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.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Perry Rhodan #7, Fortress of the Six Moons (August 1971)

By K. H. Scheer (= German issue #13, 1 December 1961)

Chap. 1, “Someone Always Gets It on the Dawn Patrol”

While on a reconnaissance flight launched by the Stardust II's auxiliary space-sphere S-7, near the fortieth planet of Vega on whose six moons the alien Topides are digging in, Major Derringhouse and Sergeants Rous and Calverman unexpectedly find their space fighters at the exact point of emergence of an armada of Topides from hyperspace. They come under attack and are heavily damaged almost immediately. Calverman's ship is hit worst, and he goes down in flames into the atmosphere of the fortieth planet despite Derringhouse's attempt to save him. Derringhouse's own fighter is damaged in the attempt but he is himself rescued by Rous.

Chap. 2, “Galactic Goal”

Perry Rhodan, Reginald Bell, and John Marshall are having little luck hashing out a trade agreement between Earth and Ferrol. The Thort of Ferrol and his Counsel [sic] of Ministers are sticking mainly on Rhodan's insistence on a Terran trading station enjoying full extraterritorial status on their homeworld. Rhodan breaks off negotiations for the day with a subtle reminder that the Topides have not been driven entirely from the system and that the Ferrons would benefit from further military exchange with Rhodan's people. As he and Bell are returning to the Stardust II, the S-7 screams into a meteoric emergency landing, bringing the severely injured Derringhouse to the mother ship's medical facilities. Major Nyssen, commander of the S-7, reports to Rhodan that the Topide base on the six moons is being heavily reinforced.

Chap. 3, “Rhodan's Ruse”

After checking on Derringhouse, who is resting still and unconscious in a bath of “biosynthetic cell-activating serum” (p. 39), Rhodan and Bell take a rather acrimonious meeting with Khrest and Thora. Thora is characteristically focussed on the barbarity of the humans and her desire to return to Arkon; Khrest uncharacteristically believes his search for the beings with the secret of eternal life has failed and adds his entreaty to that of Thora. Rhodan absolutely refuses to do anything that might lead to the detection of Earth by the galaxy at large. Even Bell thinks Rhodan treats the Arkonides with needless harshness. Then Rhodan unexpectedly asks for a wigmaker – to Bell's further mystification.

Retreating to the privacy of his own cabin, Rhodan secretly contacts Chaktor, the Ferron they first encountered, who is now a liaison between Terrans and Ferrons. He requests a secret meeting, which occurs shortly in a run-down part of the capital city. It transpires that Chaktor is a double-agent working for Rhodan. He has infiltrated the Ferron anti-Terran resistance. Rhodan sets in motion a complicated plan to discredit the resistance and remove the threat of the Topides in one fell swoop. The complexity of the plan unfolds gradually over the rest of the story.

Chap. 4, “Time is Running Out”

Chaktor leads his men in the resistance in their part of the ruse, which has Ishi Matsu shot down "fleeing" from John Marshall and André Noir – who are in turn shot down by Chaktor's men even as the "mortally wounded" Ishi throws a package to Chaktor in plain view of a crowd of onlookers. Chaktor and his men make their getaway.

Shortly after Chaktor reports success to Rhodan, the latter oversees the departure of Nyssen and the S-7, which is to jump through hyperspace to a set of prepared coordinates from which it is to send out a coded hyperwave message back to Vega.

Chap. 5, “Tricking a Topide”

Using his influence with the Thort, Rhodan has a high-ranking Topide prisoner, Chren-Tork, brought from a prison moon for questioning. Bell, in disguise and escorting the prisoner, lets slip something that confirms the Topides' suspicion that they were in error believing that the Arkonide distress signal they were following had originated in Vega. During the subsequent interrogation Rhodan and his men, including the “mesmeric mutant” Kitai Ishibashi, are disguised as Arkonides. Between the mutant and an Arkonide psycho-ray emitter, “certain ideas [are] firmly planted in [the Topide's] brain,” setting up the next phase of Rhodan's plan.

Chap. 6, “Beyond Imagination”

Chaktor begins the operation by freeing the Topide from a Ferron prison before he can be transported back to the moon. They flee Ferrol in a stolen Ferron destroyer. Rhodan meanwhile has taken the Stardust II on a reconnaissance cruise out of position to intercept them. Nyssen's broadcast is heard from light-years away in the Capella solar system, as is Rhodan's response ordering a massive fleet movement from Capella to attack the Topides in Vega – leaving “Rhodan's homeworld” denuded of its defenses! Thora, who has already scoffed that the intelligent Topides will never fall for such a ruse, is further offended by the very audacity of Rhodan's plan.

