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.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Perry Rhodan Special Release, The Wasp Men Attack (September 1977)

By W. W. Shols (= German issue #9, “Help for the Earth,” 3 November 1961)

Still on Venus, Rhodan has been in deep consultation with the Robot Brain, discovering the existence of six single-seat fighter spaceships. Meanwhile, Freyt, Derringhouse, and Nyssen have been subjected to hypnotraining and raised to Arkonide-level intelligence. They are given guardianship of the new ships.

Two days later, during a training flight outside the Venusian atmosphere, Rhodan and his men detect an urgent message from John Marshall. A Mind-Snatcher ship has been detected landing on the moon. As preparations are made for a return to earth, further communications reveal that a number of Mind-Snatcher transformations are suspected around the world, most notably a powerful Chicago crime boss named Clive Cannon. The need for some kind of Mind-Snatcher-detector (besides the few telepathic mutants available) is urgent. On the flight back to earth, they detect two Mind-Snatcher ships headed for the moon. Rhodan's pilots prove the worth of the Arkonide fighters, destroying the invaders, but a life boat escapes and makes its way to the moon. The Good Hope tracks it to its landing in a farside crater, then deposits a contingent of Arkonide robots in a nearby crater before proceeding to earth.

In the time Rhodan and company have been on Venus, a great deal of building and development has been accomplished in the Gobi Desert surrounding the central energy dome. But they are greeting with news of near panic on the earth. Rhodan orders only proven non-transformed personnel to be allowed into the dome. He sets in motion the recruitment of a police force for the “New Power” by Allan Mercant. Freyt and his pilots are tasked with round-the-clock patrols of earth space. Rhodan assigns Dr. Haggard to find some biological weakness in the Mind Snatchers, toward which Rhodan plans to capture a Mind Snatcher in both its own alien body and possessed human body. Bell and Marshall are sent to lure “Clive Cannon” to the Gobi Desert. Rhodan begins consulting the Gobi Robot Brain for a way to devise a Mind-Snatcher-detector, but is interrupted by sirens. There is panicked rioting among the peoples who have been flocking to the borders of the New Power. Rhodan takes control of the situation by asserting his personality and restores order – but sees the world descending into chaos.

In Chicago, Marshall makes contact with “Clive Cannon,” saving him from an assassination attempt ordered by the US Federal Police, while telepathically confirming that he is indeed a Mind-Snatcher. He makes “Cannon” an offer he cannot refuse – a lucrative contract with the New Power, arranging a visit with Rhodan in the Gobi Desert center to seal the deal. But he also detects plans for an attempt to possess the New Power's finance minister, Homer Adams.

As a gift to Rhodan, “Cannon” brings a large-scale replica of the Stardust – which secretly houses its body and the trapped ego of the real Clive Cannon. With its body and Rhodan in close proximity, “Cannon” could bounce from Cannon through its own body thence into Rhodan, possessing the leader of the New Power and the Mind-Snatchers' greatest enemy. But Rhodan captures the Mind-Snatcher's body and immediately arrests “Cannon,” presenting it with one option by which it might preserve its own body and therefore life. Meanwhile, Bell arrives in New York too late to prevent the attack on Adams – and finds himself in the middle of an all-out Mind-Snatcher assault on the city, which has been encased in an energy shield which prevents any outside communications that their agents do not control. Bell barely escapes by using his Arkonide spacesuit. Adams has, however, successfully resisted his own Mind-Snatcher attacker – killing it and fleeing the city.

Before Rhodan interrogates “Cannon” in the presence of the Robot Brain, Adams makes contact. The nature of Adams' mutant brain (eidetic memory) had tied his own personality too closely to his own memory cells for the Mind-Snatcher to displace. He took a small plane into Canada. Rhodan dispatches Ras Tschubai to bring Adams in – even as Bell brings news of the situation in New York. Based on the interrogation of “Cannon,” the Robot Brain devises a solution to detecting Mind-Snatcher possessions, and Rhodan immediately puts a device into production. Awaiting Tschubai, Adams wonders why he fled to the specific place he had ended up. He realizes that the Mind-Snatcher's assault left an imprint upon his eidetic memory – which has subconsciously led him to the location of a cache of two hundred of the alien bodies in hiding.

