of a long-passed literary age.




I did play the war game Lion of Ethiopia, as the Ethiopian player and managed to eke out a drawl against the mechanized Italian invaders.

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