Chap. 7, “As If the Universe Had Come to an End”

To convince the Topides that they cannot stand against a massed attack by his people, Rhodan uses the Stardust II to carry out a demonstration strike that obliterates the smallest moon of the fortieth planet with a gravitation bomb even as Chaktor and Chren-Tork arrive at the main Topide base. Then Rhodan settles in as if to wait for reinforcements before the main attack.

Chap. 8, “Target of Doom”

The package received by Chaktor from the “Arkonide defector” Ishi Matsu contained charts and documents prepared by Khrest which located Rhodan's native world as the fifth planet in the solar system of Capella, 45 light-years from Vega. These documents, plus Chren-Tork's conviction that the Topide's attack on Vega in the first place had been based on a mathematical error, plus the prospect of a mass attack on the six moons that will leave Rhodan's homeworld defenseless – all this together convinces the Topide commander Chrekt-Orn to throw everything he has into a mass attack on “Rhodan's homeworld.” Derringhouse and Nyssen, carrying Tako and Ras Tschubai respectively, launch their fighters on a mission to extract their ally Chaktor. The mutants teleport in on a close flyby, find the Ferron, and manage to bail out a hatch just before the Topide ships make transition. Only after the Topides have departed Vega does Khrest harshly reveal his own modification to Rhodan's scheme – he subtly altered the hyperspace transition coordinates given to the Topides so that they are jumping not to the vicinity of the fifth planet of Capella but rather “into the very core of the sun Capella. … They'll never come back!” Rhodan is stunned at the Arkonide scientist's ruthlessness – but Thora philosophically points out that the Arkonides of old did not win their empire “with well-meaning words alone” (p. 113).

* * *

Notice that the cover of the US edition above has the banner "Third Printing."  For some reason, and I've seen various information on this, the US editions from #6 to #13 were initially printed with art taken from the German covers by Johnny Bruck.  Here's the first edition cover:

In second and third printings, however, Gray Morrow art and what would become the standard design of the US editions were introduced.  My copies from this span of issues vary from one to the other.  It is my understanding that US editions #1-5, however, had Gray Morrow art from the beginning.  I may be mistaken, and have no idea what story may lie behind these variants.

Perhaps the most memorable “milestone” in this story is the unremarked (within the story) introduction of the term “New Power” to describe Perry Rhodan's new polity in the Gobi Desert. It appears on the back cover as well as on the first page of the second chapter. I call your attention to Al's comment to #6, The Secret of the Time Vault, that this is indeed one of Forrest J Ackerman's editorial changes to the series, perhaps because some critics identify the idea of a “Third Power” with the “Third Reich.” I've been unable to find the article he mentions in the comment, however. I thought perhaps it might be B. Kling, "Perry Rhodan,” Science Fiction Studies 4.2 (July 1977): 159-61 <>, that I had found some time ago, but when I found it again it is clearly not the same. Kling does beat the fascist drum pretty hard, however.

Regarding Forry's changes to the series for an American readership, Martin Hansen's letter in The Perryscope, p. 123, bears quotation: “I've seen a few of the original PR magazines and I notice some of the names of the characters are changed, for instance Reginald Bull, Crest, etc. Why is this?”

FORRY RHODAN replies: “We thought the reasoning behind the change of Crest to Khrest would be self-evident to Americans (are you perhaps an alien in disguise?): Crest would inevitably make one think of a certain well-advertised toothpastewhich shall remain nameless,hence the respelling of the Arkonide's name. Bull we changed to Bell because in the German series he is nicknamed 'Bully' (we call him Reg) and while Bully may seem perfectly sensible to German ears you must admit that it sounds a little humorous to American and could easily misconvey his character. We left Thora alone (altho [sic] that is more than we can say for Perry, who seems to have more than a passing interest in her) because our readers will automatically pronounce the 'th' sound, very few realizing that in Germany she is thought of as Tora! Tora! Tora!”

I'm not sure exactly what Rhodan hoped to accomplish with regard to the Topides by his ruse. He even alludes to it once they have jumped out of Vega: “The only question that remains is what they'll do in that deserted system, devoid of any life. Of course, they'll find out right away that they've fallen into a trap and that they've become the victims of a deceptive maneuver.” What was to keep them from jumping right back to Vega? … Well, what except Khrest's modification?! I think this twist at the end in to Khrest's character will be the most memorable aspect of this story for me.

Derringhouse's healing tank (p. 39) reminds me very much of Luke's in The Empire Strikes Back.

A couple of stylistic comments:

Perhaps in 1971 the use of the term “retarded” as on p. 27 - “The Ferrons, whom Reginald Bell now regarded as somewhat 'retarded' ...” - was considered acceptable, but it definitely is not today. Times change.

On p. 21, the Thort of Ferrol's “Counsel of Ministers” should be a “Council of Ministers.” The words are often confused but are not interchangeable.

