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 16, 2011

Perry Rhodan #4(a), Invasion from Space (1969)

By Walter Ernsting (= German issue #7 “by Clark Darlton,” 20 October 1961)

Sammy Derring, a clerk in the Western Bloc Ministry of Defense, is taken over by a Mind Snatcher – by mistake, because the Mind Snatcher believes he is taking over Samuel Daring, the US Secretary of Defense. It is part of a concerted new plot by the aliens to scout information preparatory to an all-out assault on the earth. The plot is discovered when “Derring” requests documents far exceeding his security clearance. Allan Mercant is called in but the Mind Snatcher flees (leaving a confused Derring) and makes its way to the real Secretary Daring.

In the Gobi Desert, Khrest has taken charge of training the new Mutant Corps, among whom we are introduced to Tama Yokida, telekinetic and “elemental energy converter” (for lack of a better term – he can “change an element into another and gather up the released energy at will and use it whichever way [he] want[s]” - p. 26), and Ishi Matsu, “televisionary” (essentially X-Ray Vision). Khrest is notified of the new Mind Snatcher threat and contacts Perry Rhodan as he returns on the Arkonide auxiliary space sphere, now christened the Good Hope, from scouting the planet Venus for a site to establish a new base. Putting the Mutant Corps into action against the Mind Snatchers must be priority. As soon as Rhodan arrives back in the Gobi, he and his circle meet in a war council with (now-)Captain Klein, Mercant's liaison to Rhodan – who brings the further news that Li Tschai-tung, Klein's Asiatic Federation counterpart and fellow ally to the Third Power, has vanished and is presumed under Mind Snatcher control. Rhodan theorizes that because the Mind Snatchers cast their minds across space from their bodies to their victims the mutant teleporters and/or the teletemporter Ernst Ellert may be able to “tag along” with the aliens as they jump from a human host body back to their own. (There is also some discussion that Ellert could perhaps jump into the future and return to tell them whether and how the Mind Snatchers were defeated. But Ellert says that will not be possible because from any present point in time there are for all intents and purposes an infinite number of futures that he may visit, and there is no way to know which will become “real.”) Rhodan tasks Ellert and Tako Kakuta with tracking “Li.”

Rhodan meets – virtually, via telecom – with the leaders of the big powers who agree to coordinate the earth's defense efforts as well as to building a space fleet. Ellert and Tako, along with Ras Tschubai, track “Li” from Peking to Batang in Mongolia – the teleporters succeeding in a new technique of carrying Ellert along between themselves. “Li” tarries in Batang then boards a flight to the US. The Mind Snatchers have realized that Li's body is under suspicion and have formulated a new way to use it. Ellert discovers that the Mind Snatchers communicate between themselves telepathically, which he reports to Rhodan. Rhodan then dispatches Ellert on another mission – follow the future timeline of a six-year-old girl, Betty Toufry, who inexplicably murdered her own father, an atomic scientist. “Li” arrives at Nevada Spaceport, where John Marshall has discovered that the scientist Dr. Lehmann has also been taken over. “Li” and “Lehmann” are working together to sabotage the test of a powerful new fuel, triggering a chain reaction that will destroy the US space base. The mutants devise a plan to use the Mind Snatchers' own effort against them, forcing them into an unprepared return to their bodies in their as yet undiscovered base on earth. Ellert makes contact with future Betty Toufry and confirms that she is a super-intelligent telepath/telekinetic who discovered her father was taken by the Mind Snatchers. She had to kill him to thwart his own act of sabotage. Betty also cryptically tells Ellert that his fate is the turning point of human history, linked with that of the galactic empire of the far future.

When the Mind Snatchers flee Li and Lehmann's bodies to escape the explosion they set, Tako manages to piggyback with them, teleporting into their base. But in preventing the blast, Ellert's attempt to accompany Tako goes awry and his consciousness is lost in time and space. His body enters a kind of stasis, undecaying, neither alive nor dead. Later, Rhodan constructs an elaborate pyramidal tomb to protect the teletemporter's body for all time in hopes that he will find his way home.

