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.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Perry Rhodan #1(a), Enterprise Stardust (1969)












By K. H. Scheer (= German #1, 8 September 1961 - the first five English volumes contained two German issues each)

In an age of escalated Cold War tensions between the NATO West and the Asiatic Federation, the United States launches its first manned moon mission, four astronauts aboard the “nuclear-chemical” rocket Stardust – commander Perry Rhodan, copilot Reginald Bell, Dr. Eric Manoli, and astrogator Clark Fletcher. Their automated landing is, however, interrupted by jamming and comes to a hard landing behind the edge of the far side of the moon. After several days repairing some minor damage to the ship, Rhodan and Bell set out in a moon buggy to establish line-of-sight contact with mission control. Their radio is knocked out of commission in another blast of jamming, whereupon they seek out the source of the interference and discover a huge spherical crashed alien spacecraft. Aboard, they discover the albinoid alien Arkonides Khrest and Thora, the most able crew members of a generally lethargic, degenerated ancient race that has ruled a Galactic Imperium for thousands of years. The Stardust having been brought aboard, Dr. Manoli discovers that Khrest, the scientific leader of the expedition, is dying of leukemia, for which the only cure is to be found on earth. The Arkonide commander, Thora, at first haughtily refusing even to recognize the humans as a sentient race, reluctantly consents to Khrest returning to earth with the Stardust. As the ship is approaching earth, Rhodan takes manual control and brings her down to a landing in the center of the Gobi Desert. He believes that the appearance of the Arkonides presents both great danger and great opportunity for the human race – great danger if any one nation gains access to Arkonide super-science, but great opportunity to unite humanity against a common enemy. He intends to bring that unification about and take humankind to the stars, establishing himself as a “Third Power” standing between West and East. His crew is split – not all agree that Rhodan is right ....

(A more detailed summary may be found here: http://perryrhodan.us/php/displaySummary.php?number=1)

***

And so it begins....

This was the first of the Perry Rhodan stories, written in 1961, envisioning the first moon landing as occurring in 1970. It is somewhat dated in how it envisions the realities of space travel, but no more so than much else I've read from the period. Overall I think it holds up well. It is written in a typically pulpish style, with a driving narrative short on any real characterization.

Although I read many of the PR stories in the mid 1970s, I had never read the beginning. Even after thirty and more years I do remember the friendship of Rhodan and Bell, I recall Dr. Manoli. It's interesting to see how it all began, to see Rhodan and Thora's antagonistic meeting, and so forth. I also remember the name Allan Mercant, presented here as what seems to be an antagonist to our heroes but I'm pretty sure he's an ally in later stories. I look forward to seeing how that develops.

In this blog, I intend to briefly record my reading of the American translations of the German pulp space opera series Perry Rhodan that appeared from about 1969 to 1978, covering about the first 140 or so of what have now become almost three thousand issues of the longest, most intricate science fiction series ever, published from 1961 to the present. Both myself and the Perry Rhodan series turn fifty this year. I discovered it in the American translations sometime around 1975, somewhere around #70. For a while I was a devoted reader, so much so that when the Ace paperback series was discontinued I subscribed to the valiant effort to continue the American translations in a pulp magazine format that unfortunately lasted only about twenty more issues.

After it was gone my copies of the paperbacks and pamphlets languished in boxes in hot, humid attics or storage rooms for the next thirty some-odd years. Some of the books suffered from the lousy conditions, but I gave them little thought except as I lugged them from one residence to another wondering why I was keeping them. The series was brought back to my mind a few weeks ago as a byproduct of my renewed interest in pulp magazines and discovery of Ric Croxton's excellent podcast, The Book Cave, which has one short episode noting his own discovery of the Perry Rhodan series (episode 40: http://thebookcave.libsyn.com/episode-40-perry-rhodan). Ric's enthusiasm, based on just the reading of this first story, inspired me to dig out my books, assess which were salvageable and which were not, which others I was missing altogether, particularly from the early part of the series, and to start trying to acquire them and read them from the beginning. The internet is one of the wonders of the modern world – and for book lovers http://www.abebooks.com/ is a wonderful resource. In short order I had the first couple of dozen books in hand and started reading them about a week ago. I've just finished the first two American volumes, which comprise the first four issues of the German original.

The purpose of this blog is mainly just to share my experience, give a short summary of each book along with links to other such summaries and information about the series, record my comments on each story, and generally to convey my renewed enthusiasm for the series to hopefully inspire others to seek out this very readable saga. Perhaps by in my small way increasing the American footprint of Perry Rhodan on the world wide web I can increase the chances that the series will be brought back to an American audience after far too long.

Don't expect too much from this my first experiment in blogging, however. I'm not going to spend a whole lot of time developing full synopses and commentary. It's just whatever occurs to me to post as I read my way through the series. I probably won't read the series (and hence post about it) continuously, either - I tend to bounce from one interest to another pretty frequently as well as have professional reading I must keep up with. In fact, I have in mind as one reason to try blogging about this that maybe it will keep me somewhat focussed and on task through the entire American reprint series. Maybe, maybe not. What I'm saying is that there may be some substantial periods between readings and posts.

I guess we'll all see how it works out. Hope you enjoy it.

Cheers.

***

If you're interested in more background on Perry Rhodan, you may check out the following links:

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perry_Rhodan

Official Homepage (German): http://www.perry-rhodan.net/aktuell/updates/index.html

(English): http://www.perry-rhodan.us/

In this and later posts, I am using the images of the covers from the following websites: English covers from http://datajunkie.blogspot.com/2007/01/perry-rhodan-mega-post.html; German covers from http://www.perryrhodan.us/php/allCycles.php. No infringement of any rights is intended.


5 comments:

  1. I read these back in the late 70s. Thanks for reminding me of them. I still have a few of those old paperbacks. I wish more of the series was translated.

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  2. I have over a 100 of these books and wish i could get the few I am missing, I loant #1,2,3, to a so called friend who never gave them back so the most important ones are missing I have #4 to 39 British version then missing few and start at 47 to 95 but missing (# 71 to 75 missing) if Only I could get the rest it would be great. Oh i started when i was a kid I am still a kid at 71 hehe any one who can help me with the missing # thnaks

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  3. I forgot t.waddon@gmail.com

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  4. Try searching for them on Abebooks.com, e.g. http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&tn=enterprise+stardust and http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&tn=atom+hell+of+grautier, to pick a couple at random. That's how I've been filling in the holes in my collection. Good luck!

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  5. If you have, I think, #32 of the Ace translations, you'll see an excerpt from a letter I wrote to the Ackermans, back when I was still known as "William Dockery", mostly saying that after a certain issue I was "Hooked for life!", and with various long gaps apparently I am, as I still get really interested at times in the hopeless task of getting the entire epic story. I had another couple of blurbs from my letters published in later issues, before becoming... unhooked... for a while. Becoming a teenager in the early 1970s was, after all kind of a full-time task and some things had to be put aside. Anyway, thanks for bringing back some very vivid memories of some really interesting characters and concepts.

    ReplyDelete