Dedicated to the memory of K. H. Scheer and Walter Ernsting, who first gave us Perry Rhodan in 1961 and of Forrest J and Wendayne Ackerman, who first brought his adventures to the United States in 1969.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Perry Rhodan #16, Secret Barrier X (Aug 1972)

By W. W. Shols (= German issue #23, Friday 9 February 1962)

After a short chapter establishing that even mutant teleporter Tako Kakuta cannot penetrate Secret Barrier X from the helplessly orbiting Good Hope V – the attempt subjects him to literally hours of subjective time in hell during which pass only seconds for his crewmates  the balance of the story takes place on Venus itself. Basically, in addition to the wounded Perry Rhodan and Son Okura traveling slowly to catch up with John Marshall who has gone ahead to try to establish telepathic contact with the semi-intelligent seal-like creatures whom they encountered in their initial explorations of Venus (#4[b], Base on Venus), Gen. Tomisenkov with the captive Thora makes his way toward Venus Base while being harried by the rebel Lt. Wallerinski's “pacifists,” and a new force is added to the mix – the remnants of the Eastern Bloc reinforcements that were decimated before ever they landed on Venus (Menace of Atomiggedon), whose commander Col. Raskujan has declared himself the sole authority on the planet and launched an attack on Tomisenkov's forces with vastly superior forces and equipment, including helicopters. Early on, Tomisenkov ambushes and destroys Thora's robotic companion R-17, but by the end both himself and Thora have been captured by Raskujan. Meanwhile, Marshall has not found the “seals,” but has been rejoined by Rhodan and Okura, and together the three have made first an abortive attempt to steal a helicopter from Raskujan's forces, then managed to get away with an inflatable life raft and supplies with which they mean to cross a 200-mile wide stretch of Venusian sea that lies between them and Venus Base.

So, ultimately, not a whole lot happens except pieces being moved around on the playing board.

* * *
The Ace cover is a pretty generic science-fiction cover by Gray Morrow – literally, pretty but generic, having nothing whatsoever to do with the story. The original German cover by Johhny Bruck at least illustrates the ambush of poor R-17 by Tomisenkov's men. Once again there are no interior drawings.

The dedication is to Otis Adelbert Kline, “Whose Grandon of Terra Once Had Grand Adventures on Venus too.” Kline was an early 20th-century pulp science-fiction and adventure writer who penned planetary romances much in the vein of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars and Venus series. The oft-repeated story that Kline and Burroughs engaged in a running feud over Kline's supposed imitation of Burroughs is almost certainly not true. Kline was also important as a literary agent for Robert E. Howard.

Both the editorial and the “Scientifilm World” column are repeats from the previous issue, q.v. This period in the books' publications seems to have been rife with such production snafus.

But with this issue, Perry Rhodan does become more of a true paperback/pulp “magabook” with the inclusion of two shorter stories at the end. First there is the initial installment of Garrett P. Serviss' almost immediate sequel to H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds that began in the New York Evening Journal within weeks of Wells' original reaching its first US publication conclusion in Cosmopolitan (yes, you read that right, except that here we're not talking about the modern women's magazine, rather an earlier and “far more erudite publication whose broad remit included journalism, serious comment and stories from some of the best known writers of the age” – War of the Worlds website). Serviss' original 1898 title gives away one of the major conceits of his story, which had as its hero none other than the “Wizard of Menlo Park” – it was called Edison's Conquest of Mars. Here the tale is retitled Pursuit to Mars. Besides Thomas Edison, who in short order invented both an electrical means of space propulsion and a disintegrator beam weapon, other characters include Lord Kelvin and physicist Wilhelm Roentgen – all part of leading the Earth's effort to pick itself back up to take the war back to the Martians! By the end of the second chapter reprinted here (in Forrest J Ackerman's heavily edited form), the new united Earth fleet has launched for the red planet.

Second there is the first of what FJA calls “Shock Shorts,” short one-to-two-page stories with some twist at the end. This one is by Clive Jackson, entitled “The Swordsmen of Varnis,” and is a pretty typically ERB-esque tale of a brave hero and a beautiful maiden valiantly holding off seemingly hopeless odds on Mars ... until one of the attackers says “To hell with this!” – or to quote it exactly:

“Leaping backward out of the conflict he flung his sword on the ground in disgust. 'Bah!' he grunted. 'This is ridiculous!' And, so saying, he unclipped a proton gun from his belt and blasted Lehni-tal-Loanis and her Warrior Lord out of existence with a searing energy-beam.


Frankly, I found Pursuit to Mars and “The Swordsmen of Varnis” both more engaging than this installment of Perry Rhodan. It just confirms that W. W. Shols is my least favorite Perry Rhodan writer (see also here). Luckily, he wrote only one more issue after this one.

Next: The Venus Trap by Kurt Mahr.

Cheers! … Ad Astra! … and Happy New Year!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Perry Rhodan #15, Escape to Venus (1972)

by Clark Darlton (= German issue no. 22, Thoras Flucht “Thora's Flight,” Friday 2 February 1962)

19 June 1981. A year has passed since the return of the Stardust to Earth and Perry Rhodan's removal of the last major obstacle to world unification. The tenth anniversary of Rhodan's first moon mission that began the saga is a day of celebration across the world. Thora uses the distraction as an opportunity to abscond with one of the new Arkonide-designed destroyers, heading for Venus. She plans to use the hypercomm station in Venus Base to call Arkon and finally get out of this barbarian backwater. Unfortunately, she doesn't realize that the destroyers have not finished prepping with the proper authorization codes to be able to approach Venus Base – so the Positronic Brain shoots her down per Perry Rhodan's previous orders. And when Rhodan, along with two mutants, telepath John Marshall and teleoptician Son Okura, pursues her in a second destroyer, he forgets that fact as well and is similarly shot down!

So Thora along with an Arkonide robot R-17 (whom she'd outlogicked in fine James Kirk fashion), and Rhodan and his companions, end up castaways on the primeval planet – separately, but both groups without communications capability back to Earth. In fairly short order Thora is captured by a scouting party from General Tomisenkow's Eastern Bloc forces, stranded on Venus since taking a drubbing from Rhodan in #14, Venus in Danger. But two groups have splintered off from Tomisenkow – a group of “rebels” who have settled down to begin an agricultural existence, and a group of “totalitarian pacifists” who are anything but, and who in short order wipe out the agricultural rebels before heading to take on Tomisenkow's party.

