Key Out of Time

~ 4th Novel in the Time Traders Series by Andre Norton

(Series aka) Time Travel, Time War or Ross Murdock


NOTE: This title has entered the “Public Domain” and is therefore open to any publisher that wants to print it. Many “Print on Demand” publishers have started to release this title. This site has chosen to ignore these published versions and only concentrate on estate sanctioned materials.

Synopsis ~

Write-up from the front flap of 1963 hardcover edition ~

Sent from Terra to probe the past of the deserted planet Hawaika, Time Agents Ross Murdock and Gordon Ashe are startled when murky underwater pictures of ancient races locked in a fierce battle for supremacy suddenly appear on their time-probe. Despite prophetic warnings of Karara, a Polynesian girl, the Agents decide to invade the past and uncover the secrets of this barren, lotus world.
Aided by Karara and the telepathic powers of two dolphins, Murdock and Ashe set up an underwater time gate and are, by mischance, separately catapulted back ten thousand years into the midst of the competing Wreckers, Rovers, and Foanna -- ancient peoples of Hawaika. Thus begins Murdock's perilous adventures among the Rovers, a highly mechanized maritime race, and the Foanna, enigmatic remnants of an occult civilization, who rule the rock-bound citadel above an unknown sea where Ashe is held. But the sudden appearance of the Baldies, blue-suited, hairless men from outer space who dominate by reading men's thoughts, poses a new threat to Agents and Hawaikans, too. Unwillingly drawn into a desperate attempt to save the planet from destruction, the Agents and their allies, including the dolphins, rely upon powers -- natural and supernatural -- in a fantastic otherworld battle.
"The sweep of imagination and brilliance of detail in the author's previous space-time novels, render Andre Norton a primary talent among writers of science fiction," (Virginia Kirkus). This adventure in the watery, grotesque world of Hawaika is further evidence of the author's mastery.


Write-up from the back of paperback editions ~

Time Agents Ross Murdock and Gordon Ashe, aided by a Polynesian girl and her team of telepathic dolphins, probe the mystery of the sea-planet men have named Hawaika. Its cities and civilizations have vanished, but our agents are snatched back through a Time Gate and marooned in the midst of the struggle for power that must have destroyed the planet.
“The richness which Andre Norton lavishes on her portraits of the wonder-worlds of the universe, the subtle warmth of the empathic relations she portrays between men and mutated animals, and above all the mysteries she suggests and half-reveals – these, in the words of another book, are stories, O my brothers!” – P. Schuyler Miller Analog


Write-up from the front flap of the 1978 Gregg Press edition ~

KEY OUT OF TIME, first published in 1963, is the fourth volume in Andre Norton's Time Traders series. In it, Ross Murdock and Dr. Gordon Ashe rejoin the government time-travel corps, aided by a beautiful, young Polynesian anthropologist, Karara Trehern, and her team of dolphins who respond telepathically to her. The mission this time is to probe the sea-planet Hawaika, whose cities and civilizations have vanished. Our threesome is snatched back through a time gate and marooned in the midst of the struggle for power that must have destroyed the planet. They must join forces with the natives of the planet to face the attacking aliens in order to survive — even at the risk of changing history. In addition to exciting space travel, action, and suspense, KEY OUT OF TIME is a rich, lavish portrait of one of the wonder worlds of the universe, in all the glorious detail Andre Norton readers have come to expect. It is a science fantasy novel one will not soon forget.


Write-ups from fans ~

TIME TRADERS, GALACTIC DERELICT, and THE DEFIANT AGENTS have all led up to this story. A severe storm traps Ross Murdock, Gorden Ashe, Karara Trehern and a pair of telepathic dolphins in the distant past of the planet Hawaika. They make friends and enemies and of course run into the Baldies, (the big bad aliens of the series) There are many questions that they must answer such as: How may Baldies are there on the planet? How can we defeat them? Who are the Foanna and are these mysterious beings' possible allies or deadly foes? -- Great novel, but I recommend reading at least Time Traders and Galactic Derelict, so you won't get lost. ~ PG


