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.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Perry Rhodan #15, Escape to Venus (1972)

by Clark Darlton (= German issue no. 22, Thoras Flucht “Thora's Flight,” Friday 2 February 1962)

19 June 1981. A year has passed since the return of the Stardust to Earth and Perry Rhodan's removal of the last major obstacle to world unification. The tenth anniversary of Rhodan's first moon mission that began the saga is a day of celebration across the world. Thora uses the distraction as an opportunity to abscond with one of the new Arkonide-designed destroyers, heading for Venus. She plans to use the hypercomm station in Venus Base to call Arkon and finally get out of this barbarian backwater. Unfortunately, she doesn't realize that the destroyers have not finished prepping with the proper authorization codes to be able to approach Venus Base – so the Positronic Brain shoots her down per Perry Rhodan's previous orders. And when Rhodan, along with two mutants, telepath John Marshall and teleoptician Son Okura, pursues her in a second destroyer, he forgets that fact as well and is similarly shot down!

So Thora along with an Arkonide robot R-17 (whom she'd outlogicked in fine James Kirk fashion), and Rhodan and his companions, end up castaways on the primeval planet – separately, but both groups without communications capability back to Earth. In fairly short order Thora is captured by a scouting party from General Tomisenkow's Eastern Bloc forces, stranded on Venus since taking a drubbing from Rhodan in #14, Venus in Danger. But two groups have splintered off from Tomisenkow – a group of “rebels” who have settled down to begin an agricultural existence, and a group of “totalitarian pacifists” who are anything but, and who in short order wipe out the agricultural rebels before heading to take on Tomisenkow's party.

Rhodan and his men have various adventures in the Venusian jungle. Rhodan is initially captured by but then takes up with Sgt. Rabow, Tomisenkow's very scout who had captured Thora but who was himself a rebel sympathizer. When they discover the destroyed rebel village and what the “pacifists'” next target is, however, they attempt to warn Tomisenkow. Realizing what a prize he has in the Arkonide woman – and that Rhodan will eventually attempt a rescue, the general has meanwhile beefed up his camp's automatic machine-gun defenses. Rabow is killed. Rhodan is shot through the shoulder, but manages to get away with Okura and Marshall.

Meanwhile, Reginald Bell and another crew including the Mutant Corps approach Venus in the Good Hope V, one of the “Guppies” from Stardust. They are stopped cold in their approach and receive a repeating transmission. The two previous approaches without proper authorization codes has resulted in the Robotic Brain locking down the planet: “SECRET BARRIER X HAS GONE INTO EFFECT. ANY PENETRATION INTO THIS PLANET'S ATMOSPHERE IS BEING REPELLED BY A HYPERGRAVITATIONAL NEGATIVE FORCE FIELD” (p. 105). Per Rhodan's orders. Only an Arkonide or Rhodan himself can countermand the order – and only from within Venus Base itself.

Rhodan determines that only with the help of the semi-intelligent seal creatures discovered in their initial trip to Venus a decade before can he hope to reach the Base. Only a telepath can communicate with them, so Marshall is elected to make a long trek to the ocean to establish contact. Shortly after his departure, Rhodan and Okura's short-range communicators pick up Bell's calls. Bell refuses Rhodan's orders to return to Earth. And so they all settle in to wait – Bell cursing in orbit, Rhodan and Okura “perched on a tree ... playing Tarzan” (p. 120), to see what the future (and Marshall's perilous quest) might bring.

(Another synopsis may be found at
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Cover: Again, it's a great-looking Grey Morrow sci-fi cover that has absolutely nothing to do with the story inside. Or almost nothing. Beyond the basic question of who the auburn-haired central figure is (Rhodan is famously blond, and usually depicted as such on Morrow's covers), who is the bald man in a bubble space helmet at lower left? Lex Luthor? ... or better, the Ultra-Humanite before? ... and after up to the right? Actually, the white ape is the one element of the cover that seems to come from the story. Although they really don't play much of a role here, I figure something must be being set up by the number of times white ape-like Venusian creatures are referred to in this story. (Also, I know the bald guy looks a lot more like classic Lex Luthor than the original Ultra-Humanite, but the juxtaposition with the white ape made me go there....)

