The Swordsman of Mars (Trade Paperback)

***½( ) (based on 3 ratings)

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by Otis Adelbert Kline, with an introduction by Michael Moorcock

Rebels on the Red Planet!

Considered by many to be the only true equal of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Otis Adelbert Kline was a master of the sword and planet genre. From his position on the original editorial staff of Weird Tales and as the literary agent for Conan creator Robert E. Howard, Kline helped shape the face of science fiction as we know it.

Now, in its first complete edition since 1933, Kline brings us the story of Harry Thorne, outcast scion of a wealthy East Coast family, who agrees to swap bodies with a Martian noble, thrusting him into a fierce and vibrant world of strange beasts and stranger people, where a man's future is determined by the strength of his sword arm. Tasked with tracking down and neutralizing another Earthman before he establishes a corrupt empire, and trapped between the love of two beautiful and dangerous women, will Harry Thorne wind up a slave in the dolorous baridium mines, or will he step forward and claim his destiny as a swordsman of Mars?

This is the first complete edition of The Swordsman of Mars published since the story's original appearance in Argosy Magazine in 1933. Popular editions released in the 1960s featured viciously cut prose in order to fit the story into a standard novel format.

"Tall tales in a great and venerable American tradition... prepare to relish the red planet as you've never known it."
    —Michael Moorcock, award-winning creator of Elric of Melniboné

"It would be a shame if Kline remained unknown to today's readers—he is really a good writer, and his prose, though not so stylish as Burroughs, is almost mesmerizing."
    —Fantasy Book Critic

"What The Swordsman of Mars is can be summed up in one word: Fun. Those looking for a transcendent literary experience won't find it here. Those looking for a rollicking good time, however, will, and to them I say welcome to Mars; you're going to enjoy the trip."
    —Richard Dansky, Green Man Review

"I enjoyed the book enormously, but that's not all. You can enjoy almost any piece of writing if you approach it with the lowest possible expectations (and, yes, I am thinking of Lin Carter's multifarious pastiches here). I came away from it with considerable respect for Otis Adelbert Kline as a writer of fantastic fiction."
    —James Enge, Black Gate Magazine

"A slice of pulp history."
    —Morgan Holmes, The Robert E. Howard United Press Association

224-page softcover trade paperback
ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-105-3


About the Author

Known today primarily as the literary agent of Conan creator Robert E. Howard and supposed rival of Edgar Rice Burroughs, in his day Otis Adelbert Kline (1891–1946) was nearly as popular as Howard and Burroughs themselves. Though Kline's famous feud with Burroughs, in which the two published competing Mars and Venus books in constant attempts to one-up each other, may have been the creation of imaginative fans, there can be no doubt that the two authors shared both style and subject matter. Indeed, Kline has frequently been called Burroughs's only true competitor. While he produced only a handful of novels before his death at the age of 55, Kline's presence on the original editorial staff of Weird Tales and his sword-swinging romances on the red and green planets did much to influence the genre, and his legacy lives on in the tradition of sword and planet novels to this day.

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***½( ) (based on 3 ratings)

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Fast-moving and Fun

****( )

Otis Adelbert Kline's The Swordsman of Mars shares most of the common features of the "sword and planet" genre started by Edgar Rice Burroughs: an Earth-man suddenly transported to a Mars which has a mix of technology both ancient and futuristic; the Earth-man becomes involved in local intrigue and survives all manner of swashbuckling adventure through his quick wit and sharp swordplay; a beautiful native Mars maiden falls madly in love with him; and the hero realizes that Mars, and the life of adventure it promises, is far superior to his hum-drum life on Earth. However, Kline's writing is engaging, has some nice twists, and the story moves along quickly. There's a certain freshness and energy to The Swordsman of Mars that seemed lacking from Michael Moorcock's more jaded pastiches. Kline unfortunately died in middle-aged and so his production was cut short, but I'm looking forward to reading his other entry in the Planet Stories line, The Outlaws of Mars.


Adventure needs a little more character

***( )( )

Another solid Martian adventure from Planet Stories. Also notable for rescuing the novel from the hacks that rewrote segments and restoring the text to its original state. Kline crafts a lively setting and a well-paced adventure story. Kline does credit to the genre. However, his characters need a bit more juice. Only the renegade Sel Han shines with any real life, with the rest of the cast falling a bit too much into the stock types of the genre. The various nobles and loyal aides come across as all rather similar. Harry Thorne despite a promising beginning falls quickly into merely serving the role. Regardless of these faults Swordsman remains a fun read and am looking forward to the next Kline entry.