Rhodan and his men have various adventures in the Venusian jungle. Rhodan is initially captured by but then takes up with Sgt. Rabow, Tomisenkow's very scout who had captured Thora but who was himself a rebel sympathizer. When they discover the destroyed rebel village and what the “pacifists'” next target is, however, they attempt to warn Tomisenkow. Realizing what a prize he has in the Arkonide woman – and that Rhodan will eventually attempt a rescue, the general has meanwhile beefed up his camp's automatic machine-gun defenses. Rabow is killed. Rhodan is shot through the shoulder, but manages to get away with Okura and Marshall.

Meanwhile, Reginald Bell and another crew including the Mutant Corps approach Venus in the Good Hope V, one of the “Guppies” from Stardust. They are stopped cold in their approach and receive a repeating transmission. The two previous approaches without proper authorization codes has resulted in the Robotic Brain locking down the planet: “SECRET BARRIER X HAS GONE INTO EFFECT. ANY PENETRATION INTO THIS PLANET'S ATMOSPHERE IS BEING REPELLED BY A HYPERGRAVITATIONAL NEGATIVE FORCE FIELD” (p. 105). Per Rhodan's orders. Only an Arkonide or Rhodan himself can countermand the order – and only from within Venus Base itself.

Rhodan determines that only with the help of the semi-intelligent seal creatures discovered in their initial trip to Venus a decade before can he hope to reach the Base. Only a telepath can communicate with them, so Marshall is elected to make a long trek to the ocean to establish contact. Shortly after his departure, Rhodan and Okura's short-range communicators pick up Bell's calls. Bell refuses Rhodan's orders to return to Earth. And so they all settle in to wait – Bell cursing in orbit, Rhodan and Okura “perched on a tree ... playing Tarzan” (p. 120), to see what the future (and Marshall's perilous quest) might bring.

(Another synopsis may be found at
* * *
Cover: Again, it's a great-looking Grey Morrow sci-fi cover that has absolutely nothing to do with the story inside. Or almost nothing. Beyond the basic question of who the auburn-haired central figure is (Rhodan is famously blond, and usually depicted as such on Morrow's covers), who is the bald man in a bubble space helmet at lower left? Lex Luthor? ... or better, the Ultra-Humanite before? ... and after up to the right? Actually, the white ape is the one element of the cover that seems to come from the story. Although they really don't play much of a role here, I figure something must be being set up by the number of times white ape-like Venusian creatures are referred to in this story. (Also, I know the bald guy looks a lot more like classic Lex Luthor than the original Ultra-Humanite, but the juxtaposition with the white ape made me go there....)

Once again, Johnny Bruck's original German pulp cover far more directly derives from the story, although the overall color scheme is not the impression I get for the Venus described in the book. But maybe I'm bringing my own preconception of a grey, overcast day to the table. Since Venus is closer to the sun such a bright glow would perhaps penetrate the omnipresent cloud banks. The scene is from soon after Rhodan, Okura, and Marshall are shot down – with Rhodan's bandaged head and Okura's thick glasses clearly visible. Ironically, the “teleoptician” who has, for lack of a better term, a form of “X-Ray vision,” has poor eyesight in the normally visible bands of light.

The dedication is to Edgar Rice Burroughs, “Whose 'Escape On Venus' Was Just One Of His Myriads Of Marveleous [sic] Classics Of Escape Literature” (p. [4]). Although there is no ad for other Perry Rhodan books in this volume, there is one for various of Ace's ERB novels of the early 1970s ... which is all, I think serendipitously, quite appropriate given the reference to “playing Tarzan” that appears as quoted above.

The editorial is a rather silly exercise in creating a shorter and shorter “story” by subtracting one letter from previous iterations, driven by the passing of Frederic Brown at age 65, the writer of a “wacky parallel world novel What Mad Universe” (p. 7). “Did it ever occur to you that it can sometimes be a kind of desperate thing to come up with a new editorial every 4 weeks? Well, now you see the result” (p. 8). I don't think anyone ever said Forry couldn't poke fun at himself.

Scientifilm World is largely devoted to When Worlds Collide – which could have been made almost twenty years earlier than it was (1951), and by Cecil B. DeMille. Now there's something I never would have suspected. It ended up made by George Pal. There's also an announcement of an upcoming World Science Fiction Convention in Los Angeles, to be held 1-4 September, followed by an announcement for the United States' first Science Fiction Film Festival for “a couple of months later.” Finally, notice is taken of a new book about to be published which would give “the most extensive coverage of fantastic films ever undertaken by the human mind,” by one Walter W. Lee Jr. “Would you beleve something like 25,000 titles?!” (p. 128).

No letters column this go'round. At the very end of the editorial Ackerman blames its absence on a glitch in publication scheduling. Once again, there are no interior illustrations to this American edition. Are those a thing of the past?

The promise last issue of a thicker magabook with other features included beginning in this issue didn't actually come true. It will next issue, however.
* * *
Random Annotations and Comments:

Here's something a bit different – a story of man versus an alien planet not written by Kurt Mahr. And the tone of Clark Darlton's story ends up being quite different – lighter, less ominous. Yes there are token references to and attacks by hostile fauna, and the requisite trek through the jungle, but generally the story is of human conflict. And it's typically quite complicated plotwise. There are several different players going – and that's without even bringing in the hanging plot thread of the stranded Eastern Bloc reinforcements that the Stardust blew right through at the beginning of the Special Release, Menace of Atomigeddon. Unless I missed something, they are never referred to in this book. Of course, original Ace readers would not even miss them. Might the Ackermans have simply edited out any reference to those reinforcements since they had not been properly introduced in the missing story? Without reference to the German original I have no way of knowing. But as the story develops here we end up with Thora and the Robot, Rhodan and his companions, three different groups of Easterners – and ultimately Bell orbiting the planet impotently!

Speculation: Perhaps the survivors of the Eastern Bloc reinforcement fleet were shot down by the Positronic Brain since they could not send the authentication code. Maybe that's why they seem to play no part in this story. And apparently Rhodan gave them no thought after observing them continuing to Venus after he inadvertently decimated their numbers. Granted, he had a lot on his mind 'round about then, but it does seem to be yet another oversight on his part. Is it just me, or have the plots lately been a bit overdriven by Perry Rhodan's own lack of foresight, especially where programming the Robot Brain on Venus Base is concerned? Sometimes, of course, it's a result of the way these stories are produced – plotted by committee, written very swiftly by individuals for weekly publication. But sometimes it seems that that's just the way the plot is driven.

