The novel begins as John Carter returns to Barsoom after his involuntary absence of ten years and finds himself in the Valley Dor, or the Barsoomian afterlife from which no one is permitted to leave. However, the Valley Dor is anything but a spiritual haven and instead Carter discovers that it is a ruse, forged by the Therns, a race of self-proclaimed gods. For eons they have deceived Barsoomians into believing that the pilgrimage to the Valley Dor is a journey to paradise, although in reality most visitors are either killed or enslaved by the Therns. Accompanied by friend Tars Tarkas, the pair tries to escape from the place, and are aided by the confusion caused by an attack by the Black Pirates of Barsoom upon the Therns. Taking advantage of the present mayhem, Carter and his accomplices are able to hijack a Black Pirate flier, killing most of the Pirates in the process and saving a Thern captive. Carter learns that the Black Pirates or the “First Born”, also see themselves as gods therefore clarifying their hatred for the Therns. The Red Planet finds itself in a time of crisis, immersed in religious and schismatic conflict, and it is up to Carter to not only participate but maneuver a planetary scale revolution.
Burroughs continues his fast moving plot full of action and twists, as the endearing hero must prevail through many obstacles and bring order between the inhabitants, while ultimately reuniting himself with his family. The Gods of Mars is an exciting installment in the Barsoom series which continues to pave the way for science fiction as its protagonist faces his greatest challenges and deadliest dangers to date.