****( )

There is a lengthy introduction to this book by Michael Moorcock, setting the stage. He discusses that this is an original, far superior version to a later butchered paperback edition, and how is happy to have missed that and now read this one. Noting that doing the Burroughs thing is not as easy as it might sound, giving he had a crack at his own trilogy, and didn't live up to the standard.

That, however, is definitely not the case here. I was dubious about this - admittedly only having read one Kline story before - but this book is good. In fact, easily the equal of the best Burroughs work. A different style, of course, but the trappings are there. Earthman goes to Mars, is handy with a sword, and there is a beautiful Princess. Or two, as the case may be, and one of them is almost as good with the edged weaponry.

Different colored men, strange beasts - some of which are fearsome and domesticated - or beastmen perhaps, death rays, flying machines, chases, escapes and battles, all the good stuff is here.

A nice piece of writing, and if you like the planetary romance or even just John Carter stuff, absolutely give this one a go. Harry Thorne's a more cerebral character, and he has a very different antagonist in this novel to those that Carter faces, but it is all thoroughly enjoyable.

This full proper version absolutely deserves the Planet Stories edition rescue it has been given, excellent work by Mona and crew.



What are the odds you'll release the Palos of the Dog Star Pack trilogy by J U Giesy or Mike Resnick's Ganymede duology or maybe even the proto-Burroughs Journey to Mars and Journey to Venus by Gustavus Pope?

Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

Probably pretty low on the first two (I haven't heard of them) and a maybe on the last one. There's PLENTY of other stuff we'll likely do first, though.

Honestly, I am finding that most readers know almost nothing of the genre pre-Asimov and pre-Dragonlance, so even authors like Kuttner and Moore face an uphill struggle.

I am committed to that struggle, but Kline is probably as obscure as we're going to get for a while.

Now anthologies, on the other hand...


Erik Mona wrote:

Probably pretty low on the first two (I haven't heard of them) and a maybe on the last one. There's PLENTY of other stuff we'll likely do first, though.

Honestly, I am finding that most readers know almost nothing of the genre pre-Asimov and pre-Dragonlance, so even authors like Kuttner and Moore face an uphill struggle.

I am committed to that struggle, but Kline is probably as obscure as we're going to get for a while.

Now anthologies, on the other hand...

Fair enough. On a more related topic, do you use the original (book or magazine) versions of the stories you publish or the more recent reprints as the basis for your releases? The reason I ask is that I know in Kline's case at least the original book versions tracked almost exactly with the magazine versions generally doing nothing more than adding a few scenes to make the serials book length while the 1960s reprints cut large portions out of his books (in one instance ten whole chapters) and rewrote some portions of the book. I prefer the originals to the reprints simply because I find it best to judge an author on his own writing rather than the editorial emendations made by later authors.

Scarab Sages

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Card Game, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Any idea when the subscription will be available? I had to add more preorders when I know that I want the subscription..

Thanks for the great books.

Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

I think subs are going up today or tomorrow. We had them ready Friday but there was a bug Gary is working hard to quash.

We're typing "Swordsman of Mars" straight from the original Argosy serial. I will likely write an article about the differences between the texts on the blog or something, because they are extensive.

Here's a sample, from the very first paragraph of "Planet of Peril":

ORIGINAL ARGOSY VERSION (from the A.C. McClurg & Co 1929 harcover edition):

"Robert Ellsmore Grandon stifled a yawn with difficulty, as the curtain went down on the first act of "La Tosca." Opera bored him utterly. He silently wished that his well-meaning aunt would not drag him with such clocklike regularity to these monotonous matineés. She had taken a box in the Chicago Auditorium for the season, and so far he had not escaped a single performance."

1961 ACE PAPERBACK EDITON (published 15 years after Kline's death):

"Robert Ellsmore Grandon stifled a yawn with difficulty as the curtain went down on the first act of Don Giovanni and wondered what was the matter. It wasn't that opera bored him, or that tonight's performance was inferior; in fact, what he had been able to give his attention to struck him as among the best performances he had ever seen."

That's just the first paragraph. The book was basically rewritten (I suspect by Kline's relatives) for the paperback editions, and not for the better. While the first chapter is expanded with clarifications that Grandon doesn't really hate opera after all, we actually lose whole subplots and interesting monster battles later in the book.

Not a fair trade, in my estimation.

Scarab Sages

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Card Game, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Erik Mona wrote:

I think subs are going up today or tomorrow. We had them ready Friday but there was a bug Gary is working hard to quash.

