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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Otis Kline

Kline's Mars Novels
By James Turner

Science Fiction Review
April 13, 1964
Number 17

The Mars novels of Otis Adelbert Kline appeared after his Venus series, though Avalon and Ace have revised them to appear otherwise. They are inferior to the Venus books while remaining fun.

The Mars of Kline is similar to Burroughs'. Wild, predatory beasts prowl the landscape, high adventure and lost (roles?) abound, science and barbarian stand side by side. One reviewer suggested that Kline's Mars and Burroughs' were in parallel time tracks.

There is a difference: Kline's world is aeons ago when life prospered. Mars was in its prime, not dying like Burroughs' Baroum today.

The Swordsman of Mars (Argosy 1953 Granden, Avalon, Ace) tells how Harry Thorne, rescued from suicide by one Dr. Morgan (also responsible for sending men to Venus), is sent mentally to Mars to inhabit the body of Burgen Takkor, who will use Thorne's body. (See, Prince of Peril for Takkor's story).

Thorne is to eliminate Sel Han, a previous exchange, who is well on his way to becoming a dictator in a Martian land. Before this violent adventure is over, Thorne falls in love with a princess, is sentenced to life in the mines for _?, escapes, and with the aid of friends, undoes Sel Han and the despotic and communistic government. The book suffers from the ancient gimmick of substituting a royal baby for that of a commoner.

This book was as like the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs that the Index of the Weird & Fantastica in Magazines and A Handbook of Science Fiction and Fantasy both credited it to Burroughs.

The second in the series is better. Jerry Morgan, nephew of Dr. Morgan and a cashiered Army officer, travels to Mars bodily in a strange vehicle that transports him through space and time. He even becomes The Outlaw of Mars (Argosy 1933, Avalon, Ace), leading commoners (his title is "The Commoner") against the tyranny of one of the kingdoms and a strange "Torturer." At the end, he refuses a throne to marry and roam the surface of Mars.

Like John Carter, he never hesitates to use his superior muscles and uses as little of Thorne as Carter did of Ulysses Paxton (see ERB's The Mastermind of Mars). In fact, Morgan and Thorne never meet, though Morgan does loot a home belonging to the wife of a friend of Thorne's.

It is said that Burroughs rated Kline as his best imitator. Upon reading the proceeding books, it is easy to see why.

James Turner

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