A few more questions:

Why, after the events of the previous story, is Khrest so convinced that his quest for the planet of eternal life has failed?

Why are the Ferrons so exercised by the prospect of a sovereign Terran trading post on their world when in the just previous story they accepted the establishment of a military base? Or at least the Thort did, albeit under pressure from Rhodan. I would imagine there was more to the opposition than we saw. (But is it just me, or is this issue pretty much forgotten by the end of the book?)

Wasn't it established several stories back that the teleporters Tako and Ras have the ability to carry someone along with themselves? Why then don't they just grab Chaktor from the Topides and jump back out into space rather than have to find a hatch to physically bail out?

I hope the synopsis above makes sense.  This was, I think, the most difficult story thus far for me to summarize.

Cheers, and Ad Astra!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Perry Rhodan #6, The Secret of the Time Vault (1971)

By Clark Darlton (= German issue #12, 24 November 1961)

Chap. 1, “Rhodan 'Conquers' Galacto-City”

We take up at the instant that the undermanned Stardust II makes transition from the Vega System to Sol, with a perhaps more detailed description of the pains attendant on hyperspatial jumps than we've been given before. The spacesphere travels inward from Pluto's orbit to Earth with quite a bit of internal ruminations on the part of Perry Rhodan and company (Reginald Bell, Khrest, and Thora) with regards to the series thus far. The massive 3000-foot diameter ship makes quite a stir as it lands at Galacto-City, the center of the Third Power in the Gobi Desert, which has grown into a good-sized robotized industrial complex. Within hours of their landing, Rhodan opens a meeting in which Col. Freyt reports that Rhodan's orders transmitted by hyperwave from Vega have been carried out. A new crew has been hypnotrained to man the Stardust II, and the Mutant Corps is back from training on Venus and ready for action. Construction on Earth's own spaceships continues but is still a year away from launching the first cruiser. Politically, despite cooperation between Earth's powers, no united world government has been achieved, although Allan Mercant has unified all defense and secret services into one TDU, the Terran Defense Union. Rhodan declares his plans to return to Vega and deal with the Topides before they can make a serious search for the Earth. He also orders documentary films of their battles against the reptilian aliens distributed around the world – which has the desired effect of rallying the peoples of Earth behind him, calling for the union of all governments under the leadership of the one-time “enemy of mankind.” After eleven days, the newly-christened (by Thora, in what had to be one of the hardest actions of her life!) Stardust II launches for a test flight and wargames carrying two squadrons of 54 fighters each.

Chap. 2, “The Key to Eternal Life”

John Marshall and Dr. Haggard, along with a complement of Ferrons, are manning a secret Earth-base on the ice-moon Iridul of the 28th planet of Vega. Marshall launches on one of their almost-daily reconnaissance flights in-system, discovering that the Topides have recovered enough from their drubbing to start scouting missions in the outer system. Marshall reports this to Haggard and continues to Rofus to meet with the Ferron Thort-in-exile, who is greatly agitated. Agents on Ferrol report that the Topides are acting much more aggressively, preparing for a major offensive. He begs for Rhodan and “the Arkonides” to return. Marshall agrees to send a message to Rhodan at once, but he continues to wonder about the enigma of the Ferron matter transmitters as he makes his way back out to Iridul. Rhodan gets the hyperwave message just as the Stardust II is taking off for Vega.

After picking up Marshall and Haggard from Iridul, the Stardust II proceeds toward Rofus. Marshall reports to Rhodan that his meetings with the Thort have shed no real light on the mystery of the matter transmitters – but he has gleaned hints from the Thort's mind. The Ferrons indeed did not develop them on their own, and cannot presently build them, but plans are held in a sealed vault on Ferrol, secreted somewhere in the Red Palace and guarded by fifth-dimensional locks that only the Thort knows the secret to opening. The matter transmitters were the gift on an alien race to whom the Ferrons had rendered some great service, “beings that live longer than the sun,” native to “somewhere in the Vega system” (p. 44). Conrad Derringhouse's space fighters distract and harry the Topides, who are disconcerted that they cannot find their lost Arkonide battle cruiser. The Stardust II remains undetected as it sets down on Rofus and Rhodan lays out his plan to unleash the mutants on the Topides via the Thort's transmitter, to dishearten and drive away the reptiles with a minimum of bloodshed. He puts a delighted Bell in charge of the harassment. Then Rhodan coerces the Thort into setting about to gather what information still exists from the distant Ferron past about the beings who live longer than the sun.

