A PRINCESS OF MARS, 1912.
John Carter is chased by American Indians into cave in 1866. Trapped, he looks upon Mars and finds himself transported there. He meets and befriends Tars Tarkas, who with Carter's help rises to become Jeddak of Thark, and Carter falls in love with Dejah Thoris, princess of Helium. Carter and Dejah Thoris settle in Helium for almost ten years, where they have an egg (in which a son forms), but just before the five-year incubation period ends someone assassinates the keeper of the atmosphere plant and his assistant. Carter helps the Barsoomians open and restart the plant, but he passes out from lack of air and awakes to find himself again on Earth (in approximately 1876).
THE GODS OF MARS, 1912-1913.
In 1886 John Carter returned to Barsoom, having figured out how to send himself back. (Burroughs maintains that Carter returned to Earth in 1898 to tell him this story.) On Barsoom John Carter learns that Dejah Thoris and Tars Tarkas have undertaken the final pilgrimage down Iss. He is himself trapped in the valley of Dor, where hideous green plant creatures and white apes attack and eat all the pilgrims who succeed in finishing the arduous journey. Carter learns that the Therns have been preying upon the pilgrims, and in turn the First Born have been preying on the Therns. After discovering (and meeting) his son Carthoris in the pits of the First Born, John Carter overthrows their corrupt religion and Issus is killed by her own people as the forces of Helium and the Green Hordes devastate the Therns and First Born. Dejah Thoris and Thuvia, a princess befriended by John Carter, are trapped in an underground dungeon with Phaidor, daughter of Matai Shang, for one year.
THE WARLORD OF MARS, 1913-1914.
Matai Shang secretly frees Dejah Thoris, Thuvia, and Phaidor from their prison but does so only for his own purposes. John Crater pursues Matai Shang and Thurid, a rebel Dator (prince) of the First Born, across Barsoom, eventually finding himself in Okar, the northern polar nation of the Yellow men. There he discovers that a powerful magnet has destroyed every fleet and ship which has attempted to explore the north, and kept the Okarians' secret refuge safe for countless ages. Carter also finds his father- in-law, Mors Kajak, a prisoner. With the aid of Thuvan Dihn, Thuvia's father, as well as Talu (a rebel prince of Okar), they overthrow the last vestiges of Thern power and rescue Dejah Thoris. But they call upon the nations which have befriended Carter through the years, who send a vast armada northward to rescue him. Carter thus has to destroy the great magnet as well as Matai Shang's plans. The Jeddaks of Barsoom's greatest nations proclaim John Carter Warlord of Mars.
THUVIA, MAID OF MARS, 1916.
Carthoris falls in love with Thuvia, princess of Ptarth, who was rescued by John Carter from the Therns (in THE GODS OF MARS and THE WARLORD OF MARS). Thuvia is stolen away by Astok, Prince of Dusar, Ptarth's rival. Carthoris follows her across Barsoom and rescues her, encountering some strange and fascinating creatures. Thuvia, unfortunately, is already betrothed to Kulan Tith, Jeddak of Kaol, ally of Helium.
THE CHESSMEN OF MARS, 1922.
John Carter, it seems, has a daughter: Tara of Helium, a petulant, spoiled princess. Nonetheless, Gahan, Jed (Prince) of Gathol, declares his love for her and asks for her hand. Tara rejects him and goes foolishly flying in a great storm. Gahan goes after her. By the time he finally catches up to Tara, she has forgotten who he is, and he assumes the name Turjun, pretending to be a panthan mercenary. Together they challenge the power of O-Tar, Jeddak of Manator, whose barbaric nation of Red Men have preyed upon Gathol for centuries. The Manatorians have elevated Jetan, the chess-like game played throughout Barsoom, to an unprecedented level of skill and excitement: they use live chessmen who fight for live princesses. Gahan finds himself fighting for Tara on the chessboard of Manator, and haunting O-Tar's palace.
THE MASTER MIND OF MARS, 1927.