P. 97: Betty Toufry described as “the 15-year-old telepathic wonder girl.” Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that she was born on 2 February 1966 according to the Perrypedia's calendar page, which cites German issue #7, American issue #4(a) Invasion from Space where she is introduced as six years old; that earlier adventure occurred in the first part of 1972. So in Earth's elapsed time she is indeed fifteen years old in June 1981. Of course, in her own elapsed time – as for Rhodan and the rest of his crew on the Stardust's mysteriously extended journey – you would need to shave four and a half years off that, making her effectively only ten years old.

Incidentally, the mystery of when the time shift noticed at the beginning of Venus in Danger continues: “For 10 years – if one took into consideration the peculiar time-leap on Wanderer...” (p. 28). It's soon yet, but I get the feeling this will become the orthodoxy, that the “peculiar time-leap” occurred while they were with the Immortal Unknown on his planet, although I think it's pretty obvious that it did not – see my comments to Menace of Atomigeddon.

The change in name of Galacto City to Terrania which occurred in Menace of Atomigeddon and was therefore “off screen” in the original Ace publication of the series is handled with just a couple of identical phrases repeated near the beginning of this book: “Terrania, formerly known as Galacto City” (p. 10 in narration, p. 21 in Rhodan's speech to the world).

The end of Rhodan's speech to the world sets up a bit of irony: “The New Power loves peace but will hit swift and hard, should peace be disturbed anywhere in this world” (p. 27). The words of him who Ackerman dubbed “The Peacelord of the Universe.” The iron hand in the velvet glove. Compare this with Son Okura's ruminations after witnessing the destruction of one of a rival splinter group of Easterners' villages – perpetrated by a fanatic devoted to pacifism: “[Okura] knew how much mischief had been committed in the name of 'pacifism.' It was the fashion nowadays to hide aggressive actions under the cloak of pacifism and to pretend that these war-like acts served the cause of peace” (p. 90). Of course, implying that the authors do not see the irony in what they are writing, this is followed by: “Thank God things had changed since Perry Rhodan's New Power had come into existence.” And, of course, things have not changed in the world since these words were written fifty years ago – some of the world's worst violence is perpetrated in the name of “peace.”

“One full Venusian day lasted as long as 10 days on Earth. This meant 120 hours of uninterrupted daylight, which was followed by an equally long stretch of darkness. One Venusian year lasted 224.7 Earth-days” (p. 30). This is preceded by a paragraph on the atmosphere and climate of Venus, which are obviously as believed until the early 1960s. The early Perry Rhodan stories set on Venus have to have been among the last science fiction stories that could be set on that putative primeval jungle planet with that environment being in any way a possibility. I've already commented on the rapidly changing understanding of the reality of Venus in my post on #4(b) Base on Venus. I'm sure the data given for the annual and diurnal cycle of Venus were given then, but I didn't do any research on it at that time. How do they stack up? According to, the length of the year is correct, “about 225 Earth days.” But the reported length of the year is wildly wrong (as I suspected from the round numbers given, but little did I dream of the magnitude of the error!). In actuality, “it takes Venus 243 Earth days to rotate on its axis.” And its rotation is unusual among all the planets of the solar system: “If viewed from above, while most planets rotate the same way on their axes, Venus rotates the opposite way. While on Earth, the sun appears to rise in the east and set in the west, if on Venus, the sun would rise in the west and set in the east. … [The disparity between the 225 Earth-day long year and the 243 Earth-day rotation], which normally would mean that days on Venus would be longer than years. However, because of Venus' curious retrograde rotation, the time from one sunrise to the next is only about 117 earth days long.”

Finally, would it be pedantic to point out that the proper adjectival form of “Venus” is “Venerian,” not “Venusian”? – Probably so, but it's another bit of odd knowledge I owe to Isaac Asimov.

Next up: Secret Barrier X.

Thanks for reading. Cheers, and Ad Astra!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Perry Rhodan Special Release: Menace of Atomigeddon (1977)

By Kurt Mahr (= German issue #21, Der Atomkrieg findet nicht statt, which Google Translate renders as “The Nuclear War Cannot Be Held,” Friday 26 January 1962)

This story takes up almost immediately after #14 Venus in Danger, with the Stardust II traveling from Venus to Earth. We get to see how the astronomically disparate technologies put Terrans at risk of even accidental annihilation as the Arkonide space sphere inadvertently plows right through the middle of an Eastern Bloc reinforcement fleet headed for Venus. It is moving at such speed that by the time the Terran ships are detected it is too late to do avert the imminent collision – in which the Arkonide protective force fields simply disintegrate the middle portion of the fleet including its command ship. The survivors can only continue to Venus where they do not suspect their first invasion force has already been decimated, and where they will themselves be stranded with no way home. Sufficient note is made of them that I can't but believe they will play a role in a later story.

The Stardust continues to Earth where Perry Rhodan implements his plan to bring about unification of the Earth even if it must be against the will of the present political powers. The stakes have become too high. He makes a show of force across the Eastern Bloc before proceeding to Galacto City. Col. Freyt is not happy, but understands, when Rhodan explains the mental compulsion against using the Third Power's Arkonide tech to intervene in Earthly politics – which Rhodan now admits was an error on his part because it allowed events to get out of hand and almost tear down what he had so painstakingly built before leaving for Vega and his unexpected delay in returning. The leaders of the Earth's major powers are “invited” to Galacto City and the process of finalizing Terran unification is begun with the establishment of an planetary court of justice. Rhodan also has what appears to be his first meeting with Thora since her and Khrest's great disappointment on Wanderer – and she seems truly taken down a few notches by the experience now that she has more or less come to terms with it.

But the core of this book follows Rhodan's agent behind the lines of the recalcitrant Eastern Bloc, Maj. Derringhouse, as he engages in a one-man campaign of espionage and sabotage that culminates with him capturing the Dictator of Russia, Strelnikow, and arranging for the wholesale surrender of the Eastern Bloc government. Arkonide technology, especially the combat suit with its invisibility screen and flight, make him virtually undetectable and unstoppable.

In the end, even as Rhodan is able to host a celebratory banquet on 19 June 1980, the ninth anniversary of the launch of his moon rocket Stardust which took him to the moon and began his journey toward this day, a day which will henceforth mark the removal of the biggest obstacle to the unification of mankind as well as the renaming of Galacto City as Terrania in hope that that unification will be finalized soon, he is able to make one last great demonstration of the might of the Third Power and its purpose to defend the Earth. An Eastern Bloc base on the moon has launched a catalytic nuclear barrage on the mother planet which Rhodan's space fighters handily sweep aside – but which Rhodan points to as further proof of the urgency of world unification.

