It is hard to imagine a more enjoyable read than this classic combination of two pulp chronicles by the master Leigh Brackett. Probably best known for her last work, the early draft of the screenplay that became "The Empire Strikes Back," Brackett is regarded as a master by most in the scifi field. Being woefully unread in the early scifi eras, I felt it was time I did some reading and I am so glad I did. In fact, the CL Moore and Robert E. Howard books I have in my queue will likely get moved up a bit.
One of the things I liked best about this book was it was all about characters and plot. The few scientific things were there to serve the story, not show some technical prowess or knowledge by the author. All too often in modern scifi I am turned off by such pretensions. I rarely use them in my own work because I have no delusions about my scientific knowledge which is close enough to nil to hardly bear mention.
But Eric John Stark is a fascinating adventurer, one whom it is easy to see as an inspiration for modern characters like Indiana Jones, Han Solo and others. The prose is also unpretentious. Not because of the era, but because of the writer's skill. Again, too many modern books strive to be so masterful in their verbage that I find them slow reads, sometimes requiring rereading more than once just to comprehend a single paragraph. Brackett keeps it simple, another approach I use as well in my own work. That doesn't mean it's not a complex and fascinating adventure. These stories are action packed with lots of twists and turns and characters as Stark works his way through the politics and rivalries of life on Mars.
The book didn't really seem dated to me either. There were perhaps a few simpler concepts in it than one would expect today -- things which a modern writer might replace with higher level technology, etc. But I could have read this all night if sleep wasn't necessary. It was just thrilling and delightful in every respect.
Highly recommended for all scifi fans or fans of early 20th century literature. I think you'll find it as enjoyable as I did.