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, May 25, 2011

Perry Rhodan #11, The Planet of the Dying Sun (1972)

By Kurt Mahr (= German #17, Friday 29 December 1961)

Chap. 1, “Star Stride”

The Stardust II floats in space, location unknown. Only 56 lonely stars are visible in a sea of blackness. Perry Rhodan takes a pursuit ship out for a reconnaissance flight. Fairly quickly, he loses contact with the Stardust, which shines starlike in the void behind him. Turning and racing back toward the ship, he notices an unexplained gravitational flux drawing him off course. He then realizes something that had been nagging at him – given his distance from the space-sphere, with no local sun, he should not be able to see it at all. There is no apparent source for the light reflecting off its hull. As he approaches, the communicator cuts back in and he lands safely. To the mystery of their location is added these new puzzles.

Meanwhile, Khrest has been using the positronic computer brain at the core of the Stardust to analyze their situation and the search for the world of eternal life thus far:

Is it reasonable to proceed step by step on the dangerous search for the civilization which knows the secret of cell conservation? …. The unknown civilization will share its knowledge only with those who prove by selective rules to have superior culture. (85.179% probability.) ….

What is the nature of the selective rules? …. The unknown civilization knows other selective rules besides scientific and technical topics. (100% probability.) ….

Which selective rules will we face on our search? …. All tests (selective rules) of scientific and technical nature have been concluded by the seekers. (52.112% probability.) (p. 19)

During a visionary trance in his cabin, the electromagnetically-sensitive Tanaka Seiko writes out a message in the language of the Unknown Immortal:

IF YOU, WHO DARES, ARE PATIENT AND DO NOT SUCCUMB TO TEMPTATION, WATCH FOR THE WORLD OF HIGHER ORDER. THE LIGHT IS NOT FAR AWAY. (Illegible letters, 91.998% probability for accuracy of translation.) (p. 23)

As he ponders the meaning of this, Rhodan is called to the Command Center, where suddenly the normal view of a star-strewn galaxy has reappeared. They are not in a void at all, but rather had been surrounded by some kind of cloaking field. They are near a small Mars-like planet orbiting a red dwarf star.

Chap. 2, “World of Mystery & Menace”

They land on the planet they call Vagabond. The similarities to Mars extend even to the iron-oxide redness of its sands. Soon after touchdown, strange happenings begin aboard the ship. Equipment moves of its own accord as if by telekinetic manipulation, but none of the mutants are behind it. The brainwave-pattern detecting mutant Fellmer Lloyd canvasses the entire ship but detects no alien mind at work. Another mystery.

Rhodan, Major Derringhouse, and Lieutenant Tanner set off with five-man crews each in three aero-cars to scout the local terrain. Rhodan feels drawn to the low hills about fifty miles from their landing site. But the aero-cars are also bedeviled by strange happenings. At the end of the 21-hour Vagabond day, they pitch camps. Soon after, they observe a group of strange animals nearby, feeding off the sparse vegetation. Their appearance, that of three-foot mice with the tails of beavers, immediately gives rise to the term, “mouse-beavers.” Lloyd detects no intelligence among them. Back in his tent, Rhodan realizes that his portable telecom is missing. He has just left his tent to alert the guard to the apparent intrusion when his tent explodes behind him! A large crater gapes where his tent had stood, but no men are injured. Subsequent investigation indicates it was a simple gunpowder blast. There are found also mysterious knobby tracks leading away from the camp. Rhodan and Derringhouse follow the tracks to where they suddenly end, near where they recover Rhodan's telecom discarded to the side.

Chap. 3, “The Danger Deepens”

Believing that the hills hold the clues they are seeking, Rhodan moves the camp to the center of the hilly area. From that base they start a systematic survey. Rhodan and Derringhouse head south. Their grav-meter detects a weak, variable gravitational source which they investigate. They find a small, glittering sphere floating in the hills - “'Damn it! Do we have light bodies here, too?' Derringhouse cussed” (p. 51). Suddenly their aero-car starts spinning like a top, throwing the two men about inside before it comes to rest nose-down on end in the sand. The assault ended, they set about righting the 'car, a process that almost ends in disaster when some force almost topples it onto Derringhouse. As they race away from the area, Rhodan ponders the occurrence. He believes they were seized by a rotating gravitational field rather than a telekinetic force.

Back at the camp, they discover that Lloyd has absconded with one of the other aero-cars. Following the mutant's flight path, they find his wrecked vehicle a half hour away. Near it is the dead body of a mouse-beaver. But there is no sign of Lloyd himself, other than tracks disappearing up a nearby hill. Backtracking the mouse-beaver's trail from the point it had been killed, Derringhouse finds a “mouse-hole” - then glimpses a half-buried smashed sphere like had attacked himself and Rhodan. Thee is another trail of round impressions leading away for some distance, only to end just as the other trail they had found.

Searchers find Lloyd after another hour, unharmed but exhausted. Back at camp, he is put to bed. Rhodan converses with Bell aboard the Stardust, who reports than more strange occurrences have taken place. Pondering the events as he waits for Lloyd to recover enough to be interrogated, Rhodan realizes that the alien adversary is slowly getting more skilled in its telekinetic manipulations, learning by trial and error. But some things do not add up. Why the simple gunpowder explosive where there is such proficiency in telekinesis?

When Lloyd comes to, Rhodan meets with him in a storage tent doubling as an infirmary. They have barely begun conversing when Rhodan notices something strange about Lloyd. He reacts quickly and barely avoids being shot by the mutant, being forced to kill him in self-defense. The medic's examination of the body quickly establishes that this is not Lloyd at all, but rather an android duplicate, with only one detail wrong. Rhodan had spotted the absence of a small bald-spot on the back of the head and thus survived the assassination attempt.

Chap. 4, “The Mad Bomb”

Against all their expectations, Lloyd himself (complete with bald-spot) staggers into the camp the next morning. As soon as possible, Rhodan interrogates him. The mutant relates how his aero-car had failed and crashed near the already-dead mouse-beaver, just in time to witness the sphere hovering closely over it to be grabbed by some force that smashed it to the ground. He had fled on foot but something knocked him out from behind. He came to in an underground machine hall. After a time lying helpless on a type of examination table, he witnessed a number of weird, short, multi-armed bipedal robots working all around him. He ultimately managed to escape, find his way to the surface, and back to the camp. He reports two distinct, almost contradictory brainwave-pattern: “[o]ne indicating a fantastic, almost ridiculous urge to play and another revealing such a deep hatred that it makes my had hurt. Hatred against the enemy, hatred against the intruder and hatred against everything that doesn't belong here” (p. 70).