(Another synopsis may be found at )
* * *
This is, of course, the second of the three “lost” early adventures from the earliest years of Perry Rhodan. “Lost” at least from the perspective of followers of the American Ace translations. Ostensibly, like the previous example, The Wasp Men Attack, the reason is because the action is less “science-fictiony” and confined to Earth, therefore of less interest to fans of the series who were looking for gold old space opera adventure. In the present case, even more so, because the conflict is not between humanity and monstrous alien creatures but rather between political factions, a resumption of the Cold War of East versus West that dominated the world both that the series was born in and the earlier books in the series. The antagonists are merely human beings. And, in all honesty, the unbalance between my synopsis above and the story itself may suggest that in the present case the editors' and/or the publishers' judgment may have been more accurate. The short paragraph in which I relate the mission of Deringhouse behind enemy lines grossly downplays the proportion of the book devoted to that part of the story. Without counting words or pages, because there are scattered returns to Rhodan's efforts in Galacto City along the way, my impression is that Derringhouse's story is well more than half the book. And my short paragraph does not nearly cover the complexity of his story. But frankly in the bigger scheme of the series itself I have the essentials.

On the other hand, skipping the story entirely as was done does, I hope it's obvious, miss out on telling some very significant developments in the overall story of the unification of the Earth. Not having looked ahead to the next book I just don't know if the sudden change of “Galacto City” to “Terrania” is there explained. If those Eastern Bloc reinforcements do make it to Venus after nearly being wiped out in inadvertent collision with the Stardust, as I suspect they do, and reappear in a later book (perhaps the next, #15 Escape to Venus), what is told for the unsuspecting American reader of the circumstances by which they ended up stranded with their unfortunate predecessors? These and other such little bits make clear to me how this saga is really one long story, steadily being added to book by book, and if one piece is excised from the middle it does leave a hole. It's similar to a dilemma I face in trying to cut material out of my lectures to save time. It's not an easy task because my history lectures for a class are part of one long story, with connections back and forth through the entire semester. Inevitably if I drop something out of, say, lecture four I realize in lecture ten that I didn't set something up properly that I want to talk about and I end up having to go back and do it then – sometimes ending up with a net loss of time saved! I have identified places in previous stories where it seems the translator/editor are adding explanatory material to help the English reader along – e.g. at the beginning of #6 when there had been about a year long gap since the publication of the previous volume. I wonder how much we'll see in the next?

One comment, and I don't know if this has to do with publication schedules, when it was translated, or (and I suspect this has a lot to do with it) just that Kurt Mahr seems to have been a better writer than W. W. Schols, who wrote The Wasp Men Attack. Granted, I've only read two stories by him so far, but I've been unimpressed with either. See my previous comments. This one overall seemed much like any other Kurt Mahr story, even with the unusual setting. With one qualification: There seems to be excessive use of what I might term “shorthand,” very informal style – e.g., “thruout” (p. 22), “nextime” (p. 34), “rightime” (p. 69) … numbers are not properly spelt out so often that there's no way I could possibly enumerate them. That last is a feature I've noticed to a lesser degree in other stories so far (besides Wasp Men Attack), but here there overuse becomes downright annoying. I figure it's a quirk of the English translation rather than the German original, but it points to a problem that I think contributes to the generally low esteem with which this series is held. Yes, this is pulp fiction, but there are some standards I think should be maintained for even this level of formal prose. I've never seen such bad style in any other published works of this genre, and I can't help but believe that along with Forry's neologisms like “Atomigeddon” it contributed to an overall sense that the Perry Rhodan series was fundamentally juvenile.

And of course there's the one that made me laugh out loud – “12:00 o'clock” (p. 29). That just makes no sense whatsoever.

Enough with bashing the style. The story itself is pretty good. I hope my synopsis above conveys that. It just could have been presented so much better. I am having some tickling memories now, however, of thinking some similar thoughts way back then when I was reading some of the later books. I'm not looking ahead to confirm it, but perhaps there was an overall drop in the quality of editing as the series went eventually to as many as three novels per month...? And this “Special Edition” was published in that later period. When exactly was it translated?

Enough, I said!

Anyway, a few notes and comments:

I'm still confused about exactly when Rhodan and his crew lost the four-and-a-half years. On p. 56 of this book the indication seems to be that they were lost on Wanderer. As part of a couple of pages' exposition basically recapping the series to this point, the following statement is made: “[T]hey had come home to Earth from Wanderer after they had been absent, according to their own chronology, only a few months. However 4½ years had passed on Terra during their visit to Wanderer where time was measured on a different scale.” I don't think that's the case. If you go back and examine the end of #13 The Immortal Unknown, p. 111, they have just transited back from Wanderer to Vega, where Rhodan orders a short stopover before proceding back to Earth. Presumably that happened, and they would have noticed the time discrepancy. No, the “time-slip” had to have happened subsequently, presumably in the transition from Vega to Sol that begins Venus in Danger. I still wonder if this will ever be cleared up.

On p. 67, in his conversation with Thora, Rhodan explains why he is engaging going about the unification of mankind in the way he is, rather than making use of the overwhelming technological advantage that he enjoys and forcing the issue: “I want to achieve the concord of all peoples. This is my great goal. But not with force. I prefer to use a special method which will enable every citizen to draw the same sensible conclusion by himself. If I were to follow your advice, history would remember me as a brutal man who had insisted on uniting our nations by force. This I wish to avoid by all possible means!”

There's nothing really to say about the Ace cover. The illustration has nothing to do with the present story, but rather the Atlan story that it was paired with. Perhaps once I have made my way through the English Perry Rhodan stories I'll go back and read the few stories from that spinoff series that appeared in English – which in German went to eight or nine hundred issues. But that will be a while. If I do, I'll deal with what little extra material that appears here, which is limited to a “Guest Editorial” associated with the Atlan story and the letters column generally making reference to Perry Rhodan stories in the “hundred-teens” range.

The German cover by Johnny Bruck is interesting, however. I think this is the first time that a “real-world” locale forms the backdrop for the cover. Near the end of the story, the leaders of the Eastern Bloc are rounded up under Deringhouse's hypnoblock and marched under the guard of Arkonide robots into the Stardust … which has landed in Red Square, Moscow.

Next up: #15, Escape to Venus!

Thanks for reading, Cheers, and Ad Astra!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Book Cave Podcast Episode #150: Perry Rhodan

Along with hosts Ric Croxton and Art Sippo, as well as fellow guest Andrew Salmon, I talk Perry Rhodan and a whole bunch of other stuff as the conversation takes us.  And a good time was had by all....

You can check it out at The Book Cave's own website:, or at iTunes.  Then browse around a bit in The Book Cave.  It's full of pulpy and comic-book goodness - my kind of reading!