Chap. 3, “To Live Longer Than the Sun”

Bell and the mutants, skillfully working together, lurk within various secret chambers and passageways within the Red Palace, and from there wreak havoc on the hapless Topide command structure and morale. For instance, the “hypno” André Noir imposes his will on Trker-Hon and others, forcing them to make insubordinate, treasonous proclamations to the consternation of Admiral Chrekt-Orn – who then finds himself spouting such words as he flies to and fro before the horrified eyes of his assembled officers, courtesy of Anne Sloan. The Topide commander is driven to seek permission via hyperwave across 800 light years from the Topide Despot to abandon and destroy Ferrol – whereupon Noir discovers that Chrekt-Orn believes that he now knows where the “right” planet is - “whose inhabitants live longer than the sun” (p. 60). The Despot orders the Topides to hold Ferrol and puts in charge a new commander, Rok-Gor, with orders to wipe out Ferron troops on Roful. That mission goes similarly awry thanks to the mutants. Ras Tschubai jumps from Topide ship to Topide ship, engaging in various acts of quick but devastating sabotage before jumping onward – until the ships turn back. As the Topides wait in fear for the arrival of the Despot's investigators, Ralph Marten “listens in” through their own eyes and ears. More psychic and telekinetic mayhem ensues. Meanwhile, Ferron guerrillas have some success.

Rhodan meets with the Ferron chief scientist Lossoshér, who confirms that “[t]he Ferrons have never been able to build the transmitters by themselves. … It was an alien race, to whom we once were able to render a great service. They made a present to us of a large number of mysterious instruments and included the instructions for building them. But we're supposed to be able to build them only when we've reached the necessary technical and ethical maturity. Therefore the plans themselves are in a vault in the Red Palace on Ferrol, protected by five-dimensional locks and a five-dimensional force screen. It's entirely impossible to penetrate this vault unless one is capable of thinking five-dimensionally and can thus find the keys to it. These are the precautions taken by the race that made this precious gift to the Ferrons. Thus the might of the transmitters can never be misused, for only those can construct them who have the required maturity” (p. 78). He goes on to reveal that the matter transmitters were actually bestowed by the second extraplanetary people to come to Ferrol. Earlier a people piloting a gigantic sphere had landed, but now a gigantic cylinder had crashed. Its people were aided (over the course of many years) and were ultimately able to depart once again, leaving their gifts. They purported to come from the tenth planet of Vega (Ferrol and Rofus are the eighth and ninth), but the Ferrons never found any trace of them there once they had developed their own space flight. In all the years they were on Ferrol, however, the aliens did not age, and answered inquiries only that they “lived longer than the sun” … with the further cryptic remark, “but the sun itself wants to prevent us from doing so” (p. 81).

Chap. 4, “The Greatest Secret of the Universe”

As the Topides made preparations for the Despot's inquisitors, Rhodan secretly transmits to the Red Palace and with the aid of the mutants finds the vault – or rather where the vault should be according to the “seer” Wuriu Sengu. No one else can see it – it is hidden by a five-dimensional cloak that even Tako Kakuta cannot penetrate through teleportation. Rhodan determines to consult the electronic brain of the Stardust II.

When the Topide investigators arrive, Bell and the mutants treat them – and the Despot observing via hyperwave – to the same treatment given Chrekt-Orn and company, only more so. After Rok-Gor is killed, the Despot places Chrekt-Orn back in charge, with the ultimatum that he finish out the Vega campaign with success or return to Topid for execution. Nevertheless, Chrekt-Orn orders a mass evacuation of Ferrol.

Chap. 5, “The Infinity Box”

The Topides do not leave Vega, however. Rather they retreat to the 40th planet and dig in on its six moons.

Rhodan finally confronts the Thort and demands the secret of opening the vault, bluntly threatening to abandon the Vega system altogether, leaving the Ferrons to the tender mercies of the Topides if he does not cooperate. The Thort gives in. The key is a formula: “Dimension X=pentagon of space-time simultan” (p. 103). Rhodan also “negotiates” the establishment of an Earth base on Ferrol, then goes off to consult the positronic super-brain as to what the key means.

