The Swordsman of Mars (Trade Paperback)

***½( ) (based on 2 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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Product Reviews (2)

Average product rating:

***½( ) (based on 2 ratings)

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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.