Once again, Johnny Bruck's original German pulp cover far more directly derives from the story, although the overall color scheme is not the impression I get for the Venus described in the book. But maybe I'm bringing my own preconception of a grey, overcast day to the table. Since Venus is closer to the sun such a bright glow would perhaps penetrate the omnipresent cloud banks. The scene is from soon after Rhodan, Okura, and Marshall are shot down – with Rhodan's bandaged head and Okura's thick glasses clearly visible. Ironically, the “teleoptician” who has, for lack of a better term, a form of “X-Ray vision,” has poor eyesight in the normally visible bands of light.

The dedication is to Edgar Rice Burroughs, “Whose 'Escape On Venus' Was Just One Of His Myriads Of Marveleous [sic] Classics Of Escape Literature” (p. [4]). Although there is no ad for other Perry Rhodan books in this volume, there is one for various of Ace's ERB novels of the early 1970s ... which is all, I think serendipitously, quite appropriate given the reference to “playing Tarzan” that appears as quoted above.

The editorial is a rather silly exercise in creating a shorter and shorter “story” by subtracting one letter from previous iterations, driven by the passing of Frederic Brown at age 65, the writer of a “wacky parallel world novel What Mad Universe” (p. 7). “Did it ever occur to you that it can sometimes be a kind of desperate thing to come up with a new editorial every 4 weeks? Well, now you see the result” (p. 8). I don't think anyone ever said Forry couldn't poke fun at himself.

Scientifilm World is largely devoted to When Worlds Collide – which could have been made almost twenty years earlier than it was (1951), and by Cecil B. DeMille. Now there's something I never would have suspected. It ended up made by George Pal. There's also an announcement of an upcoming World Science Fiction Convention in Los Angeles, to be held 1-4 September, followed by an announcement for the United States' first Science Fiction Film Festival for “a couple of months later.” Finally, notice is taken of a new book about to be published which would give “the most extensive coverage of fantastic films ever undertaken by the human mind,” by one Walter W. Lee Jr. “Would you beleve something like 25,000 titles?!” (p. 128).

No letters column this go'round. At the very end of the editorial Ackerman blames its absence on a glitch in publication scheduling. Once again, there are no interior illustrations to this American edition. Are those a thing of the past?

The promise last issue of a thicker magabook with other features included beginning in this issue didn't actually come true. It will next issue, however.
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Random Annotations and Comments:

Here's something a bit different – a story of man versus an alien planet not written by Kurt Mahr. And the tone of Clark Darlton's story ends up being quite different – lighter, less ominous. Yes there are token references to and attacks by hostile fauna, and the requisite trek through the jungle, but generally the story is of human conflict. And it's typically quite complicated plotwise. There are several different players going – and that's without even bringing in the hanging plot thread of the stranded Eastern Bloc reinforcements that the Stardust blew right through at the beginning of the Special Release, Menace of Atomigeddon. Unless I missed something, they are never referred to in this book. Of course, original Ace readers would not even miss them. Might the Ackermans have simply edited out any reference to those reinforcements since they had not been properly introduced in the missing story? Without reference to the German original I have no way of knowing. But as the story develops here we end up with Thora and the Robot, Rhodan and his companions, three different groups of Easterners – and ultimately Bell orbiting the planet impotently!

Speculation: Perhaps the survivors of the Eastern Bloc reinforcement fleet were shot down by the Positronic Brain since they could not send the authentication code. Maybe that's why they seem to play no part in this story. And apparently Rhodan gave them no thought after observing them continuing to Venus after he inadvertently decimated their numbers. Granted, he had a lot on his mind 'round about then, but it does seem to be yet another oversight on his part. Is it just me, or have the plots lately been a bit overdriven by Perry Rhodan's own lack of foresight, especially where programming the Robot Brain on Venus Base is concerned? Sometimes, of course, it's a result of the way these stories are produced – plotted by committee, written very swiftly by individuals for weekly publication. But sometimes it seems that that's just the way the plot is driven.

P. 97: Betty Toufry described as “the 15-year-old telepathic wonder girl.” Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that she was born on 2 February 1966 according to the Perrypedia's calendar page, which cites German issue #7, American issue #4(a) Invasion from Space where she is introduced as six years old; that earlier adventure occurred in the first part of 1972. So in Earth's elapsed time she is indeed fifteen years old in June 1981. Of course, in her own elapsed time – as for Rhodan and the rest of his crew on the Stardust's mysteriously extended journey – you would need to shave four and a half years off that, making her effectively only ten years old.

Incidentally, the mystery of when the time shift noticed at the beginning of Venus in Danger continues: “For 10 years – if one took into consideration the peculiar time-leap on Wanderer...” (p. 28). It's soon yet, but I get the feeling this will become the orthodoxy, that the “peculiar time-leap” occurred while they were with the Immortal Unknown on his planet, although I think it's pretty obvious that it did not – see my comments to Menace of Atomigeddon.