Rhodan tests the new Mind-Snatcher detector on Mercant's recruits. Out of 304, one is found to be a Mind-Snatcher. The rest, plus the mutants and Rhodan's associates, are to be armed with detectors for the rescue of New York. Meanwhile, Bell is to take command of the Arkonide robots on the moon and prepare to attack the Mind-Snatchers there. And Adams and Tschubai are to lead an attack on the hidden base in Canada. The attacks are carried out simultaneously. The capture of hundreds of Mind-Snatcher bodies in Canada and on the moon renders the New York invaders easily defeated because they are powerless to flee. Rhodan dictates terms to the invaders that have them returning to their home solar system in defeat and shame, knowing they have encountered a race with the ability to detect and destroy them. This crisis has convinced the world that only with the New Power can earth hope to survive in a dangerous universe: “The will of the people forced their elected representatives to go the way of Perry Rhodan in the Gobi Desert and finally to cooperate in uniting the peoples of the Earth” (p. 122).

Another synopsis can be found at


For some reason, allegedly because the publisher did not consider them to have enough science-fictional action, three early Perry Rhodan novels were skipped in the original Ace publication sequence. Later, near the end of the Ace run, they were presented as “Special Release” double novels, paired with three tales of the Immortal Arkonide Atlan, a character who first appeared about fifty issues into the series and became popular enough to carry the main spin-off series from Perry Rhodan, the Atlan series that ran for 850 issues from 1969 until the late 1980s.

I don't personally see an insufficiency of science-fictional action here, although this novel does have a different “feel” from the previous stories. For one thing, it just feels unfinished, like a first draft, compared to the 1969-era publications. My speculation is that the first draft of this story was rejected and went unfinished until, near the end of Ace's run the decision was made to get whatever product that was at hand out before the plug was pulled altogether. On the other hand, here in this story I find the first appearance of chapter titles, which it is my understanding do not appear in the German originals but were rather provided by Forrest J. Ackerman. Does the odd name for Rhodan's new state – the “New Power” here where it's always otherwise been the “Third Power” (which would seem to be the German original) - have anything to do with this unusual path to publication?

Perhaps exacerbating the odd feel of this story – and here I'm necessarily hampered by the fact that I do not know how much of its character is attributable to the author as opposed to the translator – is the fact that this is the second book I've read by W. W. Shols. I did not like his portrayal of the Third Power in #3(b), The Mutant Corps. I found this a less than pleasurable read as well. Especially at the beginning, Rhodan himself seems more arrogant and brusque with his colleagues than usual. At this point, Shols is definitely my least favorite of the Perry Rhodan scribes whom I've read. On the other hand, Clark Darlton is my favorite. Even in translation, he just seems to have a more polished writing style and presents more likeable characters with a touch of humor. This matches my memories of reading the later volumes in the 1970s, how I looked forward to any book with Darlton's name on it. I did not know then that “Clark Darlton” was the pen name for one of the co-creators, Walter Ernsting. As an aside, I also remember having less of a liking for Kurt Mahr, but so far in this current reading I find his work almost as enjoyable as Darlton's. I wonder if that will remain so.

In any case, despite my misgivings about the execution of this story, the original decision to skip it in US publication was unfortunate. (Not just because I'm an inveterate completist!) Here is the climax of the first major alien threat to the earth brought by the Arkonide cruiser's distress call. Some new Arkonide technology is introduced that I feel sure will play a role in later stories – the single-seat fighters. It also would seem to bring to a close the opening story arc of the series. Although we are only nine stories into what would be the first fifty-issue Cycle, looking ahead to the beginning of the next story it is apparent that several years pass in the meantime, during which the Third Power expands further and becomes more firmly established. The end of this book provides a satisfying conclusion to Rhodan's first goal, the unification of the earth – not complete, but well on its way.

Cheers, and Ad Astra!

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