Reviews ~

Kirkus Reviews ~ Issue: April 1st, 1963
Again, Andre Norton, one of the greats among writers of teen -age science fiction (Galactic Derelict, 1959, p.658, J-316, for one), has employed his boundless imagination to create a story about two Time Agents who are catapulted back 10,000 years in time, on the deserted planet, Hawaika. The eerie adventures of Ross Murdock among three unique prehistoric races end in a horrifying, but fascinating other world battle. The appearance of the Baldies, hairless creatures who claim power by reading men's minds, constitutes an unusual threat to the agents. Owing to the author's exceptional mastery of detail, and astute control of plot, Key Out of Time stands as a novel which should more than satisfy young science fiction fanciers and fanatics. 


Various reviews ~ For more info and other listings see Articles Over the Years

1963 by P. Schuyler Miller in Analog Science Fact -> Science Fiction, August
1963 by Russell W. Kane in Cleaveland Plains Dealer, November 11
2015 by James Nicoll
2018 by Judith Tarr


Bibliography of English Editions ~

  • (1963) Published by World, HC, WP363, LCCN 63010861, $3.50, 224pg ~ cover by Giac Faragasso {Orange Cloth Boards, # 2298 on Rear of Dust Jacket}
  • (1964) Published by ACE, PB, # F-287, $0.40, 189pg - #M-156 1967 $0.45 189pg 2nd print - #43671 1969 $0.60 189pg 3rd print - covers by Edward Valigursky, illustrated by Jack Gaughan ~ #43672 1971 $0.75 189pg 4th print - #43673 1974 $0.95 188pg 5th print - #43674, 1976 $1.50 188pg 6th print - covers by W. Strudeski, ~ #43675-7 1981 $2.25 188pg 7th print - #43676-5 1984 $2.50 188pg 8th print - #43676-5 1987 $2.95 188pg 9th print - #43676-5 1992 $3.99 188pg 10th print - #43679 1994? $3.99 188pg 11th print - covers by Les Katz
  • (1978) Published by Gregg Press, HC, 0-839-82424-6, LCCN 78027244, $8.95, 188pg ~ Time Trader Series 4 ~ Dust Jacket and Frontmatter by Wayne Barlowe {Binding: 5.625 x 8.25 - Dark Blue Cloth Boards with Silver Lettering, Blue End Papers}     Note: There are a couple of bibliographies that state this edition was released in the UK by George Prior Publishing – We have not been able to verify this fact.
  • (1979) Published by Ultramarine Pub Co, HC, 0-893-66186-4, $25.00 ~ cover by unknown
  • Time Traders II (2001) Published by BAEN, HC, 0-671-31968-X, LCCN 00049426, $19.00, 370pg ~ cover by Stephen Hickman ~ Omnibus containing The Defiant Agents (1962) & Key Out of Time (1963)
  • (2012) Created by Spoken Realms, Audible, length 6hrs & 24mins, $18.37 ~ narrated by Mark F. Smith
  • Adventures in Time: Three Complete Time Traders Novels (2015) Published by Positronic Publishing, TP, 978-1-51540-249-7, $14.99, 454pg ~ Print-on-demand ~ Omnibus containing The Time TradersThe Defiant Agents and Key Out of Time ~ Also available as Digital Media for $1.99
  • (2017) Published by Open Road Media, DM, no ISBN, $0.99, 155pg ~ cover by Ian Koviak
  • Adventures in Time: Three Complete Time Traders Novels (2018) Published by Positronic Publishing, HC, 978-1-51542-216-7, $24.99, 454pg ~ Print-on-demand ~ Omnibus containing The Time TradersThe Defiant Agents and Key Out of Time

