The Master Mind of Mars is book 6 of 11 John Carter adventures that Edgar Rice Burroughs gave to the world It first appeared in the magazine Amazing Stories Annual in July 1927, and John Carter himself only puts in a cameo appearance near the book s end Instead, our hero is another Earthman, Ulysses Paxton, who mysteriously gets transported to Barsoom Mars after being critically wounded on the battlefields of WW1 Paxton becomes an apprentice of the eponymous mastermind Ras Thavas, and from him learns all manner of surgical miracles, including brain transplantation Paxton falls in love with a young woman, Valla Dia, whose body has been sold to an old empress, so that that empress can now live on in her new hotty body Paxton vows to travel across Mars, kidnap the empress, and restore his beloved s body to her He enlists the aid of some of Ras Thavas medical subjects a Barsoomian white ape with a half human mind a professional assassin and another Martian who has had his body bought stolen by another This is a short but extremely entertaining and fast moving fantasy novel In it, Burroughs gives us some interesting philosophy on the correlation of mind and body as he did with the kaldanes in Chessmen of Mars , as well as some interesting speculations on the necessity of war in any culture He also pokes fun at the mumbo jumbo aspects of organized religion So there is some actual food for thought, in addition to the fun And that equilibrimotor chase and scene in the Temple of Tur ARE very much fun The heart, lung and other assorted transplants that Ras Thavas is engaged in must have seemed like real sci fi improbabilities back in 1927, although these things are fairly commonplace today The brain transplants are another matter, of course Perhaps one day Master Mind seems to be slightly better written than some of the earlier Barsoomian novels Burroughs DID improve with age, at least as far as technique is concerned Still, there are the usual inconsistencies that crop up For example, in one scene Thavas complains of the new young blood in his new young body, when it has been established that recipients of new bodies receive their old blood back I was confused by this In another scene, the 15 foot tall ape man puts on the leather harness of a regular sized man Does this seem possible Clouds are said to obscure the moon in another scene, yet in earlier books, Burroughs has told us that clouds exist on Barsoom only at the poles A body of a dozen Toonolian soldiers at one point mysteriously turns into 20, and the great scarlet tower of Lesser Helium, which was destroyed in Chessmen, is inexplicably back again in this book I grant that it may have been rebuilt, but Burroughs might have said something to this effect The surprise regarding Valla Dia at the book s conclusion was one that was so obvious to me that I don t even think it was really meant to be a surprise after all And here s another quibble Paxton falls in love with Valla Dia only after he has seen what her actual body looks like It might have been effective had he fallen in love with her only AFTER she was trapped in the haggish body of the empress A young, strapping American male falling in love with an old ugly woman, based solely on her gracious personality Now THAT would have been a REAL fantasy Fun body switches Do you love the person inside Or does outside inside influence other side Ulysses Paxton narrates death in Civil War, waking naked on Mars, apprenticeship to transplant expert ancient Ras Thavas of Toonol, who calls him Vad Varo Ras does good, giving arm to worker whose own was crushed, new brain to demented child from violent deaths p 394Into lovely body, they put brain of Xaxa, old ruler of Phundahlia although She is an ignorant, arrogant, selfish, stupid, cruel virago, yet p 390, keeps throne because descends from jeddaks Vad suggests waking young brain now in old body She was bought in group of war prisoners ten years ago alive, preserved p 391 till customer could afford beauty Valla Dia is sweet as her outside was, not like harsh voice now Vad decides to give her back young body Half human brain in white ape body ten or fifteen feet tall p 395 struggles to verbalize without vocal apparatus He lay on ersite slab p 396 12 years Ras orders put back to sleep Vad promises to revive him again Ras has lived than a thousand years passed the allotted natural span p 399 If he and Vad transplant brains into young bodies, both can be immortal He is young, in love, and reckless of consequences p 405 When he tries to blackmail Ras before transferring his brain to a young body, Ras orders Valla taken away and