The Wizard of Venus was the last entry in the Venus series written by Edgar Rice Burroughs and only saw publication after being discovered in the company safe fourteen years after the author’s death. Some categorize this story as a novella but it’s really just the first segment of a book that Burroughs never got around to finishing. Due to its brevity you’ll find this story collected with Pirate Blood, another not quite finished adventure story, but short as these stories are they are still quite good reads.
The previous book Escape on Venus ended with our hero Carson Napier, the love of his life Duare, and best friend Ero Shan escaping the war torn land of Anlap, and now in The Wizard of Venus we find our heroes safely back in the kingdom of Korva where Carson is an adopted son of the Jong (emperor). That certainly sounds like a good place to end a book series; our hero has the girl of his dreams, he is surrounded by loyal friends, and is now royalty. What more could a guy ask for? Well because Carson is a lunatic, who was possibly cursed by gypsies, he decides to help get his friend Ero Shan back home to Havatoo by constructing him a new anotar (airplane). Now this seems like a reasonable thing for a friend to do, and I totally agree with the sentiment, but it’s when Carson decides to go on a long distance test flight with Ero Shan that my suspension of disbelief was snapped. Even Duare knew this was a bad idea, but noble Carson Napier cannot stay in one place for two goddamn minutes. So he kisses Duare goodbye and takes off with Ero Shan, and the two are never seen again. Okay, sure they are probably seen again but as this book is an unfinished work we never find out for sure.
So Carson and Ero Shan decide to explore the western part of the continent for their test flight (someone needs to explain to Carson the difference between a test flight and an exploratory mission) and on day bloody two they run into trouble. The immense cloud cover that keeps Venus safe from the harmful rays of the sun decides to descend on our two hapless heroes and they quickly find themselves flying around as blind as a bat. With zero visibility and the odds of flying into a mountain or one of Venus’s immense forests increasing Carson and Ero Shan decide it’d be best to land. What they encounter below clouds is a picturesque landscape dotted by three medieval looking castles; two of them look abandoned but the third is clearly inhabited. They land their anotar on a nearby field to ask help from the locals and when they approach the castle they are asked, “Are you wizards?”
The books of Edgar Rice Burroughs find themselves categorized as science fiction/fantasy but even though they are fantastical worlds he really doesn’t dabble much in actual magic. Often some kind of super-science is involved but not so much with the pointy hat wearing wand waving wizards. So when I picked up a book called The Wizards of Venus I wondered if Burroughs had decided to take the Venus series full fantasy…he didn’t. Turns out there is an evil wizard by the name of Morgas who has been turning the populace into zaldars (small cattle) and now the locals fear to eat any of their herds because they could end up eating a loved one, but when Carson and Ero Shan investigate they quickly discover that Morgas is as magical as the wizard from The Wizard of Oz, as in not at all.
Carson and Ero Shan quickly discover that the “wizard” Morgas is using powerful hypnotism to make people believe that they have been turned into zaldars. The reason for this is that the local communities use to constantly raid each other’s herds and Morgas was getting the worst of it so making everyone nervous about eating any zaldar makes his herds completely safe. I must say that is a pretty awesome plan and would have worked if it wasn’t for those “meddling kids” Carson and Ero Shan. Using powers he has learned in his youth from Chand Kabi, the old East Indian mystic, Carson is able to undo the damage and frees the populace from this fake wizard.
As stated earlier this would have only been just the first adventure in the book if Burroughs had got around to finishing it, but as is it’s still really quite good. Carson and Ero Shan’s buddy adventure in this land is fun as they take on the roles of Sir Galahad and Sir Gawain in the medieval adventure and making it one of the more lighthearted and goofy chapters in the series. This being the last written chronicles of Carson Napier on Venus we never learn if he made it back to Duare or eventually back to Earth. Maybe someday another author will pick up the mantle and continue the further adventures of Earth’s worst space traveller.