After the return to Ferrol and the establishment of “Rhodan's first galactic base” (p. 105), Rhodan reveals to Khrest and Thora that the positronic brain has cracked the formula. “The five-dimensionally secured vault is in reality a quite normal four-dimensional affair. The documents do exist, but not in the present time – that is the fourth-dimensional factor of the mystery. The protective shield consists of transformed radiowaves of far distant radio stars – well, simply cosmic rays. Add to that some technical tricks, effects created by bending light rays, and naturally existing energy walls. All these obstacles can be rendered ineffective when certain events occur at the 'simultan' instant.” To bring about these “certain events,” Rhodan proposes to “use my mutants. Tanako Seiko is a natural-born detection finder. He can receive normal radiowaves sent by intelligent living beings and understand them. But in addition to that, he can also receive the waves emanating from the radio stars – the same waves that form the energy screen around the secret vault. If he succeeds in deflecting them, we'll gain unhindered access to the documents, which will simultaneously be brought to the present time. … Tanaka won't be able to manage by himself, but together with several other mutants it will be possible, thanksto the fact that their individual gifts can be combined in their effect when the mutants touch each other or hold hands. I'll need a telekinetic and a teleporter and, of course, also Sengu, who will announce when the barrier collapses” (pp.106-7) Rhodan does gain access to the Time Vault – a task which almost ends in disaster for Ras Tschubai who is briefly lost in time when Anne Sloane collapses under the strain of diverting the cosmic rays. Inside the cube found therein, Rhodan finds the plans for the matter transmitters, but decides that the time is not yet right to actually build them. He also finds documents written in an encoded form of the ancient Arkonide language. Khrest undertakes the translation of these while Rhodan dispatches a message to Earth that he will remain in the Vega System for an indefinite period.

* * *
This volume marks an important event. Approximately a year passed between the publication of #5 and #6 due to “international contractual transactions” (p. 7). But Forrest J. Ackerman now announces a new monthly publication schedule in a new format, which he calls alternatively a “magabook” or a “bookazine” complete with the editorial from which I drew this information (signed “Forry Rhodan”), illustrations by “exciting new 'find,' Bill Nelson” (p. 8), letters pages entitled “The Perryscope” (which this issue contains a letter [p. 125] by Dwight R. Decker, most recently the translator of Perry Rhodan: Lemuria vol. 1, Star Ark by Frank Borsch [FanPro, November 2006] [this most recent effort to reignite Perry Rhodan publication in the United States fizzled out with that one book]), and Ackerman's own science fiction film review feature, “Scientifilm World.”  Unremarked in the editorial there was also the introduction of chapter titles – as I comment in a previous post, these were created for the English translation by Ackerman himself; a list of major characters on the first page; a “series colophon” (above left); and a teaser for the next issue, “The Ship of Things to Come.” (I can see why some science fiction fans, unenchanted with “4SJ's” bad puns and neologisms, would find the worth of the entire series diminished.  Add the pompous "Peacelord of the Universe" title ...  I can only take so much myself.)  And there were chapter end blurbs such as “50 adventures from now you will meet The Blue Dwarf!” Of course, the promise that “400 adventures from now you will experience Danger from the Sun!” went unfulfilled.

Acknowledging that it had been an extended period since the publication of #5, this issue has a bit more fully written expository material near the beginning, which I suspect was introduced by the translator. However, my own suspicion that it was at this point that what had been the “Third Power” became the “New Power” as in The Wasp Men Attack proves unfounded. I read somewhere that “New Power” is one of Ackerman's changes – is that indeed the case or is there such a shift at some point in the German original as well, explained within the stories themselves?

Perhaps related to the new contract governing English translation and publication, starting with this issue Waltern Ernsting's pen-name “Clark Darlton” will be used, even though Ernsting continues to be identified under his real name as one of the co-creators of Perry Rhodan. Whichever name is used, I still find Ernsting/Darlton the most engaging of the writers, even in translation. One point I previously made is that his characters seem more fully developed, with a more humorous air – this we see full tilt as Bell's mischievous nature is unleashed without restraint upon the hapless Topides. It's very much in keeping with what we witnessed in #1(b), The Third Power, albeit with less tragic results – at least for humans.

The humano- or anthropocentric bias of the series overall is still very much in evidence. Rhodan does everything for the good of humans – even the humanoid but blue-skinned Ferrons seem a lesser breed in his eyes. Both the Terrans and the Ferrons routinely refer to the Topides as “lizards.” But at two points in this book we see an interesting contrast to this attitude. First, from (the humanoid alien Arkonide) Khrest in response to Bell's disbelief that a peace treaty would even be possible:

“The intelligent races of the universe come in many different shapes; that doesn't mean they're better or worse than we are. The Arkonides have concluded friendly deals with spider-type creatures. Our best friends belong to an aquatic race living in the oceans of a watery world. No, my friend, the outer appearance is not what matters. Only character should count.”

“Do the Topides have any character?”

“Everyone has a character …. Sometimes the character is good, sometimes it's bad. That's the only difference.” (pp. 27-8)

Perhaps Rhodan contemplates these words through the course of the adventure (although we see no evidence of it along the way). At the very end, he suggests that some “amicable arrangement” might be reached with Chrekt-Orn, who “seems to be a sensible man.”

Bell takes exception to this: “Man! … How can you call that lizard a man?”

“You must learn to think in galactic terms, Reg …. What does it matter what an intelligent life form looks like if we want to remove the barriers between us. I don't doubt but what you're not exactly a beauty in the eyes of the topides, Reg ….” Which gives birth to some good-natured teasing of Bell by his friends, closing out the story.