Cheers, and Ad Astra!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Perry Rhodan #14, Venus in Danger (1972)

By Kurt Mahr (= German issue #20, 19 January 1962)

First, a couple of words. Welcome back to what I intend to be the leaner and hopefully meaner Perry Rhodan Reading Project blog. Several things have kept me away from this for the past several months: A busier than usual summer – followed by a significantly busier than usual fall semester; The other blog I started back at the beginning of the summer because I do read much more than just Perry Rhodan, and I found myself wanting a forum through which to share my reading experiences on all that other stuff as well; The fact that I did reach a good place to take a break; And finally, the fact that I tend toward a certain degree of obsessive compulsiveness that had me adding more and more detail to the recaps that I was doing for the past few Perry Rhodan books, to the point that the whole thing became more a chore than a hobby. That last is something I constantly fight against on the other blog as well.

But I'm back now, and hopefully if I can restrain myself from going overboard with my individual entries I can maintain more of a steady pace. The most immediately apparent difference between my more recent (?) entries is that I'm abandoning the chapter-by-chapter summaries in favor of a more general synopsis of the story as a whole. The other commentary will be basically just whatever comes to me – as it always was – with no effort at full-scale annotation. Maybe that will be more manageable, because frankly I've been hankering to get back into the saga for some time … but dreading sitting down to write it up as well.

Anyway, let's look at this book …
* * *
Hypertransitioning back into the solar system, Perry Rhodan and the crew of the Stardust II establish contact with Col. Freyt in Galacto-City – only to find that over four years have passed since they departed and began their adventures in the Vega System culminating in the quest for the planet Wanderer where Rhodan met the mysterious, almost godlike intelligence It and was granted a form of immortality that nonetheless requires him to return to Wanderer every sixty-odd years or so. From his and his companions' own perspective it has been only a few months. In those years of Earth-time, however, the fragile beginnings of Terran unification that Rhodan had brought about have begun to break down, with the Eastern Bloc attempting to reassert itself as an independent, even dominant power. The danger of a third world war has resurfaced. As they move through the solar system toward the Earth, the perplexed returnees detect a large number of small vessels approaching and landing on Venus. Needing to use the great Arkonide robot brain in the ancient base on that world to plot out the orbit of Wanderer for their eventual return, Rhodan diverts toward Earth's sister planet.

Approaching Venus, they are attacked by a nuclear missile – which of course has little effect against the advanced defenses of the Arkonide battlesphere. Racing low above the surface of the jungle planet at an incredible nine miles per second, the Stardust effectively becomes a fireball that inadvertently decimates the just-deployed forces of the Asian Bloc, who have been sent to secure the Arkonide technology of Venus Base for that government. Approaching Venus Base, the Stardust is suddenly stopped cold by the base's defense screens – and Rhodan realizes that his previous command to the robot brain contained a fatal flaw. His reprogramming the positronic brain to allow humans access had almost allowed the invading Easterners access – which was only averted by the “dangerous and unusual” situation created by the nuclear detonation that has now caused the base to go into total lockdown such than even Rhodan himself cannot get in without demonstrably averting the dangerous situation first!

The bulk of the story thereafter is the tale of how Rhodan balances the need to eliminate the threat posed by the surviving Eastern Bloc forces with his wish to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, alternating with the trek of those Eastern Bloc forces – mainly focussing on General Tomisenkov who ends up separated from his comrades – across the hostile jungle terrain of Venus where they face a variety of monstrous threats that include giant dinosaur-like creatures of various types including pterodactyls in addition to storms that out-strip the worst Terran hurricanes. Eventually Rhodan and his men round up most of the Easterners (except for Tomisenkov and a few of his men who remain at large, albeit now without ships or the means to threaten Rhodan or the base) and sufficiently demonstrate to the robot brain in charge of the Arkonide base that the “dangerous and unusual” situation has been neutralized. That news is conveyed by mutant teleporter Tako Kakuta, who jumps through the force field, allowing himself to be captured by the robots so that the sophisticated computer can read it directly from his mind.

Once inside the base, Rhodan sets the brain to the task of calculating the orbit of Wanderer – just in time. Had only a day or two more passed, the coordinates of vanishingly small arc of the orbit that they had plotted would have been too out-of-date for even the great robot intelligence to extrapolate with any accuracy. His ability to return to Wanderer assured, Rhodan announces to Reginald Bell his new resolve: “I think we've shown patience long enough. … If the people of Earth haven't the sense, the will, the ability – if they don't want to be united – they'll have to be for their own good. We can't afford to move out into the universe with the threat of disunity at our back. We must make a clean sweep and we'll start with the troublemakers” (p. 105).

(Another synopsis may be found at )
* * *
From here on out, all the way down until after #100, the Ace edition covers will be painted by Gray Morrow.

This volume has the usual editorial, which “the Captain of the Stardust 4E” gives over to a German fan's letter that drops hints of storylines to come; a short tribute to “Pucky's Papas,” i.e. Walter Ernsting who went by the pen-name of Clark Darlton; an announcement of a slight change in the format of the “magabooks” starting with the next issue, consisting of a page increase to accommodate backup short stories and serial chapters; “Scientifilm World” commenting on an ambiguity as to what Klaatu's actual words are at the end of The Day the Earth Stood Still; the “Perryscope” letters column, subscription information; and a couple of very low quality photographs that I can't even get a decent scan of. The first of these is of a gentleman in a sport coat perched debonnairely atop the fender of an automobile beside a small stuffed animal that may be a mousebeaver … is that Walter Ernsting/Clark Darlton with a Pucky-doll? It doesn't really look like other pictures I've seen of Ernsting, but those were from later in life. The second picture is from The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Other than those two photos there aren't any interior illustrations.

Besides Rhodan's reprogramming of the Venus Base positronic brain having some unintended consequences, so do the “orders” he had left Freyt with in command of Galacto-City. Wishing to head off any temptation that Freyt might have to use Arkonide techology for his own political benefit in Rhodan's absence, he had left him under a hypnotically-enhanced inhibition against interfering in Terran politics – which left him impotent as the situation deteriorated and Eastern Bloc ambitions led to escalating political instability. Rhodan chastises himself pretty roughly for his lack of imagination in both cases – neither imagining that another Earth power might attempt to invade Venus, nor that there might develop a situation in which Freyt might have a legitimate need to deploy the power of Arkonide technology – and announces to Bell his intention to consult more closely with the positronic brain in future because of its dispassionate nature and lack of preconceived notions.