killed Vad has to hide her asleep Vad wants three cases with him on trip for Valla s original body First is Dar Tarus, large red man angrily attacked Ras on Vad s first day Xaxa had Dar s handsome young body killed for saggy Phundahl noble to woo young woman Second is Hovan Du, man half brain in white ape new part grows, stimulated by transplant Third is Gor Hajus, notorious Toolian assassin, who never struck down a woman or a good man or from behind and loyal to friends p 406, there six years p 411 Vad works late nights for secrecy, notes work in case caught Young blood changed Ras Thavas p 409 He wanders nights Vad suggests exercise, that Ras call for Vad, so Vad will not be caught unawares To escape island in vast marshes, Vad must steal flyer Pilot Bal Zak is indebted to Gor, who refused to kill his father, helps, suggests individual flying motors Vad, inexperienced, suddenly turns upside down p 417 Dar fixes Gor guides to friend Mu Tel Air patrol flyer blows whistle view spoiler Assassin kills patroller Again Vad has trouble He slashes corpse s buoyancy belt p 418, drifts down into yard of Mu Watch dog calot attacks officer drags Vad inside to Prince and fellows Flyer has stored provisions But patrol flyer attacks they have to change ships After two killed, other four, like most Toolians, surrender gladly to Gor, devise story for superiors p 427 hide spoiler Ulysses Paxton, fighting in World War I, finds himself transported to Mars with no reason than John Carter though this goes briskly than in Princess He finds himself in the lair of Ras Thavas, a slightly mad scientist who transplants organs, including brains, and can often revive the dead He has room after room of bodies suspended as if time did not pass.He trains Paxton, thinking that a man with nowhere to go is the most trustworthy he can find, and knowing he needs someone to transplant his own.But Paxton finds him aiding both the injured and the corrupt in particular, selling the body of a stunning young woman to a ugly old jeddaka in stunning indifference to cruelty, kindness, money, and anything else but knowledge When Paxton revives the ugly old jeddaka with the young woman s mind, she can cope with the change, observing that her beauty had its upside and its downside, and even refuses transplantation into a body that is younger and healther, because Ras Thavas might sell it But when Paxton demands, as a price of operating on him, that he restore her if Paxton brings back her original body, he finds that Ras Thavas ordered her death, and he restores her to suspension.But he has his task before him The rest of the tale involves launching an unmanned flyer, a young man assassinated so that a court favorite could woo his love, a jeddak s popular nephew, an apparent white ape that can talk and read, an empty idol, a promise technically fulfilled, someone who aids him while believing his plan mad, and much. The Master Mind of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs is the sixth book in the Barsoom series Burroughs moves further away from John Carter by introducing a new hero, Ulysses Paxton, who uses his Martian name Vad Varo for most of the book Ulysses is a much different hero than John Carter, or for that matter Cathoris or Thuvia from Thuvia Maid of Mars or Gahan of Gathol or Tara of Helium from The Chessmen of Mars Ulysses s connection with John Carter is that when on Earth he read the stories of John Carter and believed them to be real The difference is that unlike those who came before, Ulysses Vlad does not have the skill in hand to hand combat that they possessed This was a very smart move by Burroughs, for what would be the point of making yet another great warrior to repeat the epic adventures which already exist in the series Instead, the story has a much different feel, smaller in scope, and yet just as absorbing.Ulysses is a soldier in World War I, and when he becomes wounded and stranded on the battlefield, he uses the force of his mind to transport himself to Mars Not surprisingly, though severely wounded as Ulysses on Earth, Vad finds his body whole and healthy on Mars The first person Vad meets on Mars is Ras Thavas, a.k.a The Master Mind When circumstances result in Vad s saving Ras, he is taken on as a trusted servant and bodyguard Ras shows Vad medical techniques far in advanced of those which exist on Earth, and Vad learns quickly One key difference though is that Ras has no moral conscience, though he often does very good things, he is just as willing to do horrible things, and when one of the horrible things is to give the body of Valla Dia to the evil Xaxa, Vad