There was one question that bugged me throughout the reading of this story, that went unanswered (technically) until p. 101. Only there does Rhodan reveal that the plans for the matter transmitters that he had extorted from the Thort in the previous story, which had been so much a plot point there, were nothing more than skillful forgeries – something obvious to the reader long before that point but that I thought the heroes (and writer) did not remember or realize. Given Rhodan's promise to use the automated manufacturing capability of the Third Power to produce a number of transmitters that he would bring back, and the idea that his plans for opposing the Topides dependded on such a multiplicity of transmitters, it was odd that this was never mentioned at all most of the way through the story, especially when the Stardust II arrived on Earth. There are times when logical story-telling seems to break down, which I believe is due to the plotting-by-committee then writing-by-individuals nature of the series. It had (has?) to be hard to keep the continuity and consistency straight. But to draw my oft-used comparison, it makes me think of the creative process by which comic books are written, especially “families” of titles like the Batman “universe.” Similar lapses of consistency and continuity are inevitable.

“Weak sister” Anne Sloane once again swoons into Perry Rhodan's arms during the climactic opening of the Time Vault – nearly leading to the loss of Ras Tschubai. Rhodan promptly deposits her into Reg Bell's care.

Another point of (mis-)translation that I discovered in trying to figure out a question I had regarding Cedric Beust's English summary of Perry Rhodan nr. 12, Das Geheimnis der Zeitgruft – the other summary linked to as usual at the end of my own – is that the “Topides” in the English Perry Rhodan series were originally the “Topsiders” in German. Beust preserves this in his summary.  I can definitely see why this minor change was introduced - "Topsiders?  On the top side of what?"

Besides the couple of recurring art pieces shown above, here are a couple of representative examples of the art pages that were introduced into the series with this volume:

 Perhaps I'm overly harsh, but I'm not impressed so far and hope the quality improves in future installments. 

But reference to the interior art brings to mind that I've never yet commented on the cover art. First, I find some of the cover art of the English translations downright gorgeous – but then I've always been a bit of a fan of the work of Gray Morrow. You can read more about this three-time Hugo Award winning illustrator here on Wikipedia and see some examples of his comic book art here . Unfortunately many or most of his Perry Rhodan covers have little or nothing to do with the stories themselves. Nevertheless, the image of the hero himself that graces #50 and which I used to create the banner for this blog is for me iconic. It will forever be how I envision Perry Rhodan. And the cover to #70, Thora's Sacrifice will forever shape my image of the haughty Arkonide princess.  Although the attire is not all that flattering, it reminds me of Princess Projectra from the Legion of Super-Heroes.  And some other of Morrow's women … wow! (On the cover of #59 may well be Thora as well, not looking quite so haughty.)

But Gray Morrow did not provide cover art for all of the English translations. I'm not sure of the reason, but several early volumes that I haven't gotten to yet instead duplicated the original German art (sometimes not of the corresponding German issue, however). That art was, as I understand it, during this early period of the series the work of Johnny Bruck. You can of course see examples at the top of each of my postings. A German-language page about Bruck may be found here . There seems to have been something of an effort to make the cover art match some element of the story, at least in concept, but not always. I find his style overall very reminiscent of the art of such American pulp magazine cover artists as Walter Baumhofer, the usual artist for Doc Savage Magazine. Here's an example pulled at random.

Which do I prefer? Well, as my old drunken mentor would often say, (mumble). Seriously, I like them both. Were I forced to choose, however, I would (barely) go with Bruck, simply because it's the original and because, well, after all, the original German Perry Rhodan is indeed a pulp magazine series.

* * *

I would like to return a plug given me by a Brazilian Perry Rhodan fan, César Maciel. I was playing around with Blogger the other day, checking out something called “Stats,” and discovered that among all kinds of other information it gives data on how people have come across my blog. You can trace back to the referring page. Which brought me to the Blog de César Maciel: Um pouco sobre mim e muito sobre “Perry Rhodan”, a maior série de ficção cientifica do mundo. It is in Portuguese, but I find that Google Chrome's internal translator renders Portuguese into much more readable English than it does German. It probably has something to do with word order and syntax. Anyway, even without a translator you can see that Perry Rhodan is something central to Maciel's blog. And it is indeed a treasure trove of information and ruminations on the series and what it means to a Brazilian fan. About a month ago he took notice of my own blog, and since I've discovered his I've been having a lot of fun. Thanks, César!

Wow. This was a long post!

Ad Astra!

* * *

Note:  Sorry for the really weird, whompy-joed formatting in places.  I've been playing with images in this post.  The results are definitely not to my satisfaction and I doubt I'll ever get this ambitious again.  Live and learn!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

More to come....

