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.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Perry Rhodan #3(b), The Mutant Corps (1969)

By W. W. Shols (= German issue #6, 13 October 1961)

The great power blocs formally recognize the Third Power as a sovereign government and Rhodan has Reg begin negotiations with the People's Republic of China to purchase the land which they have occupied, out to a radius of thirty miles from the Stardust. But the PRC is demanding an exhorbitant price to purchase the land outright, far beyond the meager financial resources of the Third Power for all their technological and scientific might. Lending urgency to the need to get the Third Power up and going is the fact that Rhodan has been running data through the positronic brain of the Arkonide auxiliary vessel regarding the threat of a new invasion, and repeatedly reaching the conclusion that the invasion is already taking place. Although it is not clear exactly what that means and a quick sweep of near earth space finds no evidence of alien activity, the need for swift preparation is clear.

Securing the finances of the Third Power is of paramount importance. To that end, John Marshall makes contact with a newly released British felon, Homer G. Adams, who has been set free after serving fourteen years of a twenty-year sentence for embezzlement. After a hijacking incident on their flight to Tokyo makes them allies and forges a bond of trust between them, Marshall reveals that Adams' early release was itself arranged by the Third Power so that Adams might be recruited to become its Secretary of the Treasury, which appointment Adams accepts.

Adams sets in motion schemes that both offers various industrial powers Arkonide technologies in return for a financial stake in their business for the Third Power (through a front corporation, General Cosmic Company or “GCC”) and manipulates the stock markets around the world to create a financial panic and crash that allows the Third Power to gain controlling interests in other concerns. It's a one-time thing – Adams warns that a repeat would cause a total collapse of the world economy – and it is not without its cost in ruined lives and even suicides by individuals who lost everything. But the Third Power is left with a secure financial base on which to build the necessary industries to begin building a space fleet. As a first step, they are able to purchase their land free and clear. During a meeting, Rhodan seemingly randomly asks Adams a complex mathematical question, then provides the answer for himself.

Their next task is to start recruiting suitable personnel, which they do in a novel fashion. Recognizing the potential of the new mutants that have appeared and joined them already, Bell and Tako quite literally kidnap a number of (mostly but not exclusively Japanese) individuals whom their Arkonide tech has determined to exhibit paranormal brain activity. They will be brought back to the Gobi Desert and offered a place in the Third Power. Others, most notably Ernst Ellert whom Bell sets off to meet, are already seeking to approach the Third Power on their own volition.

Meanwhile, at his headquarters in Greenland, Allan Mercant is mysteriously attacked by one of his own trusted aides, Captain Zimmermann, upon the latter's return from a reconnaissance flight during which some mysterious incident had occurred. Only Mercant's nascent telepathic ability allows him to detect Zimmermann's intention in time to kill him first. Investigating what happened to Zimmermann leads Mercant to an odd black dome out on the Greenland ice. Blasting his way into it, he finds the remains of an unearthly creature. He takes the remains to Rhodan in the Gobi Desert, arriving there soon after the Third Power had unsuccessfully tried to engage a mysterious oval-shaped ship that had appeared in the moon's orbit then accelerated away. Khrest identifies the alien remains as those of a far more dangerous menace than the Fantan – the “M.S.” or Mind Snatchers, an insectoid race bitterly inimical to all other intelligences, who can literally switch minds and bodies with other beings. This one had taken over Zimmermann and tried to kill Mercant.

An attack is almost immediately made against the Third Power itself. As Reg is returning from Germany with Ernst Ellert, a Mind Snatcher ship approaches earth and tries to take him over. Only his Arkonide-hypnoschooled mind allows Reg to resist as Rhodan and crew launch and attack the Mind Snatcher ship. Tako teleports into and out from the enemy's command center, depositing a bomb which destroyed it.

In the end, all of the mutants, once Rhodan has explained his plans and given them a week to consider them, voluntarily join Rhodan and pledge their allegiance to the Third Power – including Mercant. Thus is born the “Mutant Corps.” It includes Homer G. Adams, whose financial abilities are revealed to be a result of his eidetic memory when Rhodan asks him the same complex mathematical question as days earlier and Adams immediately gives him back the same answer Rhodan had himself provided, a feat of memory beyond any normal human being.

Another synopsis may be found at .


The use of the abbreviation “M.S.” for “Mind Snatchers” - I wonder if that is a feature of the original German or one of the jargonistic, quasi-futuristic, “science-fictional” terms that Forrest J. Ackerman was known for. He is, after all, the originator of the term “sci-fi” and went by the abbreviation “4SJ.” He came up with some rather odd titles for some of the Ace Perry Rhodan paperbacks - “Horn: Green,” if I recall correctly about an inexperienced spaceman (it's been thirty-plus years!) being my own “favorite,” one of a number of such hyphenated titles that seem quite forced and I'm pretty sure do not accurately reflect the style of the German titles.

The Arkonide positronic brain - “Asimov's dream” according to Tasha Yar on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, more accurately “Asimov's science-fictional jargon” that has passed into popular science-fictional culture and been picked up by many other works, from Perry Rhodan to Doctor Who to Star Trek. Wikipedia currently has a pretty good write-up about it: .

I don't understand the significance of Homer Adams' seeming to deliberately miss his first flight to Tokyo. His concern that his luggage must be loaded onto the flight, then his leaving the airport on a seemingly pointless series of taxi rides that left him arriving back too late to do more than watch the plane vanish into the sky with “an expression of great satisfaction” (p. 116) – had I not known that he would end up among Rhodan's crew I would have thought he was himself a terrorist. Of course my reaction is doubtless colored by the times in which we live today. Then, having fallen in with Marshall making their way toward Tokyo via a roundabout route through Zanzibar, Adams finds “a headline that did not surprise him much. After all this occurrence had played a big role in his calculations, and he had been quite convinced that it had a high degree of probability” - that first flight had exploded in mid air (p. 117). Is the hint that his financial abilities hinge on a mutant ability to weigh probabilities and extrapolate outcomes? That doesn't seem to have been set up, nor does that seem to square with what is ultimately revealed to be his mutation, an eidetic memory, in popular parlance a “photographic” memory.

Adams certainly doesn't endear himself to this reader – nor does Marshall, for that matter – immediately after he tells his travelling companion of the tragedy, they both seem callously less concerned with the fate of the downed airplane's passengers than with their own good fortune that any luggage they had lost, having been loaded onto the flight that they both missed, was of little value.

Adams' callousness is reinforced in his lack of contrition after his actions on behalf of his new employer, the Third Power, cause a near financial meltdown of the world's economy and no little grief and hardship, even despair and suicide in some instances. “I do not feel responsible for the suicides committed. If they can't get over the loss of material possessions, well, it's their own affair” (p. 151). Rhodan expressly agrees, which doesn't put our hero in too good a light, even with his rationalization that the ends justify the means. Even the holographic simulation of an alien invasion in progress that contributed to the sense of panic and the financial chaos he justifies as “it might happen.”

Add that to the means by which the Third Power goes about “recruiting” mutants – in this book, which I bet you've already figured out is my least favorite so far, we see a Third Power that is callous, ruthless, amoral, and generally deserving of some of the worst criticisms that have been made against the Perry Rhodan series as a whole. Just google “Perry Rhodan fascist” to see what I'm talking about. I don't agree that those criticisms are justified for the series as a whole, but this book taken alone does nothing to dispel such a viewpoint.

Not quite so cheery right now ….

No comments:

Post a Comment