Thanks Erik

Paizo Employee Starfinder Design Lead

Erik Mona wrote:


That's just the first paragraph. The book was basically rewritten (I suspect by Kline's relatives) for the paperback editions, and not for the better. While the first chapter is expanded with clarifications that Grandon doesn't really hate opera after all, we actually lose whole subplots and interesting monster battles later in the book.

Not a fair trade, in my estimation.

Wow. Just... wow.

I -have- mouldering copies of the 1961 Ace editions. They sit next to my complete John Carter and Tarzan sets of old Ace books, many of which I recovered from my parents hallway/library at the house I grew up in.

I had -no- idea they were so different from the originals. You had me struggling with the questions of buying a new copy I could ready without carefully turning pages with tweezers.

Now, clearly, it must be mine!

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Who did the cover painting. I quite like the artwork. :)

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Lord Fyre wrote:
Who did the cover painting. I quite like the artwork. :)

It's by Daryl Mandryk.


Erik Mona wrote:

Probably pretty low on the first two (I haven't heard of them) and a maybe on the last one. There's PLENTY of other stuff we'll likely do first, though.

Honestly, I am finding that most readers know almost nothing of the genre pre-Asimov and pre-Dragonlance, so even authors like Kuttner and Moore face an uphill struggle.

I am committed to that struggle, but Kline is probably as obscure as we're going to get for a while.

Now anthologies, on the other hand...

Thanks for reprinting these old classics, especially Kuttner and Moore. My copies of Jirel of Joiry and Northwest of Earth were just about ready to fall apart.

And bless you for bringing Brackett back to us. May the Queen of Outer Space find new loyal subjects! :D Hmm, I've seen two of the longer Eric John Strak stories are now available -- will you do an anthology of more of her work, or maybe just as part of a collection of Planetary Romance stories?

And I've got to get a copy of OAK's book just to see if it's as bad as L. Sprague DeCamp always said it was.

Thank you!

Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

There is more Brackett to come! Up next is The Reavers of Skaith, and then we've got The Sword of Rhiannon this upcoming spring. Beyond that, nothing is confirmed, but I suspect there will be more!

More Kuttner and Moore on the way too!

And I think the Kline stuff is _much_ more entertaining than the likes of Lin Carter make it out to be, but it definitely is a product of its era. I quite enjoy his planetary adventures.


Given the book I just read, someone altering would want to have more talent than a relative.

Are there original versions of the Venus books? I think you mentioned Wildside did one - but it isn't clear.

The ones onilne are the hacked versions it would seem, from that intro.


Vic Wertz wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:
Who did the cover painting. I quite like the artwork. :)
It's by Daryl Mandryk.

Who does the 'mockup' covers then, is that a staff person?

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Blue Tyson wrote:
Who does the 'mockup' covers then, is that a staff person?

Mockup covers are assembled from existing art, so the artist could be anybody we've ever used.


Blue Tyson wrote:

Given the book I just read, someone altering would want to have more talent than a relative.

Are there original versions of the Venus books? I think you mentioned Wildside did one - but it isn't clear.

The ones onilne are the hacked versions it would seem, from that intro.

Lin Carter said it wasn't that good? Where, out of interest? Was he expressing his undying loyalty to Burroughs or something?

Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

I'm thinking specifically of an aside in a chapter about naming characters and places in fantasy stories from "Imaginary Worlds," Carter's novel-length survey of the history of fantasy fiction.


The culprit responsible for butchering Kline (and other writers) was the editor at Avalon Books. Don Wollheim, editor of Ace Books, said that he was unaware of the editing and simply reprinted the Avalon editions.

I liked the Kline Venus trilogy when I read them as a teenager (the first two in the damnable Avalon edition), and would love the opportunity to reread them in an unabridged form. By the way, one can't presume that the McClurg editions weren't abridged from the Argosy versions. Burroughs' Moon Men and Merritt's Moon Pool were both longer in the Argosy serializations. (As I'm sure you know, book publishers sometimes are concerned about length, having to maintain their budgets.)

Indeed, a reprint from Argosy of Moon Pool/Conquest of the Moon Pool would be appreciated.

Scarab Sages

Reading about the rivalry between Burroughs and Kline got me interested in these series, I got ERB's Princess of Mars From my library and am tearing through it...almost halfway through in the last 2 days, and if I didn't have kids/work/wife, I'm sure I would have read it in one sitting...

So I'm planning on getting Kline's Mars books now also. Thanks Erik!

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