Ulysses Paxton, a Captain in the United States infantry during World War I, is mortally wounded but finds himself on Barsoom, given a reprieve. He is taken in by Ras Thavas, an evil (or perhaps wayward) scientist who places the brains of criminals into young bodies as well as resurrects the dead (he buys their bodies for parts and slaves). Paxton falls in love with Valla Dia, whose young body Ras Thavas has sold to Xaxa, aged Jeddara (Queen) of Phundahl. The intrigues and mixed identities Burroughs tosses at the reader make the book pass quickly.
A FIGHTING MAN OF MARS, 1930.
Tan Hadron, a padwar in Helium's navy is poor but of noble blood (his mother being a princess of Gathol). He seeks the hand of Sanoma Tora, daughter of Tor Hatan, an odwar in Helium's navy. Sanoma Tora is interested only in men of wealth and power, but when she is abducted by agents of Tul Axtar, Jeddak of the distant nation of Jahar, Tan Hadron follows her in hopes of freeing her and winning her love. Hadron encounters and befriends Tavia, a slave-girl who escaped from Tul Axtar's harem by disguising herself as a panthan. Together with Nur An and Phao, Jaharians opposed to Tul Axtar's vicious rule, Tan Hadron and Tavia stumble onto Tul Axtar's fiendish plot to conquer all of Barsoom with the inventions of Phor Tak, an aged inventor who can destroy entire navies. It becomes a race against time as Jahar slowly destroys itself from the massive breeding program Tul Axtar has implemented and as Helium's navy approaches unaware of the incredible weapons of destruction the cowardly Tul Axtar possesses. Only his reluctance has prevented Tul Axtar from launching the war against Barsoom, but John Carter's arrival forces the issue and Tan Hadron must save Helium's navy, himself, Tavia, and Sanoma Tora.
SWORDS OF MARS, 1934-1935.
John Carter takes on the Assassins of Barsoom, a powerful guild who have for ages profited from the petty feuds and great rivalries of Barsoom's wealthy families. Along the way, he visits Thuria, one of the moons of Mars.
SYNTHETIC MEN OF MARS, 1941.
When Dejah Thoris is critically injured, John Carter goes to find Ras Thavas, Barsoom's greatest surgeon, to save her life. He takes Vor Daj, an officer in his service, with him. They find Ras Thavas a prisoner on Morbus, an island in the Toonolian Marshes (last remnant of Barsoom's oceans outside the polar areas). Morbus is the home of Ras Thavas' hormads, synthetic men who have rebelled against him and made him their slave. Vor Daj lets Ras Thavas transfer his brain to the body of a hormad so that he may move freely among the monsters. In this guise Vor Daj falls in love with Janai of Amhor, a young woman who is pursued by her Jed against her will or desire. But the worst horror arises when a culture vat goes out of control.
LLANA OF GATHOL, 1941/1948.
John Carter sets out to explore the ruined city of Horz, thought to be the most ancient of Barsoom's cities. He helps an Orovar escape from some green men but is taken prisoner and condemned to death to protect the city's secret: that Orovars continue to live in Horz. John Carter escapes with Pan Dan Chee, an Orovar warrior who befriends him. They discover Llana of Gathol, Carter's grand-daughter, in the pits of Horz and escape with her. Llana reveals that she is fleeing from Hin Abtol, a northern Jeddak who has hatched an insane scheme to conquer all of Barsoom. John Carter inevitibly confronts Hin Abtol in a battle for Barsoom.
JOHN CARTER OF MARS, 1940/1942.
This book combines two unrelated novellets: "The Giant of Mars" and "The Skeleton Men of Jupiter". "Giant" was actually written by ERB's son, John Coleman Burroughs, who admitted this on at least two occasions. "The Skeleton Men of Jupiter", sadly, is only the first of an otherwise incomplete series of novelettes (thought to be four). ERB never wrote any of the remaining stories, so John Carter's adventures end on Jupiter, although he is reunited at the end of this story with the incomparable Dejah Thoris.