Rhodan summons reinforcements and heads out to find an invade the machine hall. They know they're getting close when some force seizes the lead cars and starts them spinning although they manage to land safely. The men continue afoot toward the hill under which Lloyd is convinced he had been examined. A single gunpowder grenade lands among them, but no one is hurt thanks to their Arkonide combat suits' force fields. Then some force seizes two men and carries them off through the air, ultimately to fall to their deaths some distance away. All the while, Lloyd detects the profound hatred. Suddenly an earthquake strikes. Rhodan seizes the opportunity to dash toward the hill where Lloyd manages to locate the entrance and lead them into the hall as he had described it. But it now appears to be deserted. He can no longer feel the hostile brainwaves. They find fifteen of the stumpy robots collapsed before a damaged apparatus that reminds Rhodan of a cyclotron. Taking the dead robots for study aboard the Stardust, they exit the hall – to find the sun in the wrong part of the sky altogether.

The Stardust's monitors reveal that a convulsion in Vagabond's dwarf-star sun had triggered a shift in the planets very axis, with the resultant earthquake. A similar gravitic shock wave doubtless explained at least the shifting gravity field Rhodan had encountered during his reconnaissance flight.

Rhodan ponders how to proceed as his technicians analyze the robots. Then a dangerous situation develops as an “Arkon Bomb,” the most devastating weapon in existance, able to wipe out a planet, breaks free of its rack and floats through the ship toward an airlock and outside. Rhodan and the mutants Tama Yokida and Tako Kakuta barely manage to intercept and gain control of it, returning it safely to the arsenal. Against the vociferous objections of Khrest and Thora, Rhodan outfits a larger expedition of ten aero-cars loaded with various equipment and weapons. To Bell's inquiry as to what his plan is, Rhodan replied, “We're going to play a little game with the strangers but this time we're going to choose the time and place, where it isn't so hazardous for us” (p. 89).

Chap. 5, “Rhodan's Revelation”

They set up the various equipment, all of which are complicated in their use and should occupy the alien mind for a while, near the camp. Rhodan means “to offer him some entertainment close to home in the hope that he [will] be distracted from the Stardust. If he [can] be lured to play with the gadgets displayed, they might – with luck – be able to capture him” (p. 91). Meanwhile, analysis of Rhodan's telecom reveals that it had been stolen by one of the robots, not an organic being as he had expected. C14 dating has also shown that the robots are tens of thousands of years old. In the night, Lloyd detects the hate-filled brainwaves approaching. Five spheres attack. When psycho-beamers prove useless, disintegrators make short work of them – and as the spheres are picked off Lloyd feels the hatred progressively diminishing. Then, when morning comes, Lloyd feels the playful mental emissions just as the “toys” Rhodan had left start behaving in typically mysterious fashion. One of the sentries detects a mouse-beaver digging up from below the ground in the midst of the equipment. It emerges to examine the various pieces. Then a small refrigeration unit starts to float, apparently at the direction of the animal, which follows it back down the hole. Rhodan and a force of his men follow into an underground tunnel.

Soon after, Bell contacts Tanner who had remained at the camp:

The technicians have disassembled and examined the robots. Although their bodies are mechanical structures, their brains are of organic growth with infinitely lasting life. The mental processes of the robots are, therefore, on a par with other organic beings.

By any comparison they excel in a complicated memory bank. We have so far succeeded in deciphering two items.

First: robots received orders to attack immediately any alien invading this world and to annihilate same by any and all means.

Second: there exists a total of twenty robots on this world. The last data about organically grown beings go back forty thousand Vagabond years, corresponding to thirty-five thousand Terrestrial years” (p. 99).

Tanner passes this on to Rhodan, who is not at all surprised.

Over the course of several hours, Rhodan and his men crawl several miles underground, eventually emerging in a cavern at the center of which is suspended a brightly shining disc. It is a model of the Milky Way Galaxy, which Rhodan's men record before it dissolves. The cavern is shrouded in darkness, but now a number of exits upward can be seen, visible through which is the dim light of the stars in Vagabond's night sky. Examination of the cavern itself reveals it to be the lair of a band of mouse-beavers which are currently outside feeding. Rhodan and his men climb out of the cavern, which they find to lie under one of the many broad, low hills that dot this area of Vagabond.

Back aboard the Stardust, Rhodan sums up their findings. Their challenge here on Vagabond had been to determine that there were indeed two intelligences, and which of them held the key to their continuing the quest. Rather than a single intelligence with conflicting emotions, there was the hostile, hate-filled robots with organic brains, left by a dying race to guard the remains of their civilization. The spheres were some kind of transportation for them, but they could themselves both walk (hence the knobby tracks) and fly a short distance (hence the disappearance of the tracks). And there was the mouse-beavers – which exhibit only intermittent intelligence that appeared only during the hours of daylight, along with parapsychological, telekinetic abilities. The fifteen “dead” robots are simply powerless due to the destruction of their power generator during the earthquake. The remaining five must have been powered by a separate source. They were as willing to use “simple” technology such as gunpowder as well as more complex robotic impersonation to try to accomplish their destructive imperative. Second, study of the three-dimensional galactic map found in the mouse-beaver cavern has revealed not only their own location, a “mere” 2,400 light-years from Sol and Vega, but also the location of what Rhodan believes to be the World of Eternal Life.

Ten days later, the Stardust launches to continue its quest, first heading toward Vega to report in. As they leave, Rhodan is still puzzled by two mysteries going back to his reconnaissance flight: What caused his telecom to fail? Why could he not see the sun of Vagabond directly but could clearly perceive its light reflected off the hull of the Stardust?

* * *

As far as I've been able to find, there was never a Gray Morrow cover for the American edition. I am in possession of the second printing (1974) which retains Johnny Bruck's art from the German original. If someone knows otherwise, please let me know. All of the alien landscapes so far, I believe, look more like the moon than anything else, don't they?

On the contents page, a mysterious title “Rohan - ?!” appears in the place the Preface should have been listed. I have no idea what that's all about.  Maybe somebody had been reading The Lord of the Rings....

The Preface “From the Captain of the Stardust 4E” is really entitled “Stardust Meloday” … Forrest J Ackerman then has to explain his own neologism/pun: “A 'meloday' is a good day, a mellow one” (p. 7). Even were that somewhat clever, having to explain your own wit is never a good sign. As far as substance goes, the preface is basically a report of the grateful letters received since Rhodan and his pals have returned, focusing on one from as far away as Buenos Aires, by one Hector Pessina.