Why can't Tako Kakuta teleport into the base from the beginning? I think it's because there was the necessity that his mind be clear on the fact that the dangerous situation had indeed been averted. Had the positronic brain detected subterfuge or deceit, the result may have been worse than the situation that had developed.

I've commented on this before, but Kurt Mahr seems to have been the series' go-to writer for describing humans pitted against hostile alien worlds, their monstrous animals and environments. He of course wrote #4(b) Base on Venus, #10 The Ghosts of Gol, and #11 The Planet of the Dying Sun. There's a lot of similarity of mood among these stories – particularly between this one and Base on Venus for obvious reasons.

Pucky is noticeably absent in this story, but I didn't miss him. Thora is still sulking in her quarters, unseen since the crushing disappointment of the Unknown Immortal denying the decadent Arkonides the goal of their quest that had brought them to this part of the galaxy in the first place, bestowing effective immortality on the “primitive barbarian” Perry Rhodan instead.

When exactly did the Stardust II jump forward in time? There was no indication that anything was amiss at the end of the previous book when they returned from Wanderer to the Vega System. So it would have had to have been in during the jump from there back to the Solar System, right? Is it ever explained? And, even though Freyt was under orders to keep hypercomm silence, why didn't whomever Rhodan left in the Vega System start wondering why Rhodan's jump back to Earth at the very end of the previous book was then followed by no contact whatsoever for years? Surely they weren't expecting that. Why did they not try contacting Freyt in Galacto-City?

Title of the first chapter: “Lost – One Lustrum!” The term doesn't appear in the text of the story, not surprisingly since it's not a word that is in very common usage. The chapter titles that have appeared since #6 and the beginning of the one-story-per-book “magabook” phase of the English edition are, it's my understanding, products of Forrest J. Ackerman's fevered mind. On the evidence of the many puns that appear in his various editorials and letter column comments, he obviously had a great love for words … although the results could be quite painful. “Lustrum” is actually a Latin term, meaning a five-year period. I don't know that I've ever heard it used in “real-life” conversation – although I must confess I drop it on my students from time to time in its proper historic context just to see if they'll ask me what it means. A lustrum was specifically the five-year period between censuses under the old Roman Republic. I don't remember in which of his many books it was, but I do know to what author I owe that little piece of odd knowledge – Isaac Asimov. More than just a science fiction writer, Asimov wrote many works of popular history and religious/literary commentary as well (e.g., Asimov's Guide to the Bible, albeit from a thoroughly secular humanist perspective), and for much of my teenage years I voraciously plowed through as much of that as I could get my hands on. Although I liked his science fiction – especially the Foundation trilogy as The Fall of the Roman Empire-recast-in-space – those other works probably made more of an impression on me and probably helped instill in me the love of history that eventually led me into my career. But I wonder how many readers way back when went scurrying for their dictionaries looking for "lustrum" – or needed to whether they bothered to or not.

Incidentally, although that first chapter title as well as other references I've seen, including Freyt himself, state that there is a five year gap at this point, it's really closer to four years. According to ship-time it is 29 January (p. 12); according to Freyt the date is really 24 May, “nearly five years … since you last called” (p. 13). I haven't kept up with passing time, but the wonderful Perrypedia site's German-language synopses do, stating that the years are 1976 and 1980 respectively, which makes it of course only four years and just shy of four months later.

The cover copy of the Ace edition, both front and back cover, deserves notice. On the front cover, it's sheer hyperbole to proclaim that “Venus Base waited in terror for the attack.” On the back, well, one of Ackerman's more painful puns adds to a misrepresentation of the situation somewhat along the same lines: “... the Base was in danger of being swept away by the deadly horrorcanes …” (his emphasis – I'm pretty confident in assuming it's to Forry that we owe this). <Shaking head.>

Contrary to what “The Ship of Things to Come” announces, next up will not be #15 Escape to Venus. We've come to the second point in the series where the Ackermans opted to skip a story entirely in the original English publication. Of course, the hue and cry eventually led to its publication in a special edition years later at the very end of Ace's tenure as publisher. So, next up: Menace of Atomigeddon.

I'll try not to let it be so long in coming....

Cheers, and Ad Astra!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Better late than never.

Fifty years ago this month, on Friday 8 September 1961, the first issue of Perry Rhodan hit the stands in Germany.  Happy Birthday, Perry!

Life gets in the way.  That's my only excuse for my delay in commemorating this momentous event in science-fiction history.  This has been an even more rocky than usual beginning to a semester, on top of quite a bit of upheaval in my personal life having to do with moving my mother from my home town to my current town.  And I've been on a bit of a hiatus from my rereading of the series from the beginning, which put it even further in the back of my mind.  See more below.  Ah well.  At least the month has not entirely passed without my marking it!

I'm actually surprised that I stuck with the series for such an uninterrupted length of time as I did.  It's quite unusual for me.  I tend to flit back and forth between various series, seldom reading more than two or three volumes in any one before heading off into another.  I almost always come back, however, and I will come back to Perry Rhodan sooner rather than later.  In fact, something has just come up that had my thoughts turning back to it today - which is how I realized my oversight regarding the anniversary.  I'll post something about that when things firm up a bit.  But hopefully even before then I'll be taking up with the next sequence of stories and this blog will come back to life.

Meanwhile, just in case anyone is not aware of it, this coming week will see the great Fiftieth Anniversary Perry Rhodan Weltcon 2011 in Mannheim.  Man, I wish I could be there!

Cheers, and Ad Astra!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Number 2600!

I was just surfing the 'net and came across this bit of news that had slipped past me.  The original German Perry Rhodan series published issue #2600 last Friday, 17 June 2011.  Wow!  What an achievement!
The Thanatos Program by Uwe Anton
Cheers! and Ad Astra!

Perry Rhodan #13, The Immortal Unknown (1972)

By K. H. Scheer (= German issue #19, “The Immortal,” Friday 12 January 1962)

Chap. 1, “Stardust to … Star Dust?”

Perry Rhodan and his crew finally jump back into the Vega system after their diversion to Tuglan, only to find that the great star is mysteriously in the process of going nova eons before its time! Khrest considers that this is the last riddle of the Unknown – threatening to destroy the entire system, rendering his world impossible to locate with the directions that Rhodan has found. Time is of the essence. Rhodan makes a short intra-system transition toward the eighth planet, Ferrol.

Chap. 2, “Operation: Desperation”

The eight auxiliary space-spheres or “Guppies,” left behind by the Stardust II when it departed for Gol, but greater by far than anything the Ferrons have, have been doing their best to evacuate the Ferrons to the outer planets – knowing full well that if the star does go nova none will survive anyway. Rhodan orders them to meet the Stardust at the Thorta space-port where he will meet with the ruler. Given the futility of any attempt to evacuate five billion Ferrons in the time left, Rhodan proposes to find the Unknown who can normalize the star. The Stardust launches ….

