Dedicated to the memory of K. H. Scheer and Walter Ernsting, who first gave us Perry Rhodan in 1961 and of Forrest J and Wendayne Ackerman, who first brought his adventures to the United States in 1969.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Perry Rhodan #13, The Immortal Unknown (1972)

By K. H. Scheer (= German issue #19, “The Immortal,” Friday 12 January 1962)

Chap. 1, “Stardust to … Star Dust?”

Perry Rhodan and his crew finally jump back into the Vega system after their diversion to Tuglan, only to find that the great star is mysteriously in the process of going nova eons before its time! Khrest considers that this is the last riddle of the Unknown – threatening to destroy the entire system, rendering his world impossible to locate with the directions that Rhodan has found. Time is of the essence. Rhodan makes a short intra-system transition toward the eighth planet, Ferrol.

Chap. 2, “Operation: Desperation”

The eight auxiliary space-spheres or “Guppies,” left behind by the Stardust II when it departed for Gol, but greater by far than anything the Ferrons have, have been doing their best to evacuate the Ferrons to the outer planets – knowing full well that if the star does go nova none will survive anyway. Rhodan orders them to meet the Stardust at the Thorta space-port where he will meet with the ruler. Given the futility of any attempt to evacuate five billion Ferrons in the time left, Rhodan proposes to find the Unknown who can normalize the star. The Stardust launches ….

Chap. 3, “Rhodan's Destiny”

The Unknown's planet is located in deep space, well away from any star, therefore is effectively invisible. Because the directions to it are precisely based on the position of the star Vega, to minimize transition offset Rhodan takes the Stardust as close as possible to the raging and expanding inferno before initiating the hyperspace transition right on the verge of the great ship's screens failing. He then risks an extreme braking maneuver at the point of emergence so as not to overshoot the unseen target beyond even the reach of sensitive Arkonide detectors.

Chap. 4, “Danger in Deep Space”

Their initial scans of local space detect nothing. Reginald Bell theorizes that perhaps the Unknown is continuing to toy with them by blocking their sensors. To confirm they are working properly, Rhodan orders Major Nyssen out in a fighter. After several minutes, plenty of time for the Stardust to have detected him, Nyssen finds himself out of contact – he can hear the ship hailing him but they cannot hear his replies.

Chap. 5, “'You're Out of Your Mind'”

Nyssen's departure from the space-sphere had triggered a sequence of jarring shocks and vibrations with no discernable cause. Adjusting the gravitational field compensates for them and steadies the ship. Rhodan concludes that they are very near the planet, saying to the air, “Hi old friend.” The Stardust never actually lost track of Nyssen, and when he backtracks his course they are able to take remote control of his fighter and bring it back aboard, albeit very roughly. In different ways, the mutants Son Okura and Tanaka Seiko can detect the energy buffeting the ship – Okura “seeing” it, Seiko being mentally overwhelmed by it. An offhand remark by Bell inspires Rhodan with the perception that the Unknown (increasingly referred to as “he”) is using the Stardust's own gravitational field to repel it.

Chap. 6, “World of the Unknown”

But they are not out of the woods yet. With the gravitational field shut down and therefore the repulsion field not acting on the ship, it is accelerating headlong toward an unseen obstacle. When Rhodan attempts to shut down the engines, he finds the controls locked. Only Pucky's telekinesis, supported by Betty Toufry, manages to stop them. Eventually, the ship does come to a sudden rest – halfway through a great dome over an enormous disk-shaped platform floating in space, containing a myriad of different landscapes and monumental architectures.

Chap. 7, “The Monster from Nowhere”

The Stardust passes through the energy dome and descends to a point about five miles above the surface. Via a telecom briefing to his crew, Rhodan describes the planet “Wanderer” as “a gigantic and completely self-sufficient space station” (p. 80), about five thousand miles in diameter, 350 miles thick, with artificial gravity generated to 0.9 G, and a breathable atmosphere held in by the energy dome. It once orbited Vega, ten thousand years ago. “The is the place whose inhabitants know the secret of biological cell conservation according to ancient traditions” (p. 82). The Arkonide space-sphere begins to travel across the sky of Wanderer. They record and map everything. They pass across various terrains, seas and mountains; they observe the flora and fauna of many worlds all collected together. The mutants seem to detect a multitude of telepathic “voices” as faint, meaningless “whispering.” Suddenly a gelatinous tentacled monster appears without warning in the control center's sensor bay, flailing around at all. Between Pucky and Betty Toufry's telekinesis and Derringhouse's, Rhodan's, and Bell's blasters, they defeat and disintegrate it – but not before one of the radar techs is bitten by its beaklike mouth, which is apparently poisonous. He is rushed to the sickbay, but the doctors are at a loss how to treat him.

Chap. 8, “Inter-Century Shoot-Out”

The Stardust encounters a city with alien beings who take no notice of the space-sphere. Then they come across an even more amazing sight – what seems to be a reenactment of a battle between American Indians and the United States Cavalry, Custer's Last Stand. Unable to resist, Rhodan lands – and one of the cavalry makes to attack them! “A sudden blast from Bell … made the apparition vanish” (p. 92) – but quickly afterward a crewman discovers an actual 1867 Colt Peace-Maker revolver lying in the tall grass. Rhodan ponders this and concludes that it is another test of their nerves. He stashes the revolver in the back of his belt.