I just want to post a "placeholder" here to let anyone who comes across this blog know that despite the sudden lapse in postings a couple of weeks ago, there is more to come. I've not quit already! Life gets in the way.

I'm not going to bore you with the details, but a couple of weeks ago my brother and I discovered that our mother and grandmother have been victimized by a pretty significant embezzlement/identity theft, and have been dealing with the financial (and emotional, since it was perpetrated by another, very trusted and beloved family member) fallout. I ask for your patience and prayers, and promise to get back to the Project as soon as I can.

- Kent

Friday, March 4, 2011

Perry Rhodan #5(b), Mutants in Action (1970)

By Kurt Mahr (= German issue #11, 17 November 1961)

After flying the crippled Good Hope to a remote desert base on Rofus as directed by the Ferron ruler, the Thort, where the ship can be better hidden away, Perry Rhodan finds that he has furthermore been given command of that base! He meets with the Ferron commander Hopthman and outlines his plan to use matter transmitters to invade Ferrol itself and capture the Arkonide battleship. It is known that there is a transmitter in the Red Palace on Ferrol that has gone undiscovered by the invading Topides, but it is not properly attuned to any transmitter to which they have access therefore cannot be currently used. The logistics are eased when a resistance movement on Ferrol, the Sicha mountain-people, manage to transmit a message cylinder to Rofus, letting their presence be known and requesting aid and direction. Rhodan dispatches Klein and Derringhous piloting the two Arkonide fighters on a reconnaissance and harassment mission against to Topides on Ferrol. Unfortunately they find that the Arkonide battleship, berthed at the Ferron capital Thorta's spaceport, has better tracking and fire control than they believed when it manages to score a glancing hit on Derringhouse's fighter. As he himself ejects, Derringhouse orders Klein to get back to Rhodan with their reconnaissance.

There follow parallel story-lines. Using Klein's reconnaissance, Rhodan finalizes his plans. He and his mutants plus a force of about thirty of the Good Hope's crew and 45 Arkonide fighter-robots pass through the matter transmitter to the Sicha hideout and make contact with Kekeler, leader of the Sicha resistance. They concoct a plan to move from Sic-Horum, the Sichas' capital, to Thorta. Meanwhile, Derringhouse, although hampered somewhat by Ferrol's forty percent higher gravity than earth's (which Rhodan and his men are able to ameliorate using Arkonide travel suits), makes his way toward the Ferron town nearest his landing site in a forested area. He manages to passably disguise himself by means of evenly applied “blueberry” juice-stains on his skin plus native clothing “borrowed” from a lone native (who will unfortunately wake up naked). In the town, Derringhouse first encounters an old Ferron man who directs him to a tavern, emphasizing that he should tell his son, the tavern-keeper, that Perk'la sent him. That son, Teel, accepts and feeds “Deri,” then takes him into a back room – where he is greeted by a small force of Ferrons with weapons drawn. Derringhouse identifies himself to Teel and his men as an Arkonide, from the sphere that had appeared and given aid to the Ferron defenders but then suffered damage and an emergency landing on Rofus. Teel and his group are an independent resistance movement. Derringhouse starts to work with them.

Not knowing of each others' activities, Rhodan and Derringhouse both end up working their way toward Thorta over a period of a couple of weeks, as Klein continues his strafing harassment of the Topides. This latter, unfortunately, provokes reprisals in the form of bombardments of Ferron cities on Rofus, disheartening the Thort. Rhodan manages to steal a matter transmitter from a Ferron post office (!) and sends Tako Kakuta into the Red Palace where the Topides have established their own headquarters to tune the secret transmitter there to the correct frequency to link the two. Working along similar lines, Derringhouse penetrates the Red Palace, hoping to use the transmitter to call in help from the desert fortress on Rofus. He and Tako end up discovering each other.

Knowledge of Teel's independent resistance group simplifies Rhodan's plans and allows him to consolidate his own forces for the capture of the battleship rather than dividing them to provide a diversion. Using the various mutants' abilities for scouting and diversion, Rhodan captures the Topide commander Chrekt-Orn and influences him by means of the psychoradiator to have the battleship moved to a berth on the edge of the spaceport and emptied of crew so new weapons can be installed. Unfortunately, Chrekt-Orn's own subordinates question his actions – very much against the basic Topide mentality – and the plan is almost scuttled. Rhodan and his force do manage to take the ship, but he is forced to abandon his intention of taking Chrekt-Orn as a prisoner. On the other hand, he does capture a squad of Topide guards sent back aboard the battleship at the last minute. The matter transmitter is quickly installed on the captured ship and Rhodan brings his full (albeit spare in numbers for a battleship crew) complement of men and robots through from Rofus. Just in time, as Chrekt-Orn's subordinate orders a full-scale attack on the battleship – to destroy it rather than let it be lost – it lifts off.

