The Alternate Martians – A Bertram Chandler (1965)
‘The war of the Mars worlds’
‘THE WORLDS OF THE DREAMERS
When Mariner IV radioed back the vision of Mars as a planet pocked with craters and unlikely to harbor life of any advanced sort, some newspapers wondered how science fiction writers would take this. But characteristic of their limitless imaginations, they always come up with an answer.
A Betram Chandler presents a particularly challenging response. If Mars is indeed barren, what are we to say of the wonderfully lifelike Mars worlds of H. G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Otis Adelbert Kline, and so many others. They are too real to be lost! They must exist somewhere! And so Chandler sends his space expedition to that barren and lifeless Mars to find THE ALTERNATE MARTIANS.
It’s a science-fiction adventure, packed with action, and filled with some unexpected Red Planet surprises.’
Blurb from the 1965 M-129 Ace Double edition.
Captain Wilkinson is given the mission to pilot a scientific research ship to Mars to test a theory of a Professor who believes that the Mars of Burroughs and that of HG Wells might have existed in some other timeline.
Wilkinson has to deal with a skeleton crew, a truculent engineer and Navy space bureaucracy before his ship finally lands at the Martian Pole. There due to a conflict between the Professor’s equipment and the ship’s drive, the ship and its crew are translocated to a Mars with life and an atmosphere.
On this Mars, the HG Wells Martians have populated the planet with human slaves, the original Barsoomian humans all having succumbed to a plague long ago. Wild humans live a nomadic existence in harmony with Burroughs’ Green Martians.
The wild Martians are descendants of cockneys which gives rise to some interesting vernacular.
Wilkinsdon and his fiancée Vanessa get separated from the rest and end up with a tribe led by Bill Carter and his mate, Delia Doris.
The rest is pretty standard Burroughs-esque romp. Apart from a somewhat implausible scenario, it isn’t a bad read.
Combining Wells and Burroughs in one book was always going to be a hard trick to pull off. If Chandler had stuck solely to Burroughs it would have given him more to play with and may have led to further Martian exploits, although no doubt there are copyright issues involved in any posthumous sequels.