realizes that he needs to do something.Through the course of the adventure, Vad gains allies to work with, and he is resolved to capture Xaxa and force the return of Valla Dia s body Because of the help he has provided them in escaping from the sleeping storage of Ras lab, his allies are willing to help, and of course Vad is keen to help them achieve their goals as well Unlike the previous adventures, there is no great evil in this story, though Xaxa is fairly close to it Vad is not trying to kill those who oppose him, but rather set things right with the woman he has fallen in love with, as well as help his allies regain their lives John Carter is referred to in the letter which opens the story, and he shows up in the last chapter, so Burroughs maintains the connection to the rest of the series well.This book ranks fairly high in the series for me I would consider The Chessmen of Mars which comes right before it to be superior, but this one would rank very close to A Princess of Mars which opens the series Because of the key role A Princess of Mars plays in the series I would rank that one above The Master Mind of Mars as well, but only slightly, and I feel that this story is better than the rest While The Gods of Mars and The Warlord of Mars are good, they do become a bit repetitious and neither one of them are complete in and of themselves The Master Mind of Mars does not have that problem as it can stand on its own, as long as you are familiar with the setting of the series as a whole. Former Earthman Ulysses Paxton Served Barsoom S Greatest Scientist, Until His Master S Ghoulish Trade In Living Bodies Drove Him To Rebellion Then, To Save The Body Of The Woman He Loved, He Had To Attack Mighty Phundahl, And Its Evil, Beautiful Ruler The Master Mind of Mars completes the little mini arc of philosophy I ve described In Thuvia, Maid of Mars, we meet a city of realists and etherealists, the latter of whom believe that none of us exist but both of whom are so focused on the creations of their minds as to ignore reality in The Chessmen of Mars, we meet a race of Martians who have developed into all brain the kaldanes and all body the rykors , neither of whom enjoys the fullest pleasures of life and in The Master Mind of Mars, we meet two cities, one that is wholly rational and one that is wholly spiritual The Master Mind of Mars opens with Ulysses Paxton, a soldier in WWI, sustaining severe injuries and, through the same tremendous effort of will that transported John Carter in A Princess of Mars, transporting himself to Barsoom Ulysses Paxton has read A Princess of Mars and therefore knows all about John Carter this sort of metahumor is a literary tradition going back to the second half of Don Quixote Paxton finds himself in a new, unexplored part of Mars OF COURSEdid you expect anything different and promptly proceeds to find employment and friendshipand love again, OF COURSE He is working for the titular mastermind, Ras Thavas The interesting thing about Paxton is that even though he s a warrior, he doesn t accomplish everything through feats of arms like the preceding heroes in this series Instead, he is clever and works obliquely, forming a talented team and using them well John Carter, in contrast, is a lone wolf rather than a true team player despite his loyalty and love Back to the rationalist spiritualist thing Paxton starts out up against the rationalists, like Ras Thavas They are, of course, an extreme Ras Thavas does not trust Paxton, but he does believe that Paxton will always act in his own self interest and that he is therefore predictable Paxton tries to explain the value of friendship, but is unsuccessful Later in the book, Paxton travels to the city of spiritualists, the opposite extreme He finds their religious rites to be silly, and he discovers through a convenient coincidence, OF COURSE that a large statue of their god can be opened and that its eyes and mouth can be controlled, allowing him to make religious pronouncements to the people Sadly, Burroughs misses an opportunity here one of the members of Paxton s party is a devout follower of the religion, and we never hear how he reacts to learning that the high priests have been controlling the statue In fact, at the end of the book, that guy ends up becoming the new high priest and making his own pronouncements from the statue So I guess he dealt with his disillusionment off camera Really, did no one ever notice that the high priest is always conveniently absent when the statue is talking At the end of the book, Ulysses Paxton has fixed everything, demonstrated the importance of balancing