Chap. 3, “Rhodan's Destiny”

The Unknown's planet is located in deep space, well away from any star, therefore is effectively invisible. Because the directions to it are precisely based on the position of the star Vega, to minimize transition offset Rhodan takes the Stardust as close as possible to the raging and expanding inferno before initiating the hyperspace transition right on the verge of the great ship's screens failing. He then risks an extreme braking maneuver at the point of emergence so as not to overshoot the unseen target beyond even the reach of sensitive Arkonide detectors.

Chap. 4, “Danger in Deep Space”

Their initial scans of local space detect nothing. Reginald Bell theorizes that perhaps the Unknown is continuing to toy with them by blocking their sensors. To confirm they are working properly, Rhodan orders Major Nyssen out in a fighter. After several minutes, plenty of time for the Stardust to have detected him, Nyssen finds himself out of contact – he can hear the ship hailing him but they cannot hear his replies.

Chap. 5, “'You're Out of Your Mind'”

Nyssen's departure from the space-sphere had triggered a sequence of jarring shocks and vibrations with no discernable cause. Adjusting the gravitational field compensates for them and steadies the ship. Rhodan concludes that they are very near the planet, saying to the air, “Hi old friend.” The Stardust never actually lost track of Nyssen, and when he backtracks his course they are able to take remote control of his fighter and bring it back aboard, albeit very roughly. In different ways, the mutants Son Okura and Tanaka Seiko can detect the energy buffeting the ship – Okura “seeing” it, Seiko being mentally overwhelmed by it. An offhand remark by Bell inspires Rhodan with the perception that the Unknown (increasingly referred to as “he”) is using the Stardust's own gravitational field to repel it.

Chap. 6, “World of the Unknown”

But they are not out of the woods yet. With the gravitational field shut down and therefore the repulsion field not acting on the ship, it is accelerating headlong toward an unseen obstacle. When Rhodan attempts to shut down the engines, he finds the controls locked. Only Pucky's telekinesis, supported by Betty Toufry, manages to stop them. Eventually, the ship does come to a sudden rest – halfway through a great dome over an enormous disk-shaped platform floating in space, containing a myriad of different landscapes and monumental architectures.

Chap. 7, “The Monster from Nowhere”

The Stardust passes through the energy dome and descends to a point about five miles above the surface. Via a telecom briefing to his crew, Rhodan describes the planet “Wanderer” as “a gigantic and completely self-sufficient space station” (p. 80), about five thousand miles in diameter, 350 miles thick, with artificial gravity generated to 0.9 G, and a breathable atmosphere held in by the energy dome. It once orbited Vega, ten thousand years ago. “The is the place whose inhabitants know the secret of biological cell conservation according to ancient traditions” (p. 82). The Arkonide space-sphere begins to travel across the sky of Wanderer. They record and map everything. They pass across various terrains, seas and mountains; they observe the flora and fauna of many worlds all collected together. The mutants seem to detect a multitude of telepathic “voices” as faint, meaningless “whispering.” Suddenly a gelatinous tentacled monster appears without warning in the control center's sensor bay, flailing around at all. Between Pucky and Betty Toufry's telekinesis and Derringhouse's, Rhodan's, and Bell's blasters, they defeat and disintegrate it – but not before one of the radar techs is bitten by its beaklike mouth, which is apparently poisonous. He is rushed to the sickbay, but the doctors are at a loss how to treat him.

Chap. 8, “Inter-Century Shoot-Out”

The Stardust encounters a city with alien beings who take no notice of the space-sphere. Then they come across an even more amazing sight – what seems to be a reenactment of a battle between American Indians and the United States Cavalry, Custer's Last Stand. Unable to resist, Rhodan lands – and one of the cavalry makes to attack them! “A sudden blast from Bell … made the apparition vanish” (p. 92) – but quickly afterward a crewman discovers an actual 1867 Colt Peace-Maker revolver lying in the tall grass. Rhodan ponders this and concludes that it is another test of their nerves. He stashes the revolver in the back of his belt.

He finally sets the space-sphere down again on a large landing pad near a great tower. They prepare to disembark. A measure of the elation that the Arkonides feel at the end of their quest is that Thora laughs merrily!

One final test confronts them on the ground, however. A rowdy cowboy blocks their way. He was plucked out of time from the instant of his death. He has the key to a gate through which they must pass to come into the presence of him. The cowboy is determined to keep it from them; by doing so for a half hour he will win his return to his own time and will live. His weapons can kill them – but theirs prove ineffectual against him. “I can't be plugged by you except in my time” he proclaims (p. 98). After various attempts to get through the gate by weapons and mutant powers fail, with only a short time remaining Rhodan draws the 19th-century revolver from behind his back and guns the cowboy down. His body vanishes, leaving the key. They pass through the gate and are greeted merrily by him.

Chap. 9, “Confrontation with – It!”

Through the raucous laughter, John Marshall shouts to Rhodan, “It is an interconnected entity, the living psyche of a supra-dimensional collective being, made up of billions of individual minds. You might think of it as an entire race having given up its material form in order to live on spiritually. We have here a voluntary denial of bodily existence after an inconceivably long span of life which the organism in its material form in all probability had become unable to endure any longer” (pp. 103-4)

It bids approach to its visible manifestation as a floating ball of energy. When Khrest, overcome by joy but hesitating, makes to do so, the old man is roughly thrust back against Thora. “It wasn't you I meant, Arkonide, I'm sorry to say.... I've already given your race a chance 20,000 years ago by your count. I cannot grant you, as the representative of a degenerated race, the secret of biological prolongation of life. The time you had has come to an end” (p. 105). Addressing Rhodan in Rhodan's own terms, as “old friend,” it beckons again. “'Step forward, sir!' Betty Toufry urged him. 'You were meant, not the pathetic old man.'” Rhodan feels himself taken up before the energy sphere as Pucky proclaims, “It likes to play as much as I do, but it plays differently” (p. 106).

Gathering his wits, Rhodan first demands that his injured crewman be healed. It is done. Then he accepts its offer of immortality. Of course, in reality, it is another test – the same chance as the Arkonides had received long ago, and others before them. It will only be the beginning of his journey.  It predicts that Rhodan too will one day tire of his physical body.  A humanoid form appears – an artificial man with a sixth-dimensional “intotronic” brain to act as the agent of it. He explains that the cell conservation treatment will last for 62 years, then must be renewed – and Rhodan will always have to find Wanderer again to obtain it or instantly decay will occur. Rhodan submits, enters the “Physiotron,” and emerges in the same state as he entered – but with his aging process halted for 62 years. Finally, he is given the opportunity to offer cell conservation to one other person. He chooses Bell.