The column “Scientifilm World” promotes a new film that Ackerman has seen that will be released soon – Silent Running (1972). I've only ever seen this once that I recall, on television sometime in the early to mid 1970s. I recall not liking it at all, but I might have been too young to appreciate it.

The Perryscope” proclaims that “The mailman on Spaceborn Drive just quit” (p. 121) after tipping the scales to over a hundred pounds a day of fan mail by adding his own letter to the pile. Ackerman proposed as a solution to provide the hapless mailman with an antigravity belt. Then follows a sampling of the mail, including one missive that castigates the Ackermans – Forrest J for his bad puns as well as the general adolescent (the letter-writer's term) tone of the books, and Wendayne for a bad translation job and writing style. Not unpredictably, Ackerman devoted a great deal of space – about a page and a half – to refuting the criticisms. He concentrates on justifying his wife's credentials, but I get the feeling that it was the criticism of the general tone that really struck a nerve. In my opinion, that is indeed the more valid aspect of the criticisms, which are not (if what Ackerman printed is representative) put forward in the most diplomatic terms. I don't find the writing itself that bad – in general. It must be remembered that this is based on German pulp fiction – written quickly, considered disposable. But although I will always be grateful to Forrest J Ackerman as the driving force in giving me and so many others the opportunity to at least taste the greatness that is Perry Rhodan (witness my dedication at the top of this page), believe you me that the puns and childishness do get a bit tiresome. It's easy to understand why many readers never could get past them and thus dismissed the series out of hand. And in fact – and here there is of course no way for me to know for sure – I suspect that some of the worse aspects of the writing itself are owed to FJA himself more so than to his wife. I don't think I'm alone in that assessment.

* * *

Here we see introduced the “Arkon Bomb!” “Weapons which had the capacity to cause an unextinguishable atomic conflagration of all elements above the atomic number 10 and of any other chosen element by setting the trigger of the bomb for the specific selection.” I get that they were wanting to ratchet up the sense of threat when one is seized by the mysterious force (wow! They felt the need to?), but doesn't "all elements above the atomic number 10" make the very next paragraph redundant? - “The bomb triggers in arsenal Deck E were set for 26. Atomic number 26 – iron. There was more iron present in the Stardust than in a steel mill! The ship was doomed if the bomb exploded!” (pp. 82-83) Anyway, I well remember this horrific weapon of mass destruction, the image of unstoppable atomic fire devouring a planet. It's one of the things that stuck with me from my original reading. If I recall correctly, Rhodan and company made pretty free use of them.... But about that name: “Arkon Bomb”? It has to be a Terran term. I mean, if it had been developed by humans would we have called it an “Earth Bomb”? Or maybe the Arkonides were that arrogant.

I think the interior artist, one Sandy Huffaker (perhaps this Sandy Huffaker, early in what would be a distinguished career as a political cartoonist? [note:  an email exchange has confirmed that this is indeed the artist - 26 May 2011 - isn't the internet great!]) took the prose description of the stumpy robots a bit too literally. From the second, slightly better, descripion: “They consisted mainly of a bulky midsection in the form of an ellipsoid and were made of a gray metallic substance. Below the ellipsoid extended two short stumps of legs without feet. The upper end had a rotating ring with short arms. The contraption was about twenty inches high, standing up...” (p. 78).

(p. 69)

Do we ever get a good explanation for what compelled Fellmer Lloyd to commandeer the aero-car and strike out on his own? All I know of is the “Lloyd-bot's” testimony that he felt he could accomplish his task of finding the alien intelligence better by getting away on his own. When the real Lloyd starts telling his story, he starts with his aero-car experiencing trouble and going down.

Next up:  The Rebels of Tuglan by Clark Darlton.

Cheers, and Ad Astra!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Perry Rhodan #10, The Ghosts of Gol (1971)

By Kurt Mahr (= German issue #16, Friday 22 December 1961)

Chap. 1, “Spooky Phenomena”

Eight auxiliary space spheres, nicknamed “Guppies,” launch from the Stardust II to distribute themselves throughout the Vega System with space-time structural sensors scanning for disturbances. Meanwhile, Perry Rhodan has to deal yet again with the Arkonides' timidity. He gives Khrest and Thora a choice – accompany him continuing the quest for the secret of eternal life or not, but they must decide! Guppy #5, near the fifteenth planet, starts experiencing spatial oscillations that set the very hull to droning and blows out the structural sensor. They did manage to get a lock on the source, however – the fourteenth planet of Vega.

As Thora and Khrest prepare to give Rhodan their decision, the three are interrupted by the metal cartridge retrieved from the distant past of Ferrol gives off a blazing light and basically evaporates before their eyes. In quick succession, Rhodan gets the report from Commander Chaney of Guppy #5 as well as the electromagnetically sensitive mutant Tanaka Seiko's report of the message he perceived at the same time: “You shall come now. … Remember the warning! Continue your search where the disturbance occurs. … Do not come without the higher knowledge! Nobody will help you, only the mountain will pulsate for you” (pp. 20-21). Rhodan orders an almost immediate launch for planet fourteen – then remembers Khrest and Thora. Khrest laughs and says they had decided to accompany him.

Chap. 2, “Perils of Gol”

Vega 14 is a monstrous gas giant three times the diameter of Jupiter but with an enormous density, and therefore an even more monstrously enormous gravity and atmospheric pressure at its surface – 916 g's and 50,000 atmospheres under its own 12,000-mile thick atmosphere. Only the Stardust has the power to withstand the strain by means of its engines and gravity generators working in tandem to negate the terrific gravitational force, so the auxiliary ships are sent back to Ferrol. Rhodan orders surface exploration vehicles to be outfitted to withstand the grueling conditions.

Bell christens the planet “Gol,” “after an abominable ogre in some old legend” (p. 26). As the Stardust II descends into the planet's atmosphere, the first of what becomes a series of regularly recurring sixteen-second structural disturbances is detected. Seiko detects no message, however. Rhodan heads for the coordinates from which the disturbances originate, which turns out to be a twelve-mile high mountain unsuitable for landing. A more suitable landing area is about 120 miles away. Rhodan manages to set the ship down in what turns out to be a sea of thirty- to sixty-foot deep liquid methane, the same compound as the atmosphere. Actually, “[t]he gravity neutralizers together with the engines kept the Stardust in a weightless state even after the landing. The support legs had found solid ground but did not depend on it” (p. 33).