rationalism and spiritualism, won his lady s love, won some new friends, and met John Carter in a brief cameo Everyone lives happily ever after and I do mean ever, because Barsoomians are effectively immortal Speaking of Burroughs s missed opportunities.If I were to rank the Barsoom books I ve read 1 7 , this one would probably come in around the middle It s not bad and has some nice changes from the others, but it s not quite as good as the two immediately preceding. Although Burroughs s earlier Barsoom novels are nominally science fiction thanks to their setting, The Mastermind of Mars moves closer to true SF and away from the fantastical romances of its predecessors They still, however, have a lot in common including many of the same basic plot elements ERB recycled throughout his writing career.All in all, I find it a lesser effort The sense of wonder and adventure we enjoyed in the previous novels is downplayed in favor of a slower pace and a smaller space Indeed, this novel need not have been set on Barsoom at all, so little do we see of that unique world.Once again, Burroughs has his bit of somewhat tongue in cheek social commentary, this time via the cities of Toonol and Phundahl whose inhabitants are, respectively, ultra rational, self serving atheists they would probably love Ayn Rand and extraordinarily superstitious believers who bear a bit of resemblance to old school Catholics Unlike his earlier forays into this sort of thing, this one doesn t really do much to further or add to the plot.The Barsoomian scientist the mastermind Ras Thavas is introduced as a character and, as I remember, appears again in a later novel He has a certain interest as the amoral experimenter who, although not a naturally malicious person, has a knack for causing evil in the tradition of Frankenstein and Moreau Not a new idea, by any means, but a staple of science fiction The Mastermind of Mars is a decent enough read There is enough action to keep one interested through most of the novel and if the science fiction elements are dated and not overly original, they are still done reasonably well. This book introduces a new hero, Ulysses Paxton, a young soldier who finds himself on Mars after having his legs blown off in the trenches of WWI Ulysses finds himself working for a scientist in the business of buying beautiful bodies and performing brain transplants for the discontented rich Ulysses falls in love with a beautiful young girl whose body has unfortunately been sold to an evil ugly Empress, and so he sets out to recover it for her and swap the two brains back into their rightful bodies He revives and enlists as allies other 3 victims for strategy, a daring assassin with a heart of gold for inside knowledge, a warrior whose body has been assumed by the Empress s best friend, and for muscle, the body of a 4 armed great white ape with half a human brain Together they escape from the laboratory and have plenty of adventures together which end happily for everyone, as well as giving Edgar Rice Burroughs another opportunity to explore the mind body relationship as he did in The Chessman of Mars, and for his usual religion bashing.Entertaining, if a bit ghoulish. This story follows the adventures of an unrelated hero, Ulysses Paxton, an Earthman Like John Carter, Paxton arrives on Mars via astral projection and ends up being trained by mad scientist Ras Thavas, the titular Mastermind of Mars, in the techniques of mind body transfer Paxton uses these techniques to restore his beloved Valla Dia s brain into her own beautiful body after her brain had been swapped with that of the hideous Xaxa of Phundahl.These stories are not high art, or even good sci fi fantasy but they are terrific yarns with exotic Barsoomian locales, fantastic beasts, flamboyant princesses, dastardly villains, and cliff hanging adventures in which the hero gets the girl and the bad guy meets his or her just deserts.I ve read and re read these stories over the years, and even recorded them onto DVD for the local radio station for blind and reading impaired listeners. John Carter is not the only one who travels to Mars Enter Captain Ulysses Paxton, US Army While on the fields of battle in the Great War, Paxton suddenly mortally wounded and fixes his gaze on the twinkling red planet in the dark night sky He stretches out his arms toward this sparkling light and in almost a blink of an eye finds himself laying flat on his back gazing up into a bright sun lit sky Standing over him is Ras Thavas, Barsoom s greatest scientist Thus begins the adventurers of another earthling gone to Mars A quick and entertaining read.