Serialized in Argosy Magazine in 1938, Carson of Venus is a not too subtle attack on Nazi Germany. Though the book has all the romance and adventure one expects in a book by Edgar Rice Burroughs it also includes some of his more scathing political commentaries. In such books as The Moon Men, and even this book’s predecessor Lost on Venus, it was mainly the communist party that felt the full brunt of the Burroughs’s ire, but this time the author points his “gun” straight at Adolph Hitler, though with the occasional pot shot at Mussolini.
In the previous book, Carson Napier had managed to rescue his true love Duare from the clutches of Skor who ruled a city of undead, but their happy reunion was quickly put under a dark cloud when the rulers of the utopian city of Havatoo sentenced her to death after her “examination” results proved unfavorable and she was deemed a genetic threat. Thus Napier was forced to flee the city with Duare in his newly constructed aircraft. On the plus side, while flying away Duare admitted that she was deeply in love with Carson and had been since the very beginning.
Carson of Venus picks up right where the last book left off with our two main characters flying over Amtor/Venus as they try and decide where to go. Napier is all for taking her home to Vepaja but Duare is against this because even though he has saved their princess, his following in love with her breaks one of their oldest laws and is a death sentence, possibly for the both of them, a law that even her father would have to enforce. This kind of thinking can’t be made on an empty stomach so Napier flies low over a herd of animals to shoot some dinner, but when they land to cook up their meal they are jumped by a group of brutish warrior women. Duare is taken away but Napier is left for dead. This is the weakest part of the novel as it really is just another pit stop before the real story can start. Those that have read The Land of Terror will be familiar with this Amazon society where cruel women rule over weak and effeminate men. Luckily it’s just a brief stopover and Napier quickly rescues her and the two return to the skies.
The real story kicks off when they fly over a besieged city where they are hailed by the defenders and shot at by the attackers. Not wanting to drop in on a war zone without knowing what the whole story is they fly on until they find a lone man about to be eaten by the local wildlife. After they save him he informs our heroes that his name is Taman and that they are in Anlap, more specifically the kingdom of Korva. There is a civil war going on since the Zani party took over (a not too subtle anagram for Nazi). The besieged city of Sanara is the last holdout from this fascist power. Taman is a spy for Sanara though it looks like its own leader may have sent him on a suicide mission. He guarantees their safe conduct if they wish to return with him to Sanara, they agree and the three of them board the plane, fly back to Sanara and land amongst a startled population.
Taman’s wife is the daughter of the King but her father Kord was captured and imprisoned when the soldier Mephis lead the Zani Party to take over the kingdom. Kord’s not so popular nephew rules Sanara in his place (Muso = Mussolini) and most people would be much happier if Taman was running things. Napier agrees to join their military and with his plane is able to carry out many demoralizing bombing runs on their besiegers. But things have been going too good for our heroes, so when Muso asks Napier to take on a secret mission, ordered to tell no one, not even his wife, he really should have been more suspicious. The fact that he is given two letters to deliver to alleged Sanara spies inside the Zani power, but only after he confirms to Muso that he can’t read Amtorian (he can but keeps quiet about it), would have raised anyone’s suspicions. If Carson Napier was familiar with Hamlet he would have known how dangerous those letters are, but he eventually loses his trusting nature and opens them. The letter contains a plan that Muso has concocted that will allow the Zani army to sneak inside Sanara and end the war, also in the letter is an order to kill the bearer. Rosencrantz and Napier are dead.
Carson of Venus is full of action and intrigue with our hero going undercover, through many names and disguises, and investigating the Zani capital of Amlot looking for signs that Kord is either alive or dead. While there he encounters a beautiful woman that seems high in favour with Mephis, but Napier suspects she may be part of a Fifth Column against the Zani power. Spies and traitors are everywhere so who is Carson Napier to trust? Will he find and rescue the true king of Korva? Who is the mysterious prisoner deep in the bowels of the Amlot dungeon? What of poor Duare left in the clutches of the devious Muso?
This sequel to Lost on Venus is my personal favorite of the Carson Napier books as it has a more focused story than the usual adventure travelogue, pardoning the silly Amazon women section it is has one of the more intricate and strong stories, with of course a very blatant political commentary. The character of Mephis is portrayed as a fool who lives for the groveling praise of his paranoid subjects as they all cheer “Maltu Mempis” when he passes (that’s “Heil Hitler” to us Earthlings). Subtlety thy name is not Burroughs. That this story got picked up and serialized by an Italian magazine is quite surprising, as that country was becoming one of Germany’s biggest allies at the time. Either the editor of that magazine was secretly anti-fascist, or they didn’t get the oh so subtle satire in Burroughs’ pages.