After testing a remote-controlled caterpillar-track exploration vehicle, Rhodan, Major Derringhouse, and Seiko set forth for their first survey of the utterly alien landscape, heading for the foothills beyond which is the mountain range that contains their goal. An infrared search beam provides their only “light” so deep in the thick atmosphere. But then, mysteriously, as they come to a sheer rock wall, that searchlight dies.

Chap. 3, “Glowing – Beings?”

Khrest has gotten nowhere in analyzing the continuing intermittent structural disturbances for any message that might be encoded in their modulation. Suddenly the Stardust lists to one side. Momentarily two of the gravity generators had run idle then resumed normal operation. Reginald Bell easily rights the ship, but is upset by his inability to find an explanation. A glowing shape appears in the murk outside. Khrest speculates that it is a random electrical discharge. Receiving a report of the caterpillar's dead searchlight, Bell orders a radio beacon deployed to guide Rhodan back. Making its way gingerly through the treacherous landscape, the caterpillar encounters a similarly glowing shape, whereupon Seiko is stricken by an intense roaring “sound” that only his mutant abilities can “hear,” and an intense headache. Rhodan is unable to catch up to the flitting light and finally, slowly, makes his way back to the Stardust.

Rhodan meets with his people and reveals that he roaring that Seiko perceived in conjunction with the appearance of the light was indeed hyper-radiation. He also believes that the searchlight was intentionally put out of commission. Perhaps the lights are living beings. With Khrest's help, Rhodan sets out to devise a way to convert the structural sensor in the a modulation receiver – he is still convinced the structural disturbances contain a message. His efforts pay off. Through the medium of the new device, Seiko is able to “read”: “Even though you have perceived this, you must follow the way to the mountain. Only there is the light hidden. Do not wait long. The mighty ones of [Gol] will overpower you if you hesitate too long. Do not come without the higher knowledge!” (pp. 54-55).

Chap. 4, “The Valley of the Phantoms”

Three caterpillars set out from the Stardust. Rhodan drives one, accompanied by his previous crew plus telekineticist Anne Sloane; Bell is accompanied by the young telepath/telekineticist Betty Toufry, teleoptician Ralf Marten, and Major Nyssen; and Khrest is telekineticist Tama Yokida, teleporter Ishi Matsu, and Captain Klein. Rhodan attempts to use catapulted “oxygen-bombs” (oxygen and methan are an explosive combination) to blast his way through the rock wall encountered previously, but the first such blast attracts a small light sphere which seems to absorb the second – and swells from twenty inches diameter to fifteen feet. He then resorts to disintegrator cannon to blast a hole big enough to drive through. The three caterpillars emerge into a broad smooth plain and continue on toward the mountain. The glowing ball follows them but slowly diminishes in size. At Bell's urging, they try disintegrator fire against it, only to find that it “feeds off” that as well. Seiko continues to be plagued by a headache.

Receiving a report from Thora aboard the Stardust that more glowing balls have surrounded the ship and that the intermittent failures of gravity generators are increasing, Rhodan feels pressured to reach their goal as quickly as possible. The expedition passes through a natural fissure in another rock wall, but emerge atop a sheer precipice overlooking a deep valley filled with many of the glowing forms. Derringhouse dubs it the “Valley of the Phantoms.” They manage to follow a descending ledge along the cliff face down to the valley floor. But then a report back to the Stardust goes unanswered.

Chap. 5, “Encounter with the Ghosts”

Thora had been listening to the progress of the caterpillars until the point where they entered the valley – whereupon clanging alarms shattered the calm aboard the Stardust. All gravity neutralizing screens are down and only the ship's engines are supporting them. Thora finds herself at a loss as to how to proceed, finding herself longing for Perry Rhodan's presence of mind and cursing his absence at the same time. But she rallies herself and uses Wurio Sengu's power of “seeing” through matter to determine that the glowing spheres outside the Stardust react to energy fire just like the one dogging Rhodan's expedition. As engine power begins to decline, Gol's massive gravity seeps through, subjecting the crew of the Stardust to mounting g-forces. Thora attempts to launch the ship, but the engines fail altogether. They are only saved by the resumption of the structural modulation, which seems to drive the sphere's away.

Thora reestablishes contact with Rhodan, who orders her to launch and maintain a safe altitude beyond the range of the spheres, about a thousand miles up, and to fly the Stardust to a position above the valley. Rhodan and the caterpillars proceed forward – the light of the massed spheres is sufficient for them to turn off their search beams, which removes the caterpillars' attraction at least for the time being. But as they penetrate deeper and deeper into the valley, the spheres get denser and denser and harder to avoid. Knowing they are about to be detected, Rhodan tries a diversion. All three caterpillars fire at a single point well away from their own position, and the spheres take the bait, flocking away from the caterpillars toward a much richer feast of energy. The caterpillars continue forward and ultimately leave the field of phantom lights, coming safely to the base of the mountain.

Chap. 6, “A Message from the Unknown”

The caterpillars start ascending the lower slopes. Rhodan has concluded that the lights, higher-dimensional beings though they be, are unintelligent and driven solely by instinct. Moreover, he believes he has a way to repel them. He orders Thora to descend from its hovering position and use his remodeled structural sensor as a transmitter, as well as to flood the area with infrared light so they can see. The light spheres scatter from the Stardust's broadcast as when the sixteen-second modulation had resumed. The massive space-sphere is able to land unmolested in the valley.

But Seiko now “hears” what seems to be the buzzing of a swarm of angry hornets. As a precaution, Rhodan sends Bell's and Khrest's caterpillars back to the Stardust. They are to help Thora in case of another attack, but also to build a second structural disturbance transmitter. Major Nyssen is then to bring that transmitter to Rhodan, who continues on. Bell and Khrest complete their task quickly, and Nyssen heads back out on the trail of Rhodan.

Rhodan has meanwhile reached the true base of the mountain, which turns out to be a needle-like formation soaring into the sky. Seiko perceives another message: “You are on the right way. Keep going! Are you endowed with the higher knowledge?” (p. 94) The outline of a great door can be seen on the side of the mountain. Rhodan orders Sloane, “I assume that it takes a telekinetic knack to open it. Please apply your higher knowledge” (p. 94). But at that moment a large group of the energy balls appears, bearing down on the door.

Miles away, Nyssen's caterpillar is overtaken by a storm front. Buffeting winds are accompanied by a radical drop in temperature. Formations of frozen methane solidify out of the atmosphere almost immediately and trap the caterpillar. Nyssen calls for help from the Stardust, but before that can happen both the caterpillar and the space-sphere come under renewed attack, by a new, more effective tactic. The generators are attacked directly and start to fail. The crews are subjected to rapidly mounting gravity.