He finally sets the space-sphere down again on a large landing pad near a great tower. They prepare to disembark. A measure of the elation that the Arkonides feel at the end of their quest is that Thora laughs merrily!

One final test confronts them on the ground, however. A rowdy cowboy blocks their way. He was plucked out of time from the instant of his death. He has the key to a gate through which they must pass to come into the presence of him. The cowboy is determined to keep it from them; by doing so for a half hour he will win his return to his own time and will live. His weapons can kill them – but theirs prove ineffectual against him. “I can't be plugged by you except in my time” he proclaims (p. 98). After various attempts to get through the gate by weapons and mutant powers fail, with only a short time remaining Rhodan draws the 19th-century revolver from behind his back and guns the cowboy down. His body vanishes, leaving the key. They pass through the gate and are greeted merrily by him.

Chap. 9, “Confrontation with – It!”

Through the raucous laughter, John Marshall shouts to Rhodan, “It is an interconnected entity, the living psyche of a supra-dimensional collective being, made up of billions of individual minds. You might think of it as an entire race having given up its material form in order to live on spiritually. We have here a voluntary denial of bodily existence after an inconceivably long span of life which the organism in its material form in all probability had become unable to endure any longer” (pp. 103-4)

It bids approach to its visible manifestation as a floating ball of energy. When Khrest, overcome by joy but hesitating, makes to do so, the old man is roughly thrust back against Thora. “It wasn't you I meant, Arkonide, I'm sorry to say.... I've already given your race a chance 20,000 years ago by your count. I cannot grant you, as the representative of a degenerated race, the secret of biological prolongation of life. The time you had has come to an end” (p. 105). Addressing Rhodan in Rhodan's own terms, as “old friend,” it beckons again. “'Step forward, sir!' Betty Toufry urged him. 'You were meant, not the pathetic old man.'” Rhodan feels himself taken up before the energy sphere as Pucky proclaims, “It likes to play as much as I do, but it plays differently” (p. 106).

Gathering his wits, Rhodan first demands that his injured crewman be healed. It is done. Then he accepts its offer of immortality. Of course, in reality, it is another test – the same chance as the Arkonides had received long ago, and others before them. It will only be the beginning of his journey.  It predicts that Rhodan too will one day tire of his physical body.  A humanoid form appears – an artificial man with a sixth-dimensional “intotronic” brain to act as the agent of it. He explains that the cell conservation treatment will last for 62 years, then must be renewed – and Rhodan will always have to find Wanderer again to obtain it or instantly decay will occur. Rhodan submits, enters the “Physiotron,” and emerges in the same state as he entered – but with his aging process halted for 62 years. Finally, he is given the opportunity to offer cell conservation to one other person. He chooses Bell.

Departing Wanderer, they hyper-transition back to Vega, finding that as promised the star has returned to normal.

“Alone, Rhodan reflected. The recognition the Immortal had granted him left him awestruck with its implications. With that single supramundane act a new era had been initiated. Phase I of the Space Age had ended and Phase II had begun. Soon all mankind would begin to think and operate not in national, global or even interplanetary terms but in stellar, interstellar terms.”

“All the universe beckoned” (p. 112).

* * *

And so ends the second “mini-cycle” of Perry Rhodan novels. The first (#1, Enterprise Stardust through the first skipped “special,” The Wasp Men Attack) had mankind encounter the first extraterrestrials, the Arkonides, and successfully hold off a series of alien invaders; the second (#5[a], Space Battle in the Vega Sector through this #13, The Immortal Unknown) finds humanity established as a minor interstellar power and Rhodan successfully complete his quest for immortality.

The unfortunate transposition of the covers between the German editions and the American editions for this and the last books was already discussed in the just previous post. Again, I know of no Gray Morrow painted cover. I own the Second Edition which sports the Johnny Bruck painting.  There are no interior line illustrations.

This American issue is dedicated to the memory of Edward E. Smith, PhD, "Doc Smith," a giant in the old pulp space opera field - writer of Lensman, Skylark, and quite a bit more.  
The Editorial: “The Mouse-Beaver Strikes Again!” Recounts the loss of the manuscript for this issue by the publisher, and the rush job re-editing from the carbon copy (!) to keep the printing schedule. It is interesting to pause and consider how, until very recently, the manuscript copy and perhaps a carbon, would be the only copies of a work in existence. Now multiple electronic backups are virtually a matter or course to prevent such a horrific loss of data. As it happened, even the carbon of the editorial which was to accompany it, which reported the results of the “New Name for Gucky” contest, was nowhere to be found. I imagine this is the same loss mentioned in the just previous post. “Forry Rhodan” also offers an explanation for the odd discrepancy noted in my post for #11, Planet of the Dying Sun, the table of contents for which announced an editorial entitled, “Rohan - ?! when the actual editorial was “Stardust Meloday.” That mix-up occurred, Forry said, because of a change in scheduling which required a new editorial too late to change the contents page to match. Perhaps. I imagine it's more likely that the change to the TOC was simply overlooked in the last-minute rush....

