My life in outer space

The Moon Men – Edgar Rice Burroughs (1926)

The Moon Men
Maybe Burroughs was moving into experimental mode when he wrote this (or as experimental as Burroughs could ever be) in that the action moves forward several generations from the time of ‘The Moon Maid’ to an era in Earth’s history where the Moon Men (the Kalkars) have successfully subdued and conquered the Earth. Humans are virtual slaves to the Kalkars who control the population through spies, extortionate taxes and the feared Kash Guard.
The next incarnation of ‘Julian’ is born into the body of Julian 9th, a muscular young farmer who is able to fight off packs of wolf-like wild dogs, wrestle mad bulls to the ground and the only one willing to stand up to a bullying government.
The story is unusual for Burroughs in that the action is confined to a small part of North America, there are no gigantic or fantastical creatures, and some of the good characters actually die, something unheard of in his Barsoom novels. This innovation is to Burroughs’ credit since the denouement is a powerful and tragic one, showing good people sacrificing their lives for their culture and beliefs.
The Moon men (rather like some of the natives of Burroughs’ Venus) are a thinly veiled portrait of Communists with their spies, secret police, mining camps for dissidents and their anti-religious stance, added to which, all citizens (or at least the males) are required to call each other ‘Brother’.
What is standard here is the romance since fairly on in the book Julian falls in love with a woman on his first meeting with her.
With heavy-handed symbolism Burroughs emphasises two of the worst crimes in the world of the Kalkars. One is to worship Christ, and the other is to display or possess ‘Old Glory’; the flag of the USA.
When his father is sent to the salt-mines for contravening a curfew law and his mother and new love are threatened, Julian organises and uprising against the Moon Men which is partially successful but for which a heavy price has to be paid.


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