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We are writers mainly from Australia and New Zealand who write speculative fiction with romantic elements. Be it fantasy, paranormal, dark urban fantasy, futuristic and everything in between.

Friday 23 March 2012

What We Are Reading

Welcome to the March What We Are Reading column. Today, we have Louise Cusack and Janni Nell  

~A Princess of Mars~ Edgar Rice Burroughs

I adored Burroughs “Barsoom” series as a teenager and wanted to re-read it before seeing the new John Carter movie, so I began with A Princess of Mars which opens in 1886 with Virginian born John Carter, a Confederate gentleman, being transported to Mars.  Once there, Carter falls foul of giant green Martians, rescues the very human looking Princess Dejah Thoris and falls in love with her before leading forces in a planetary war to protect her.

This book was first published as a novel almost a century ago, in 1917.  The language is gorgeous, and the vaguely patriarchal attitudes (her tiny hands, the fairer sex) have to be viewed in the context of the time the books were written.  The style, as well, with big info dumps and long dialogue ‘set pieces’ wouldn’t be tolerated by modern publishers.  Oh, but the story!  I remember well my rapture on first reading these books, how I thrilled to John Carter’s inherent bravery, and the fact that he’d rather kill a warring opponent than a ‘brute beast’ (I think that was the vegetarian in me coming out).  He had a pet Martian dog, and was a true action adventure hero, a man’s man, yet when he met the princess and fell in love with her he was endearingly hopeless. 

Early in their romance he inadvertently insulted her, being unaware of their customs, and when she wouldn’t speak to him he was gutted.  In his narrative he said:

“…my foolish pride kept me from making any advances.  I verily believe that a man’s way with women is in inverse ratio to his prowess among men.  The weakling and saphead have often great ability to charm the fair sex, while the fighting man who can face a thousand real dangers unafraid, sits hiding in the shadows like some frightened child.

He knew he was putty in her small, fragile hands, and for the first time (in the eighties) I was reading male viewpoint in what was for all intents and purposes a romance novel, and finally getting to understand why men act like idiots when they’re in love!  Mills and Boon novels at the time were all in female viewpoint, and in any case I craved fantasy worlds and adventures.  So these books gave me everything I loved, along with insights into the male psyche beyond battle and bloodshed.  That male perspective on falling in love is something I’ve brought to my own Shadow Through Time trilogy, alongside the adventure that makes fantasy stories so thrilling.

I’m looking forward to seeing what Disney do with the John Carter story, but I doubt it will live up to the fantasies of a hormonal fifteen year old who fell hard and fast for ‘the clean limbed fighting man of Virginia’.  Do read these books.  They’re true classics, and deservedly so.
Janni Nell

~The Passage~ Justin Cronin

Once in a while you read a book that makes you want to grab randoms in the street and say:

You have to read this!

“The Passage” by Justin Cronin is a big sprawling futurist/apocalyptic/rip-roaring read. I loved every one of its 900+ pages. It left me wanting more, which is great because this is the first in a trilogy. (Ridley Scott has optioned the screen rights.) If you enjoy action, adventure, a multitude of great characters, a credible threat to society and a thoroughly detailed world, this book is for you.

If that’s not enough - this book is well written. Really well written. The pacing is perfect. The descriptions are detailed without being boring. The action scenes are truly nail-biting and the main characters are totally cheer-worthy. I know, I know, I’m gushing, but this book just blew me away. It’s easily in my top ten of all time. Bring on the sequel.


  1. Wow, some great books there. And it amazes me how different story telling is now compared to decades ago =)

  2. It amazed me too, Mel. I remember being stunned that 'an old guy' like Edgar Rice Burroughs was such a romantic!


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