At the mountain, Sloane manages to open the door and Rhodan guns the caterpillar through just ahead of the lights. They enter a large circular chamber occupied by a single apparatus – an “impulsator” like that found in the factory-like hall of #8, The Galactic Riddle, a remote hyperspace matter-transmitter. Once again, it is up to Sloane's telekinesis to activate the mechanism.

Chap. 7, “Beyond the Galaxy”

Rhodan and his companions have the impression of “ – [a]n endless time” – “no prior transition [in Rhodan's experience] had taken as long as this one” (p. 109). They reappear in the Command Center of the Stardust. Nyssen and Klein and their caterpillar have also appeared in the ship's hangar. But the ship itself has been thrown to an entirely unknown sector of space, outside the galaxy, where only a handful of stars can even be seen. Seiko alone sees a glowing ball suspended in the middle of the Command Center – “and became terribly frightened, believing at first that it was a light body” (p. 111). It is not. And he alone “hears” a message from their “unknown mentor”:

You have been warned! Now find the world where the coordinates are secured. Remember that you cannot return home if you do not know the right way. Your goal is far!

* * *

First, the requisite silly cover question: Is that Saturn Girl of the Legion of Super-Heroes?

That impression is only reinforced by the hypnotic concentric (thought?) waves radiating from the female eyes in the background of Gray Morrow's painting. And if so, is that Lightning Lad with her? … Doesn't really look like him. Just for the heck of it, I and a lot of other people had a similar “Is that Saturn Girl?” moment not too long ago when T-Mobile's new (and cute as all get-out) spokeswoman Carly Foulkes appeared in similar attire:

Again, this Ace publication initially appeared with the Johnny Bruck German cover art and the Gray Morrow art only appeared by the third edition (1974) which is what I have. I'm not sure what the second edition looked like. Bruck's painting again at least somewhat reflects some scene in the story.

This volume begins with the Editorial “From the Captain of the Stardust 4E: The Glowing Coal,” celebrating the appearance of Perry Rhodan #500: Aliens from the Void, by K. H. Scheer, earlier in 1971. At one adventure per month, Ackerman forecast that the English translation would be published sometime in the 21st century. But he held out hope for an increased frequency of publication as well as the possibility of judicious use of summaries of some issues as well as special editions of the anniversary issues years before they would normally be published. Except for a couple more adventures to be skipped altogether in the near future (like The Wasp Men Attack), which Ackerman himself apparently later repented, only the increased frequency would come about – for a time.

The aftermatter consisted of “Scientifilm World,” this time a review of First Spaceship on Venus (1962), and “The Perryscope” letters column.

Some notes and commentary:

On p. 15, Rhodan refers to the “Fable of the Fox and the Sour Grapes” when Khrest and Thora would quit the quest altogether since it seems the universe in not going to arrange itself for their convenience as Arkonides have become accustomed to. This is originally a story from the Greek fabulist Aesop; Wikipedia quotes a brief translation of the Latin version by the Roman Phaedrus:

Driven by hunger, a fox tried to reach some grapes hanging high on the vine but was unable to, although he leaped with all his strength. As he went away, the fox remarked, 'Oh, you aren't even ripe yet! I don't need any sour grapes.' People who speak disparagingly of things that they cannot attain would do well to apply this story to themselves.

I can find no reference to any legend of “an abominable ogre” named Gol to which Bell refers in naming the monstrous gas giant on p. 24. Perhaps it's a German legend?

There is an interesting exchange between Thora and Rhodan on p. 49. After Rhodan has revealed to his fellow Terrans his theory that the glowing balls of light are “higher order” beings, she cautions him:

You ought to be more careful.... You're talking to your men about beings living in a higher order of space. I'm not sure whether these people, although they are majors, are familiar enough with the concepts of hyper-geometry to know that there's no value judgment expressed by that.”

Rhodan takes her seriously: “That's a good point. I'll keep it in mind. … Still, it does state a value.... We can achieve a transition, we can modulate hyperwaves and broadcast them. But we're at a loss as to how to handle a being whose abode is in higher space. Anybody living in space of n dimensions eludes by this fact alone the grasp of those in (n-one [read “n minus one”]) dimensional space.”

Kurt Mahr really seems to have been the original cadre of authors' go-to-guy for describing treks across alien landscapes. I found a lot of echoes in the general mood of this story to #4(b), Base on Venus, which he also wrote. Just one parallel: In both stories, our heroes have a mountain as their goal, and encounter various dangers along the way.

Mahr also took time to describe the varying reactions of Rhodan's people to their situation – p. 64:

The crew aboard the carriers had mixed feelings. Tanaka Seiko was still suffering from a splitting headache because the huge sphere kept following the vehicle doggedly. Rhodan had retreated into the cold and determined toughness which was at the core of his personality in such critical situations. Reginald Bell and Major Derringhouse vied with him in his toughness but embellished it with a certain show of flippancy and a devil-may-care attitude. Khrest had not uttered a word in the last few hours. He seemed convinced that they were on a straight path to hell and so apparently was Anne Sloane, who was squatting apathetically on the floor of Rhodan's car with a vacant look and showing little interest.

Major Nyssen was a strange man. Rhodan had never known this aspect of his qualities. Nyssen, who outwardly so much resembled Reginald Bell, had developed during the last few hours a certain fanatical urge – without losing his sense of reality or overestimating the limiting circumstances of the expedition – to subdue the energy bodies which seemed to constitute the greatest danger to the Stardust ….”

Mention of Anne Sloane's depression a moment ago brings to mind what might be the quotation of the issue! – “'Don't be afraid, baby!' [Rhodan] smiled when he saw how pale [Anne Sloane's] face was” (p. 78). I laughed out loud at that.

Once Rhodan's expedition penetrates the mountain, I hesitated a moment – Rhodan might have recognized the “impulsator” (p. 105), but I had no idea to what that word referred until reading further. Did I miss it previously being given that name? I comment on it because this seems to have happened before – some new fact or term being dropped in without (what I consider to be) proper introduction. Luckily, it quickly became clear in this case. But I think this must be another result of the series' “writing by committee” and the sheer rapid pace that these stories appeared. As Mahr was writing this story, had he had a chance to read Darlton's #8, The Galactic Riddle?  Perhaps something similar explains the out-of-the-blue dubbing of the auxiliary spheres as "Guppies."