Departing Wanderer, they hyper-transition back to Vega, finding that as promised the star has returned to normal.

“Alone, Rhodan reflected. The recognition the Immortal had granted him left him awestruck with its implications. With that single supramundane act a new era had been initiated. Phase I of the Space Age had ended and Phase II had begun. Soon all mankind would begin to think and operate not in national, global or even interplanetary terms but in stellar, interstellar terms.”

“All the universe beckoned” (p. 112).

* * *

And so ends the second “mini-cycle” of Perry Rhodan novels. The first (#1, Enterprise Stardust through the first skipped “special,” The Wasp Men Attack) had mankind encounter the first extraterrestrials, the Arkonides, and successfully hold off a series of alien invaders; the second (#5[a], Space Battle in the Vega Sector through this #13, The Immortal Unknown) finds humanity established as a minor interstellar power and Rhodan successfully complete his quest for immortality.

The unfortunate transposition of the covers between the German editions and the American editions for this and the last books was already discussed in the just previous post. Again, I know of no Gray Morrow painted cover. I own the Second Edition which sports the Johnny Bruck painting.  There are no interior line illustrations.

This American issue is dedicated to the memory of Edward E. Smith, PhD, "Doc Smith," a giant in the old pulp space opera field - writer of Lensman, Skylark, and quite a bit more.  
The Editorial: “The Mouse-Beaver Strikes Again!” Recounts the loss of the manuscript for this issue by the publisher, and the rush job re-editing from the carbon copy (!) to keep the printing schedule. It is interesting to pause and consider how, until very recently, the manuscript copy and perhaps a carbon, would be the only copies of a work in existence. Now multiple electronic backups are virtually a matter or course to prevent such a horrific loss of data. As it happened, even the carbon of the editorial which was to accompany it, which reported the results of the “New Name for Gucky” contest, was nowhere to be found. I imagine this is the same loss mentioned in the just previous post. “Forry Rhodan” also offers an explanation for the odd discrepancy noted in my post for #11, Planet of the Dying Sun, the table of contents for which announced an editorial entitled, “Rohan - ?! when the actual editorial was “Stardust Meloday.” That mix-up occurred, Forry said, because of a change in scheduling which required a new editorial too late to change the contents page to match. Perhaps. I imagine it's more likely that the change to the TOC was simply overlooked in the last-minute rush....

Scientifilm World”: A catalog-list of various science-fiction/horror films that were in various stages of development in early 1972. Some, like Ben, I remember; others would never see the light of day. Some should never have seen the light of day!

The Perryscope”: Another letter appears by Dwight Decker. I call attention to his name not to slight all the others who also have appeared, but because I recognize it due to his later effort to get Lemuria translated and published in English. He participates in something of a letter-column “debate” regarding the Ackermans' intention to pass over certain Perry Rhodan adventures that they judge to be of lesser interest to the majority of their readership – or even to “skip around” in publication to bring certain landmark issues to the US sooner, which he greets with horror. “Forry, these are not 540 [!] different, unrelated stories: what we are dealing with here is one 35,000 page supernovel that must be read chronologically. Sure, you can easily shorten or summarize the dull or slow adventures (the so-called “chewing gum” stories) but the idea of skipping around is as frightening as the idea of discontinuing the series entirely” (p. 119).

* * *

Pucky joins Rhodan's service as “Lt. Puck of the Mutant Corps” in this story. “Permit me, sir, not to say Pucky. It seems inappropriate to my honorable new position” (p. 37). He continues his “feud” with Reg Bell. He also goes on to save the day innumerable times (including once during the course of this tale) and generally contribute to the perception that Perry Rhodan is juvenile literature. I mean, come on, a talking mouse-beaver?

Several times Rhodan seems to perceive the presence of the Unknown, and addresses it directly as “old friend” (pp. 64, 71, 77). It's unclear to me whether he could really sense something that his fellows could not – in the past it's been indicated that his Arkonide hypno-training gave him some kind of extrasensory perception – or just trusting that the Unknown was watching and could see and hear him.

On p. 77, the Unknown greets then with “uproarious Homeric laughter” - according to, this is “loud, hearty laughter, as of the gods.”

On p. 81, Rhodan admonishes his crew, “Don't jump to the conclusion that we've found God himself at work. We're merely face to face with a living being whose technology, science and culture must be millions of years old. He has learned all the laws of nature by scientific methods. What looks like miracles are no more than very intricate phenomena engineered with the help of machines.” Is this the first time that God has even been mentioned in Perry Rhodan? So far I don't think that religion itself has been dealt with at all. This is a very secular humanistic science-fiction series. A quick Google of “Religion in Perry Rhodan” comes up pretty much nil. Sometime I'll do a deeper search. Surely this has been written on somewhere (probably only in German, however).

Several times in this book an odd phrase occurs - “landing commando.” From the context, it seems to be what Star Trek and most other works call a “landing party.”

Custer's Last Stand is of course the Battle of the Little Bighorn, fought 25-26 June 1876.

I know virtually nothing of the history of firearms, but couldn't readily come up with anything on a “1867 Colt Peace-Maker revolver.” I was thinking “Colt 45”; perhaps it was this:

On p. 20 the Stardust's hyper-transition is described as being accompanied by a brilliant burst of light. Most recently that seems to be effectively conveyed in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica's “FTL jump”:

On p. 16 it is stated that the transition range limit of the Stardust is 35,000 light years.

I never knew that the command center of an Arkonide battle-sphere is located at its “geometric center” as stated on p. 17. I had always assumed that it was located at the “north pole.” But it stands to reason you would want your command center as protected as possible at the core.

What is the significance that Earth is at one focus of the far-flung elliptical orbit of the planet Wanderer? (p. 46)

A couple of minor characters are introduced in this story – Captain John McClears, left by Rhodan in charge of the “Guppies” in the Vega system, now happy as all get out to see the Chief return, and the Stardust's unflappable Chief Engineer, Manuel Garand.  I wonder if they show up again.

Next, it's back to the Solar System. There's no place like home. I'm curious to see how Thora and Khrest deal with the crushing of their dream, how Thora in particular reacts to the "superior" Arkonides' snubbing by It in favor of “the barbarians.”  ("You were meant, not the pathetic old man.”  Ouch.  That's harsh, Betty!)

Cheers, and Ad Astra!