Scientifilm World”: A catalog-list of various science-fiction/horror films that were in various stages of development in early 1972. Some, like Ben, I remember; others would never see the light of day. Some should never have seen the light of day!

The Perryscope”: Another letter appears by Dwight Decker. I call attention to his name not to slight all the others who also have appeared, but because I recognize it due to his later effort to get Lemuria translated and published in English. He participates in something of a letter-column “debate” regarding the Ackermans' intention to pass over certain Perry Rhodan adventures that they judge to be of lesser interest to the majority of their readership – or even to “skip around” in publication to bring certain landmark issues to the US sooner, which he greets with horror. “Forry, these are not 540 [!] different, unrelated stories: what we are dealing with here is one 35,000 page supernovel that must be read chronologically. Sure, you can easily shorten or summarize the dull or slow adventures (the so-called “chewing gum” stories) but the idea of skipping around is as frightening as the idea of discontinuing the series entirely” (p. 119).

* * *

Pucky joins Rhodan's service as “Lt. Puck of the Mutant Corps” in this story. “Permit me, sir, not to say Pucky. It seems inappropriate to my honorable new position” (p. 37). He continues his “feud” with Reg Bell. He also goes on to save the day innumerable times (including once during the course of this tale) and generally contribute to the perception that Perry Rhodan is juvenile literature. I mean, come on, a talking mouse-beaver?

Several times Rhodan seems to perceive the presence of the Unknown, and addresses it directly as “old friend” (pp. 64, 71, 77). It's unclear to me whether he could really sense something that his fellows could not – in the past it's been indicated that his Arkonide hypno-training gave him some kind of extrasensory perception – or just trusting that the Unknown was watching and could see and hear him.

On p. 77, the Unknown greets then with “uproarious Homeric laughter” - according to, this is “loud, hearty laughter, as of the gods.”

On p. 81, Rhodan admonishes his crew, “Don't jump to the conclusion that we've found God himself at work. We're merely face to face with a living being whose technology, science and culture must be millions of years old. He has learned all the laws of nature by scientific methods. What looks like miracles are no more than very intricate phenomena engineered with the help of machines.” Is this the first time that God has even been mentioned in Perry Rhodan? So far I don't think that religion itself has been dealt with at all. This is a very secular humanistic science-fiction series. A quick Google of “Religion in Perry Rhodan” comes up pretty much nil. Sometime I'll do a deeper search. Surely this has been written on somewhere (probably only in German, however).

Several times in this book an odd phrase occurs - “landing commando.” From the context, it seems to be what Star Trek and most other works call a “landing party.”

Custer's Last Stand is of course the Battle of the Little Bighorn, fought 25-26 June 1876.

I know virtually nothing of the history of firearms, but couldn't readily come up with anything on a “1867 Colt Peace-Maker revolver.” I was thinking “Colt 45”; perhaps it was this:

On p. 20 the Stardust's hyper-transition is described as being accompanied by a brilliant burst of light. Most recently that seems to be effectively conveyed in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica's “FTL jump”:

On p. 16 it is stated that the transition range limit of the Stardust is 35,000 light years.

I never knew that the command center of an Arkonide battle-sphere is located at its “geometric center” as stated on p. 17. I had always assumed that it was located at the “north pole.” But it stands to reason you would want your command center as protected as possible at the core.

What is the significance that Earth is at one focus of the far-flung elliptical orbit of the planet Wanderer? (p. 46)

A couple of minor characters are introduced in this story – Captain John McClears, left by Rhodan in charge of the “Guppies” in the Vega system, now happy as all get out to see the Chief return, and the Stardust's unflappable Chief Engineer, Manuel Garand.  I wonder if they show up again.

Next, it's back to the Solar System. There's no place like home. I'm curious to see how Thora and Khrest deal with the crushing of their dream, how Thora in particular reacts to the "superior" Arkonides' snubbing by It in favor of “the barbarians.”  ("You were meant, not the pathetic old man.”  Ouch.  That's harsh, Betty!)

Cheers, and Ad Astra!


  1. You can find a list of the major religions, deities etc. in the Perry universe at

    The article on Christianity in Perry Rhodan at
    (all in German, of course) is also quite interesting.

    Following your blog brings back memories, Professor...!

  2. Thanks for those references, Tom. Now I'll have to set about deciphering them! The second in particular looks pretty interesting. Most of the references in the first have no meaning for me, since my exposure is so limited to the early part of the series, but it's nice to see that religious impulses (other than superstition such as apparent when they visit the past of Ferrol) are acknowledged as part of the world of PR. It should be, IMHO - religiosity of some form I believe to be part of being human, by extension I would imagine its part of of any intelligent being's nature.

  3. Interesting. The German text has Betty saying "nicht der arme, alte Mann" which translates quite well as "not the poor, old man". And it comes across as sympathetic and as matter of fact. Of course, this owed to a good manner to German directness, which often comes across as bluntness or even rudeness.