John Carter, a Confederate Army captain, is drunk and imprisoned by the Union during the Civil War. The Union officers are having trouble fighting the natives, and the colonel tries to get Carter to join in the fight; Carter is content to stay in prison. However, another swift attack sends Carter and the colonel to hide in a nearby cave. He accidentally kills a being inside, who had activated an arm device, which transports Carter to Mars. On Mars, due to the lower gravity, Carter has increased strength and can jump far to the point of nearly flying. He encounters aliens called Tharks, and their leader, Tars Tarkas, feeds him something that helps him understand the alien language. A war wages on the other side of the planet, where the kingdom of Helium fights against a mobile city called Zodanga. The leader of Zodanga, Sab Than, has been given a weapon, and the head of Helium realizes a cease-fire must be achieved to avoid being completely destroyed. The princess, Dejah Thoris, doesn't want to marry Sab Than, so she escapes, running off into the planet. As the warring factions close in, there is only so much that Carter's strength and jumping can do against entire armies, and he must find a way to save Dejah Thoris and get back home to Earth where he belongs.
Best part of story, including ending:
It's a classic Edgar Rice Burroughs story, told relatively faithfully. John Carter is an appealing hero, and there is plenty of action and adventure here.
Best scene in story:
John Carter first arrives on Mars and quickly learns how to jump. It's the equivalent of the always-enjoyable "superhero learns to fly" scene, and it's always great fun to watch.
Opinion about the main character:
Carter doesn't want to be a hero, but it's his destiny to be one. He's an average guy caught up in something bigger, and it's something that makes us root for him.