My gut feeling is that the description of Gol is too fantastic to be realistic.  I mean, it's described as a "gas giant" three times the size of Jupiter, with an "enormous density" and gravity over nine hundred times that of Earth.  Jupiter itself has a density about one-quarter that of Earth, with a gravity about 2-1/2 times.  I frankly toyed with the idea of trying to see if the math worked out, but just as frankly I found it beyond me - or at least the time and effort that I'm willing to put into it.  Anyone else wants to have a go at it, be my guest.

* * *

As an addendum to my just previous post, about the Perry Rhodan movie that might or might not really exist (see the first paragraph here), I have a confession to make. Since viewing that film, bad as it was, I find it has changed my mental image of one of the major characters. Contrary to what I stated a few posts back (here), no longer is my mental image of Thora formed by Gray Morrow's cover to Ace #70 … now I see Essy Persson.

That is not at all unpleasant....

She's the only one, however. I still “see” Rhodan as in the banner above, from Morrow's cover to Ace #50. Frankly, I found most of the other main actors pretty interchangeable among themselves and even with the movie's Rhodan. Except for Khrest – but even so, I still retain as my mental image of the elderly Arkonide scientist US Representative Tom Lantos.

Imagine him with red eyes.  Even years after I was reading the Perry Rhodan series in the 1970s, when Lantos emerged on the political landscape (the 1980s? 1990s?) I immediately thought of Khrest, specifically of this image:

Cheers, and Ad Astra!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Special: The Perry Rhodan Movie ... Mission Stardust (1967)

With classes over for the semester, grades turned in, and my courses for the summer all set up, I took a day off yesterday for myself. On a whim, because it had been on my mind since referring to it several posts back, I found the Perry Rhodan movie on YouTube.

Yes, it's as bad as they say. I'm not going to post a full synopsis. For one thing, I didn't take notes and a perfectly good overview is available through the Turner Classic Movies website. Here are just a few comments.

Actually, despite the obviously low budget special effects from the very beginning, and an early scene introducing a James Bond-esque master villain – complete with his purse-dog in one scene – the first half hour or so seems to follow #1(a) Enterprise Stardust fairly closely. Then suddenly Thora and Rhodan go into her bedroom so she can change into her “flight suit.” She reveals her and Khrest's mission, to revivify the declining Arkonide race by merging with a younger, more energetic people. Humans are not, of course, advanced enough for Thora's purposes … she believes. They are only Level 4 to the Arkonides' Level 9. Before long, however, Rhodan has pulled her forcefully to himself and planted a big wet kiss on her lips just before he stalks out, with the parting shot that she will find he can easily slip to a Level 3. Whereupon Thora falls back dreamily onto her bed....

And the wheels really spin off from that point forward as the story departs further and further away from what I guess originated as not just the first German issue, but the second and third as well. In the end, however, Thora and Perry Rhodan are locked in a deep embrace and obviously about to set about merging their races ….

All in all, though, I can't say this movie is much worse than many other B-movie sci-fi flicks of the era (or later), or even as an adaptation of the source material than was, say, the 1975 Doc Savage movie of that great pulp hero. I imagine that, like the latter (in which case I myself am an example) the Perry Rhodan movie, no matter how bad it was, did have the effect of introducing someone to the saga itself.

Now, for your enjoyment, here are some pictures that I found here, there, and yonder on the internet:

The Italian title
The German title

Various promos and packaging - yes, it's available in English on DVD (see the TCM link below).

Perry Rhodan

I think this is Rhodan, Thora, Flipper, Manoli, and Bull.  I could be wrong.

The actor who played Khrest, from another movie because I could find no image of him from this movie.

A couple more pics of Thora - changing into her flight suit before Rhodan, and immediately post Rhodan-kiss.

An Arkonide robot's innards, the Arkonide space sphere (the auxiliary craft looked the same only smaller), and the robot's normal appearance.
Cheers, and Ad Astra!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Perry Rhodan #9, Quest Through Space and Time (1971)

By Clark Darlton (= German issue #15, 15 December 1961)

Chap. 1, “The Crypt of Light”

Perry Rhodan and his crew have been waiting for three Earth weeks for the positronic brain aboard the Stardust to decode and translate the message retrieved at the end of the last adventure. A partial solution is presented: ONCE THE PLANET ON WHICH YOU ARE NOW STAYING HAS ROTATED 21.3562 TIMES AROUND ITS POLAR AXIS, THE INSCRIPTION WILL FADE AWAY. THEREFORE HURRY IF YOU WISH TO FIND THE LIGHT (p. 17). Given the slightly longer day of Ferrol, Rhodan calculates that three days and fifteen hours (Earth time) remain – before the message and all record of it vanish. Masters of time and space as the immortals seem to be, Rhodan surmises that once the time limit is up, it will be as if the message had never existed.

Three more Earth days pass. Then, with only a few hours to spare, the brain spits out the finished translation: IF YOU KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT OUR LIGHT, YOU MUST SEEK OUT THE ONE FROM WHOM YOU OBTAINED THIS KNOWLEDGE. ONLY ONE PERSON WAS AMAZED BY THE MACHINES OF KNOWLEDGE – THIS WAS IN RECENT TIMES, JUST A FEW SECONDS AGO ACCORDING TO MY CHRONOLOGY. SEEK HIM OUT AND ASK HIM! IF YOU WANT TO FIND HIM, THEN YOU MUST COME TO THE CRYPT OF THE LIGHT, BUT DO NOT COME WITHOUT SOME INFORMATION ABOUT HIS PERSON. YOU WILL BE ASKED WHAT HIS NAME IS (pp. 23-24). Rhodan and company set out to discover the initial source of the information that brought them in search of the secret of eternal life – the Arkonide explorers ten thousand years ago whose records had led Khrest and Thora on their quest. Rhodan believes that the ancient records can be most quickly accessed at the larger positronic brain on Venus.

Chap. 2, “The Story of Kerlon”

The Stardust departs Ferrol, hyperjumps to the Solar System, and approaches Venus, dropping off Rhodan and Khrest in one of the auxiliary space spheres before proceeding under the command of Reginald Bell to Galacto-City on Earth. Col. Freyt reports to Bell that negotiations are slowly bringing Rhodan's dream of one united Earth government closer to reality. On Venus, Khrest and Rhodan view the ancient 3-D film records and learn the name of the ancient commander: Kerlon. They head to Earth to rejoin the Stardust. Meanwhile, the gigantic space sphere's cargo of Ferron trade goods have been unloaded and Terrestrial trade goods have been loaded. Three days later, the Stardust jumps back to Vega.