Tako confirms that the Mind Snatcher base is in a Himalayan cave in Tibet. Rhodan, Reginald Bell, Khrest, and Thora invade the base and capture to Mind Snatchers for interrogation, using the psychoradiator to forestall the Mind Snatchers taking over anyone of them. The others they kill as soon as the various Mind Snatchers return to their own bodies one by one, which allows their hosts to survive. Through interrogation under the psychoradiator hypnosis Rhodan confirms that the Mind Snatchers' only motivation is genocide against all other beings. "It's a question of survival - them or us!" (p. 83)

Mercant puts together various pieces of evidence to discover that the Western Bloc is secretly planning to obtain Arkonide technology from the ruin of the cruiser on the moon to allow a challenge of the Third Power's dominance – in violation of their agreement with Rhodan. The reader discovers that a new moon ship is almost ready for such an attempt. Meanwhile, Rhodan determines that although the present Mind Snatcher threat is past, that and other menaces from space are bound to come soon. He plans to continue his effort to establish a base on Venus. Thora and Khrest's search for the planet of eternal life – which Rhodan regards with skepticism in any case – will have to wait.

Another synopsis may be found at


I'm not so sure the misunderstanding on which the opening sequence of this story turns would really work. As we discover in this story, the Mind Snatchers communicate telepathically. Would they even have a conception of sound-based speech, such that the phonetic similarity between "Sammy Derring" and "Samuel Daring" would be apparent to them? It's a minor point.

The description of Venus as a jungle world inhabited by prehistoric beasts much like the earth of hundreds of millions of years ago may have just been plausible in 1961, but by the end of the next year Mariner 2 would dispel any possibility of earthlike life. A quick summary of how quickly our knowledge of our sister planet changed in the 1960s and 1970s can be found on Wikipedia: . It seems, at least in this case, that the “Rhodan universe” science-fiction author of Adventure on Venus (p. 31) was more prescient regarding the Venus of that universe than were the Rhodan authors in our own.

There is a minor discrepancy between Enterprise Stardust and this book in the name of the space physician at the Nevada space center. His name changed from “Fleet” in the first book to “Fleeps” in this one. I don't know which if either is the German original.

When I read Perry Rhodan many years ago, one of the intriguing titles I encountered was Ernst Ellert Returns! (Ace #83) Complete with exclamation point. I never read it, I believe, one reason being that I had no idea who Ellert was. The impression was that he had been a major character earlier in the series – which is not untrue. But I would have expected his earlier tenure in the series to have lasted a bit longer than it did given the emphasis that seemed to be placed by that title. At this point I feel like we barely got to know him – and he's gone. Perhaps that is the point. And he is a memorable character - if only because I know that in about eighty books I will finally find out how he returns!

When Rhodan sends Ellert to follow the future timeline of little Betty Toufry, it seems a pointless quest given the earlier discussion regarding infinite and indistinguishable potential futures. But Rhodan's specific aim is to find out what kind of person the little girl will grow up to be, given the circumstances surrounding her killing her father which seem to indicate she may be a mutant. Ellert confirms that “[w]hatever direction the future may eventually take has no effect on the personality. That remains always the same regardless. It does not matter into which of the many potential futures I land; the main point is that Betty Toufry is alive now” (p. 54). Similarly, the information he receives as to what triggered her act is an established fact because it is in the past by the point from which Ellert launched into the future. The past does not change.

Cheers, and Ad Astra!


  1. Fleeps was the name in the original. Quite a humorous one. Probably was a good idea to change it to Fleet.

    I haven't read this PR. It was good information for me, since Betty T. appears in the 2500 series. I can't remember the number of the top of my head, I believe it could be PR2515. Evidently she was absorbed somehow by ES(IT), and is about to reappear.

    Knowing the pre-history on the new PR's I think helps add to the fun of reading PR. I don't think, though, I've ever seen an annotated edition.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. Thanks for the kind words. Finding that someone is actually getting a benefit from these little write-ups is validating!

    "Fleeps" just sounds odd in English. Can you clarify what you mean by "humorous"? - is it a pun of some kind in German?