To Thora's astonishment, Rhodan does not make a break for interstellar space but rather heads to Rofus, to relieve the bombardment of their new allies there. He makes a risky hyperjump directly from Ferrol to Rofus orbit, returning to the refuge of the desert base. There, Rhodan lays out his plan to the Thort. He knows that, with the loss of their primary super-weapon, the Topides will be forced to an all-out attack. He plans to use the Arkonide battleship to inflict such losses on the Topides that they will take some time to recover – time that will allow him to return to earth to fill out a full crew. He also lays out a strategy for winning the war that requires deploying batteries of new transmitter stations in such numbers that the Ferrons cannot manufacture enough. To meet that need, he wheedles out of the Thort full technical data and schematics so that the Arkonide-based automated manufacturing plants of the Third Power can build them as quickly as necessary. The Thort reluctantly agrees to giving up this state secret to Rhodan. When the Topide attack comes, Rhodan and Bell employ what the latter calls “a game of hyperspace leap-frog” (p. 186) to keep the enemy from concentrating their own fire on the Arkonide battleship, which systematically decimates them with disintegrator fire. It is a total rout.

On the way out of the Vega system, Rhodan detours to Iridul, a moon of the twenty-eighth planet, where he deposits a secret base with supplies and equipment for future use. Interrogation of the Topide prisoners confirms what Rhodan had suspected, that the Topides had come to Vega in the belief that here was the source of the Arkonide distress signal, therefore a planet capable of taking out an Arkonide cruiser. Earth was saved from discovery – this time – by a simple error of calculation. As they jump for earth, “Bell mutter[s] to himself, 'It's too beautiful a region to leave to the lizards. We'll be coming back!'” (p. 189)

Another synopsis may be found at


The original German issue appeared the day before I did. I was born on Saturday 18 November 1961. And every Friday thereafter (I presume – the math seems to work out), down to today (I'm actually writing this on Friday 4 March 2011), there has been a new Perry Rhodan adventure. That is mind-boggling. And I guess, if nothing else, it means I could always know how many weeks old I am! The current issue is #2585, minus ten previous issues equals 2,575 weeks. Wow. (Interestingly, the official website from which I'm getting the original publication dates currently is in error as to today's date, listing it as “Fr., 3. März 2011” - .)

Apparently my impression that a ship must accelerate to near light speed to jump and cannot jump to or from near a planetary body or BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN is mistaken, at least to a degree. Or the authors are already engaging in the time-honored tradition of breaking their own “rules” for story-telling purposes. Whichever, Rhodan hyperjumps basically from orbit around Ferrol to orbit around Rofus – a stunt which does admittedly make Khrest break out in a sweat and which he calls “reckless” (p. 178).

I love it! - the Arkonides are basically described as human-appearing although having somewhat albinoid characteristics. Now we find that the Ferrons are near enough to human appearance that Derringhouse can basically just stain his skin blue with “blueberry juice” and pass for a native! I'm reminded of an issue of the old Legion of Super-Heroes in Adventure Comics (#369, June 1968), where the blue-skinned Shadow Lass is hiding out in Smallville, disguised as a human by simply applying (human) flesh-colored cosmetics. The game is almost up when some smears off her arm – alerting the other students that something's not quite kosher with their new classmate. But quick thinking on Clark's part squirts blue ink from his old-style fountain pen on the face of one of the students, allaying their suspicions! Of course, in the Perry Rhodan universe these humanoid aliens are basically the good guys (at least so far as we've seen) – not so the “wasp-men” Mind Snatchers, the “lizard” Topides, or the whatever-the-hell-they-are Fantan!

Interestingly, the Ferron have technical information and schematics as well as the ability to manufacture matter transmitters although the science upon which they are based is far beyond their own technological level – based on their “inherent” inability to comprehend “fifth-dimensional math” it would seem beyond their very comprehension. The matter transmitter technology itself is beyond even the Arkonides' development. I guess given the proper plans they could duplicate the machine itself without understanding it. But where did it come from in the first place? I'm sure we'll find out sooner rather than later – probably sooner, given Khrest's conviction in the previous story that it comes from the same race as his planet of eternal life, which it seems to me will be found fairly soon in the series. They are making too much of it, and Khrest was furthermore already convinced it is in the Vega system. Note that the title of Ace #13 is The Immortal Unknown. Anyway, now earth has access to this technology that even the Arkonides lack. Thora has to admire Rhodan's ability to do the seeming impossible even as it alarms her: “One of these days you're going to convince me that you could become dangerous to Arkon itself – in which case I'll probably put some hemlock in your wine!” (p. 183). Aw yeah, she's falling for him!

Cheers, and Ad Astra!