Chap. 3, “Battle in the Past”

In a meeting, Rhodan reveals not only his and Khrest's findings on Venus but also his own conviction that rather than a race of immortals they are dealing with only one. “Way back when the immortals landed on Ferrol they were still existing as a race. Then, for unknown reasons, they decided to emigrate from the system. At the same time some catastrophe befell them which brought about the extinction of their race, despite their immortality. Only one of them survived. He did not want to keep the secret to himself and decided to find a worthy successor. He devised the galactic riddle. Whoever could solve it would be rewarded with the secret of eternal life. He set the trail, probably later than we originally assumed. ...” (pp. 43-44).

Rhodan and a team consisting of himself, Khrest, Bell, John Marshall, Anne Sloan, Dr. Haggard, Ras Tschubai, Ralf Marten (who has been “complaining that he has to stay too much in the background” [Bell, p. 45]), and the Arkonide worker robot previously enabled with five-dimensional thought enter the Time Vault beneath the Red Palace on Ferrol. But when the time-lock field is deactivated, the matter transmitter previously there has been replaced by a chair upon a small platform. Rhodan takes a seat and, with a hum and vibration, an energy screen obscures his view of the others. He feels an alien force scanning his mind, then everything returns to normal. As the others cluster closely around him, the platform descends, carrying them downward into the floor.

They end up in a large empty chamber at the center of which a metal cube fades into view. The cube bears the writing of the immortals, which the robot (Rhodan refers to it as “Markon”) translates as “Now seek out the man whose name you know. Only he possesses what you need in order to find the way to the Light. Do you know the meaning of time?” (p. 51). The robot further identifies the cube as a “time-transformer,” in effect a time machine set to a specific destination in time. A telepathic message impinges on their consciousnesses: “I am speaking to the one who has followed my trail this far. When you arrive, be on guard; don't let yourself get killed. No one will come to your assistance; you must help yourself. And only if you find Kerlon, and with him that which will show you the way to the Light, will you be able to return to your own time. Wait for a period of three days, not more nor less. Only then will the machine bring you back again. I hope you will succeed in this task. I have been waiting for such a long time already!” (p. 53) As the message ends, the walls of the chamber transform into a rough-walled dungeon with a stout wooden door. The sounds of battle – screams, shouts, clanging of swords, an explosion – come from outside.

Cautiously opening the door, they find several dead Ferrons in armor. Rhodan dispatches Tschubai to scout the area. Teleporting outside (and having to teleport again quickly when his initial destination, the throne room of the Red Palace turns out to be open air far above the ground!), the mutant encounters a group of four Ferrons with whom he can communicate since he knows the “New Ferron” language of ten thousand years hence. They are ancestors of the Sichas (see #5b, Mutants in Action), and enlighten him as to the current conflict. They are scavenging the field for weapons and armor after the most recent of several battles in which a neighboring castle-holder is trying to seize the castle where the Red Palace will one day be built. The Sichas believe Tshubai to be friends of the “Gods of the Sun” (p. 59) – the immortals. Suddenly, Tschubai and the Sichas come under attach by a dozen soldiers. Tschubai's Arkonide ray gun, set to its lowest level of stun only, quickly knocks the attackers out. The Sichas bid him farewell as they leave for their mountain home – then are astonished to see him vanish into thin air, teleporting back to Rhodan's group.

Chap. 4, “The Gods Intervene”

Inside the castle, Lesur, the district Thort (one of many on Ferrol at this time), leads his people as they retreat further into the vaults below the castle, driven back by the latest assault. One of his soldiers comes to him with a tale of seeing “the Gods” outside the now-open door of the “holy chamber.” Lesur dashes for that chamber.

Back with Rhodan, Tschubai renders his report. The group are discussing what to do when they hear the sounds of the Thort and his men approaching. Upon seeing “the Gods,” the Ferrons prostrate themselves. Marshall reads the Thort's mind and mentally reports to Rhodan that “[h]e believes us to be Gods who've come in order to help him against the barbarians. … His name is Lesur, the Thort” (p. 68). Rhodan plays along. Upon learning the situation, that barbarians are already within the castle, he dispatches Bell with Khrest and the robot to sweep the inner chambers; Rhodan and the mutants take on the attackers outside. Particularly Sloane's telekinesis, but also Tschubai's teleportation and ray guns on wide-field electron shower mode, wreak havoc. The barbarian chieftain Gagat (flying uncontrollably thanks to Sloane) orders a panicked retreat. Meanwhile, Markon the robot proves an excellent fighter and almost single-handedly defeats another chieftain named Bogar, driving the invaders from the castle.

Chap. 5, “Time Turned Back”

Two days pass. Rhodan and his crew are honored guests of the Thort. They discover that the “first Gods” had left certain “gifts,” including cages scattered all over “the country” - but whoever enters them vanishes never to return. Except for one intrepid scientist, who two years later had finished a long trek back from the other side of the world where he had reappeared. Rhodan risks a trip through the palace matter transmitter and discovers that its destination is a temple – whose priests immediately attack him even as he activates the return mechanism. The real mystery, it turns out, is how that lone scientist had avoided the fate of all others!

“On the morning of the third day the three ships of the Arkonides touched down on Ferrol” (p. 82). Their commander, Kerlon, has followed hints and signs of a race that had discovered the secret of cellular regeneration. Vega is the first of two probable systems where they might be found – the other is a yellow sun with nine planets, one with rings. On the eighth planet of Vega Kerlon has already discovered a pyramid, under which was a chamber containing a small metallic cylinder that has so far eluded all his attempts to open it. The chamber also contained a matter transmitter, which Kerlon briefly stepped through, returning moments later to express his astonishment to his men. His search for clues leading to the immortals has now brought Kerlon to Lesur's castle.

Not knowing that the new ships' landing was also observed by Gagat's barbarians, Khrest and the robot Markon accompanied by Lesur go out to meet Kerlon. Khrest poses as an earlier Arkonide explorer. During their meeting, Gagat bursts from hiding, determined to take hostages and seize the magical spheres. Once again Sloane's telekinesis overawes the barbarians, disarming them and sending their swords dancing in the air above them. Gagat and his barbarians flee.

Chap. 6, “The Black Ghost”

Kerlon takes Khrest and Lesur into his flagship to show them something. Teleoptician Ralf Marten possesses Kerlon's senses and reports to Rhodan as Kerlon tells his tale of the pyramid, the cylinder, and the matter transmitter. Khrest is sure that the cylinder is the clue for which Rhodan searches, but Kerlon will not let him even touch it. Khrest and Lesur leave the ship, but in an almost immediate attack by the barbarians Kerlon drops the cylinder and then witnesses a dark-skinned figure appear from thin air and pluck it from the ground where it fell before vanishing once more – Ras Tschubai. Faced with the barbarians' pressing attack and the current Arkonide law against engaging in battle with primitives even in self-defense, Kerlon furiously launches for space, eventually to head for the system of the yellow sun ….