Non-English Editions ~

  • (1965) Published in Munich, Germany; by Moewig, Edited by Günter M. Schelwokat, OCLC: 72941802, Terra SF 379, DM 0.70, 65pg ~ cover by Johnny Bruck ~ German title Das Duell der Zeitagenten [The duel of the time agents]   Other prices: S 4.50 (Austria), Fr 0.80 (Switzerland), L 140 (Italy), DM 0.60 (valid only in Berlin).
  • (1976) Published in Japan; by Kubo Shoten Books, 47-659-1544-1, QT 28, 236pg ~ translated by Yoshikawa Sumiko ~ cover by Ichiro Takebe ~ Japanese title 失われた時間の鍵 [Key to lost time]
  • (1995) Published in Poznań, Poland; by Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, 83-861-3804-1, 210pg ~ translated by Marta Starczewska ~ Polish title Klucz do Czasu [The Key to Time]
  • (2000) Published in Poland; by Amber, 83-724-5244-X, 159pg ~ translated by Dariusz Kopociński ~ cover by Steve Crisp ~ Polish title Klucz spoza czasu [Non-key time] (repinted in 2002 with new cover by Robert Andre)


Russian Omnibus Editions ~

  • (1993) Combined with "Key Out of Time" ~ Published in Zelenograd, by Zelenogradskaya Books, 5-863-14021-6, HC, 352pg ~ translation by Dimtry Arseniev ~ Russian title Война во времени [War Time]


    • "The Defiant Agents" as "Patrol does not give up!" ~ translation by L. Gridneva, pp. 3-190
    • "Key Out of Time" as "The Key from the Depths of Time" ~ translation by D. Arseniev, pp. 191-348


  • (2003) Published in Moscow, by Eksmo, 5-699-03581-8, HC, 512pg ~ cover by B. Shaw ~ Russian title Война во времени [War in Time] ~ Limited to 8000 copies


    • "The Time Traders" as "Merchants in Time" ~ translation by O. Kolesnikov, pp. 5-148
    • "Galactic Derelict" as "Abandoned ship" ~ translation by D. Arseniev, pp. 149-270
    • "The Defiant Agents" as "Envoys do not surrender" ~ translation by O. Kolesnikov, pp. 271-392
    • "Key Out of Time" as "A key from the depths of time" ~ translation by D. Arseniev, pp. 393-509


  • (2006) Published in Moscow, by Eksmo, 5-699-14460-9, PB, 384pg ~ cover by B. Shaw ~ Russian title Война во времени [War in Time] ~ Limited to 7100 copies


    • "The Defiant Agents" as "The messengers do not give up!" ~ translation by O. Kolesnikov, pp. 5-196
    • "Key Out of Time" as "A key from the depths of time" ~ translation by D. Arseniev, pp. 197-379


  • (2014) Published in Moscow by Eksmo, 978-5-699-70517-7, HC, 768pgs ~ cover art by A. Dubovik ~ series: All Norton ~ Russian title Торговцы во времени [Time Merchants] ~ Limited to 3100 copies


    • "The Time Traders" as "Merchants in Time" ~ translation by O. Kolesnikov, pp. 5-222
    • "Galactic Derelict" as "Abandoned ship" ~ translation by D. Arseniev, pp. 223-404
    • "The Defiant Agents" as "Envoys do not surrender" ~ translation by O. Kolesnikov, pp. 405-590
    • "Key Out of Time" as "A key from the depths of time" ~ translation by D. Arseniev, pp. 591-755


  • (2017) Published in Moscow by Eksmo, 978-5-699-95494-0, HV, 672pg ~ Russian Title Торговцы во времени [Time Merchants] ~ Limited to 3000 copies ~ includes article by Arkady Rukh - Grand Dame on the Cold War Trail


    • "Grand Dame on the Cold War Trail" (article) by Arkady Rukh, p. 7
    • "The Time Traders" as "Merchants in Time" ~ translation by O. Kolesnikov, pg. 15
    • "Galactic Derelict" as "Abandoned ship" ~ translation by D. Arseniev, pg. 201
    • "The Defiant Agents" as "Envoys do not surrender" ~ translation by O. Kolesnikov, pg. 351
    • "Key Out of Time" as "A key from the depths of time" ~ translation by D. Arseniev, pg. 517

View the Original contract

View the Gregg Press contract

View the 1993 Polish contract

View the 2004 Russian contract

For information on editions currently available visit the Book Store

ACE Frontispiece;


 An interesting letter I saw on Ebay.

Key Out of Time letter



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