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, February 9, 2011

Perry Rhodan #2(a), The Radiant Dome (1969)

By K. H. Scheer (= German issue #3, 22 September 1961)

Several weeks have passed. The Stardust and her crew are being constantly bombarded by the Asiatic Federation from beyond the range of the antigrav or psychoradiator. The force field dome is showing signs of stress – as are the people within. Drs. Manoli and Haggard have been treating Khrest and generally, despite complications arising from his alien physiology, are meeting with success. He has been cured of leukemia, but he remains in a deep sleep due to the effects of the human medicines. After the interdiction of their self-inflicted nuclear annihilation, the presence of the Third Power has driven the terrestrial power blocs together. They initiate two attacks – one on Rhodan via a bacteriological agent and the other on the moon via a new type of “cold fusion” bomb in which the nuclear reaction will not be inhibited by the Arkonide suppression field. Three spaceships launch from the United States, Russia, and China carrying out the latter mission. Three agents of those states, including Lt. Klein representing the West, seek to gain access to the force field dome based on Klein's previous contact and release the bacteriological weapon. But it transpires that the two other agents agree with Klein that Rhodan is the best hope for peace and that if the Third Power is destroyed human civilization will soon immolate itself. They instead warn Rhodan of both plans of attack. Unfortunately, Rhodan cannot contact Thora on the moon to warn her. The hyperwave radio has stopped functioning – and the force field generator seems on the verge of failure. The doctors reluctantly give Khrest a stimulant – which works and brings him instantly to consciousness. In short order Khrest has activated the simple self-repair function on the hyperwave radio and called Thora. But as soon as she learns the force field is failing she breaks off contact to rush towards earth in a “small” (200-meter) auxiliary vessel – before she can be warned of the threat to the Arkonide mothership. Only after she has appeared over the Gobi Desert mere minutes later and used gravitic technology to unleash a small hurricane-like storm that sweeps away the attackers is Rhodan able to warn her. They head back to the moon but are too late. The giant Arkonide cruiser vanishes in a blazing nuclear maelstrom. Rhodan is, however, able to avert her taking vengeance on the earth and they return to the realm of the Third Power in the Gobi Desert.

For a fuller synopsis see


“Cold fusion” - I initially stopped “cold” upon encountering that turn of phrase. I remember the brief excitement surrounding the seeming discovery of a cheap, clean form of nuclear power back in the 1980s, long after this book had appeared. See here: . This is, of course, not the same thing. A description is found on p. 36 of the Ace edition: “About three months ago we put into practice for the first time the thoretically known principle of 'cold' fusion process. This 'catalyst' bomb uses only mesonic atoms. A chemically induced ignition of only 3865 degrees Celsius is sufficient to begin the nuclear reaction. Free neutrons have thus become entirely superfluous.”

Another good title – albeit less science-fictiony – would have been “The Siege.” One thing that Scheer does very well in this story is convey the psychological effects of he constant bombardment – the deafening noise which requires the Stardust crew to wear huge earphones and communicate by radio even when standing next to each other. Even the normally cool and calm Perry Rhodan is showing signs of stress, much to the alarm of Reg.

Thora's capitulation at the end seemed a bit too easy at first, but on rereading the passage it's clear that not only is she in shock after witnessing the destruction of her ship and crew but her pride will not allow her to lower herself to taking crude vengeance. Rhodan actually plays to that in his argument, although his points are themselves well taken. If she indulges in reprisal she will doom herself and Khrest to being marooned on earth with no hope of returning to Arkonide space.

I neglected in earlier posts to make clear the mission the Arkonides were on when they were stranded on earth's moon. They were seeking a planet in the local stellar neighborhood which possesses the secret of cellular regeneration to preserve the life of Khrest, the greatest mind of the Arkonides and one of the few Arkonide men who has not succumbed to the degenerate lassitude that threatens the very fabric of the Imperium. Women don't seem to be as susceptible to that malady, as evidenced by Thora. In 1961 I would imagine the very idea of a female starship commander would have been much more remarkable than it is today in the age of such heroines as Honor Harrington and Kathryn Janeway. But perhaps the fact that Thora was alien itself made her status more acceptable in 1961 even as it did later in the decade on Star Trek with the Romulan Commander. Anyway, it's that general apathy as well as hubris that have left the Arkonide cruiser unable to take off from the moon. Not only are the crew basically wasting their lives in what may be the Arkonide equivalent of virtual reality rather than even attempting repairs, but the possibility of an Arkonide ship suffering such a calamity as to render it unflightworthy was considered so inconceivable that they had not laid in the proper spare parts! Rhodan makes much of this. Against Thora's clear prejudices, Khrest has quickly come to believe that the one hope of reversing the degeneration of the Arkonide race is to incorporate the vitality of the Terran race. Although it's made clear that Khrest does not mean this as a literal interbreeding - and a couple of times Rhodan has already declared he's “not marrying that woman” - I bet even those reading this saga for the first time as it came out could see that that's just where the story was heading!


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