Chap. 7, “Immortality – or – Fatality?”

Rhodan and his crew have returned to the empty vaulted chamber. Even as the barbarians renew their assault on the castle and he realizes that their presence made no difference for Lesur and his people in the long term, Rhodan places the cylinder on the time-transformer. Just in time – as a blast blows in the wooden door to the chamber – the return journey to the future begins.

Only half an hour has passed for the waiting Thora when they reappear in the future. As soon as they appear, the cylinder opens to reveal another message. Unencoded, it is quickly translated by the robot brain: WHOEVER WISHES TO FIND THE WAY MAY STILL TURN BACK. BUT IF HE DECIDES TO PURSUE THE TRAIL, HE MAY REST ASSURED THAT HE WILL NO LONGER RECEIVE ANY ASSISTANCE. SOON THE UNIVERSE WILL BE SHAKEN. INVESTIGATE, BUT CONSIDER THAT THIS WORLD IS ALIEN AND GIGANTIC. (p. 110)

* * *

For some reason I always think of the title of this adventure being Quest Through Time and Space … which would be a better translation of the German original, Die Spur durch Zeit und Raum.  It just seems to me that "time and space" sounds more natural than "space and time."  Maybe it's because of the old TV series theme - "It's about time!  It's about space! ..."

This time, I know of no Gray Morrow Ace edition cover for this issue. I have the second edition, which still has the cover art by Johnny Bruck from the German original; I don't know if there ever was a third edition although some sources state that all Ace volumes eventually gained a Gray Morrow cover.  If anyone has such an image, let me know.  Anyway, a space-suit clad astronaut spies on a couple of what look like Vikings in armor (except they are wearing skirts rather than breeches, which makes them appear at first glance more Roman) fighting with sword and battle ax on the moon. Too bad the dueling warriors are not at least blue-skinned as Ferrons would be. Bruck's covers look good, with an appropriately vintage “pulpy” feel – but really tend not to be a whole lot better representative of the contents of the stories than Gray Morrow's much more science-fictiony cover paintings.

“Forry Rhodan's” editorial this issue is “A Pioneer Passes,” an obituary of John W. Campbell, died 11 July 1971, the editor of the pulp magazine Astounding Stories (later Astounding Science Fiction then Analog Science Fiction and Fact) from 1937 until his death and one of the architects of the “Golden Age of Science Fiction.”

After the main story comes an announcement of a “Contest!” - written in the first-person (with another low quality black-and-white picture) by the character known in the German original as “Gucky.” The contest is to find a new name for this character for the English translation. Color versions of the black-and-white picture were first and second prizes, which makes me surprised that I could find no recognizable image of it through Google. So here is another image that I found:

I have to admit, I think the change in this case was well-advised. “Gucky” makes me think of “Yucky!” The name that would eventually be chosen sounds much more appropriate to English readers.  But some of the name-changes don't make so much sense, including that of one of the characters in this very story. The Arkonide robot from the previous issue here suddenly gains a name. In German, it was “Robby,” a hallowed robotic name in science-fiction circles, borne most famously by the robot from the great movie Forbidden Planet (1956):

(also, phonetically at least, by the protagonist of Isaac Asimov's first robot story, “Robbie”) … but in English the poor Arkonide Robby is renamed “Markon.” “Mark One”? “M-Arkon”? Does it matter? Why change what would be an obvious nickname for a robot?

“Scientifilm World” constitutes another obituary, this time for “Klaatu,” or rather the Earthling who portrayed him in the original film, The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), one Michael Rennie (died 10 June 1971).

Rounding out this issue is “The Perryscope” letters column and, for the first time (at least in the copy of the second edition that I have) a new Subscription Form to order six issues for $6.75 or twelve issues for $13.50.

* * *

Various notes:

Does the paradox of the message and all record of it vanishing – being completely annulled from time – extend to our heroes' memories as well? In that case they would never know that they had failed and I presume the immortals would have created some other task … huh?

Ancient Arkonides “settled on Earth, where they merged and become part of the bloodstream of humanity” (p. 26). Have we previously been told that? Similarly, toward the end of the book a similar allusion is made, at least as I read it, regarding Kerlon's expedition that is headed toward Earth: “The forefathers of those who eventually would build the Tower of Babel were about to be born” (p. 104).

Once again, emphasis is made of the potential damage to the orbits of planets when a hyperjump is made within a solar system: “The Arkonide spaceship [Rhodan's Stardust II] cut across the various orbital paths of the Vegan planets. It traveled at simple speed of light. Only several hours later it reached the depth of interstellar space, where the transition could take place. Otherwise the ensuing shock to the space-time structure might have endangered the orbits of the Vegan planets around their sun” (p. 28).

Ras Tschubai teleports into thin air, starts falling, and reteleports to the ground landing “safely.” (p. 56) It's unclear whether conservation of momentum applies, i.e. whether he reappears with the same vector and velocity as when he dematerializes. If it does, then Tschubai's situation is basically the same as that of another teleporting mutant, Nightcrawler, at the beginning of Uncanny X-Men #95 (October 1975). The X-Men had bailed from the Black Bird just as it exploded in mid-air.  When Cyclops ordered Nightcrawler to teleport to the ground while those mutants capable of flight (Banshee and Storm) save the others, Nightcrawler replied that he could not because he would appear on the ground still falling at a fatal velocity. (Bamf - SPLAT!)  I would guess that Rhodan's mutants are not bound by the same laws of physics, given how often we have seen Tschubai and Tako Kakuta jump from one ship to another in space – between ships doubtless moving at astronomically different velocities and directions.

As Rhodan and his crew are debating how to proceed once they have appeared in the distant past of Ferrol … “[t]his time it was Anne Sloane who suggested a plan, demonstrating that women, too, can think logically” (p. 66). Ah, old school 1960s sci-fi misogyny! - well, really cultural in general …. It reminds me in spirit of the inspiration for the title of one of the comic book blogs I follow, “Too Dangerous for a Girl!”  The irony of that title comes home when you find out, as that blog writer explains, that it comes from a fairly early adventure of the Legion of Super-Heroes, specifically referring to Saturn Girl - who was even then portrayed as one of the most capable female characters in all comics!

Cheers, and Ad Astra!