100 hundred years ago failed pencil sharpener salesman Edgar Rice Burroughs (creator of Tarzan) birthed the Science Fiction Adventure/Romance genre. This book is the first of 11 in the Barsoom series (Barsoom apparently being the indigenous name for Mars).
This book and this series have literally inspired generations of filmmakers and storytellers. Superman, Star Wars, Avatar, and Stargate are among the many well known stories that find their source material in this classic. In fact the extent to which some of those stories are ripped off border on shameless at times. For example the words Jedi, Sith and Banth all come from Burrows’ tale.
The plot of A Princess of Mars centers around John Carter, a former Confederate Soldier who is mysteriously transported to Mars. Here, thanks to his fearless courage, valor, and unearthly strength (due to the lesser gravity of Mars) he finds himself alternately getting in and out of danger. Eventually John Carter falls in love with the the most beautiful girl on his or her planet, Dejah Thoris, princess of the martian kingdom of Helium (yes. Helium).
Though the writing and plot of this book is nothing that would make an English teacher excited, what makes this story so compelling and classic it its ability to tap into that deep desire of every boy to be a hero and every girl to be rescued by her knight in shining armor (cue feminist retort). John Carter is not a complicated character, but it is exactly his uncompromising chivalry and uncomplicated nobility that makes him such a compelling protagonist.
100 years later the film John Carter, based on this book, made history as one of the worst flops of all time. While this is unfortunate, as I think the film to be quite good, I do believe that if the filmmakers had stayed closer to the plot of the book, the film would have been much more successful.