The change in name of Galacto City to Terrania which occurred in Menace of Atomigeddon and was therefore “off screen” in the original Ace publication of the series is handled with just a couple of identical phrases repeated near the beginning of this book: “Terrania, formerly known as Galacto City” (p. 10 in narration, p. 21 in Rhodan's speech to the world).

The end of Rhodan's speech to the world sets up a bit of irony: “The New Power loves peace but will hit swift and hard, should peace be disturbed anywhere in this world” (p. 27). The words of him who Ackerman dubbed “The Peacelord of the Universe.” The iron hand in the velvet glove. Compare this with Son Okura's ruminations after witnessing the destruction of one of a rival splinter group of Easterners' villages – perpetrated by a fanatic devoted to pacifism: “[Okura] knew how much mischief had been committed in the name of 'pacifism.' It was the fashion nowadays to hide aggressive actions under the cloak of pacifism and to pretend that these war-like acts served the cause of peace” (p. 90). Of course, implying that the authors do not see the irony in what they are writing, this is followed by: “Thank God things had changed since Perry Rhodan's New Power had come into existence.” And, of course, things have not changed in the world since these words were written fifty years ago – some of the world's worst violence is perpetrated in the name of “peace.”

“One full Venusian day lasted as long as 10 days on Earth. This meant 120 hours of uninterrupted daylight, which was followed by an equally long stretch of darkness. One Venusian year lasted 224.7 Earth-days” (p. 30). This is preceded by a paragraph on the atmosphere and climate of Venus, which are obviously as believed until the early 1960s. The early Perry Rhodan stories set on Venus have to have been among the last science fiction stories that could be set on that putative primeval jungle planet with that environment being in any way a possibility. I've already commented on the rapidly changing understanding of the reality of Venus in my post on #4(b) Base on Venus. I'm sure the data given for the annual and diurnal cycle of Venus were given then, but I didn't do any research on it at that time. How do they stack up? According to, the length of the year is correct, “about 225 Earth days.” But the reported length of the year is wildly wrong (as I suspected from the round numbers given, but little did I dream of the magnitude of the error!). In actuality, “it takes Venus 243 Earth days to rotate on its axis.” And its rotation is unusual among all the planets of the solar system: “If viewed from above, while most planets rotate the same way on their axes, Venus rotates the opposite way. While on Earth, the sun appears to rise in the east and set in the west, if on Venus, the sun would rise in the west and set in the east. … [The disparity between the 225 Earth-day long year and the 243 Earth-day rotation], which normally would mean that days on Venus would be longer than years. However, because of Venus' curious retrograde rotation, the time from one sunrise to the next is only about 117 earth days long.”

Finally, would it be pedantic to point out that the proper adjectival form of “Venus” is “Venerian,” not “Venusian”? – Probably so, but it's another bit of odd knowledge I owe to Isaac Asimov.

Next up: Secret Barrier X.

Thanks for reading. Cheers, and Ad Astra!


  1. Great blog! I'm going to put it on my recomendations list.
    I've been listening to the Book Cave podcast about Perry Rhodan, which is where I learned about your blog. The only PR I've read is SNOWMAN IN FLAMES, which I managed to get through on a family vacation in the 70's. Never saw another one for sale and only heard of them mentioned as a snide remark by a "published" SF author.
    Keep up the excellent work!

  2. And another thing: MISSION STARDUST isn't that bad. It's about par for the kind of "Barbarella" movies being turned out in Italy at the time. Has a great soundtrack and Essy Persson (rowwwllll) as Thora.

  3. Thanks for the kind words.

    Oddly enough, #25 Snowman in Flames was also my first exposure to the series. A lady down the street worked at a small bookstore, where the MMPB practice is (or was) to cover-strip unsold books and send the cover to the publisher for a refund or credit, with the understanding that the book itself was destroyed. Of course they often are not. She used to pass on sci-fi books to me. I was maybe 12, I didn't know this was basically stealing. In any case, I still have my coverless copy of Snowman in Flames. Of course, this was some time after it had appeared. I read it, liked it, but by the time I went looking for more they were up around book #70 or so which is where I basically jumped in. I read only scattered books before that number, but most if not all from then on to the lamentable end of the Ace/Master runs. So all this early stuff is essentially new to me. Heck, after 30-40 years, even the stuff I read will be essentially new to me!

    You'll find you're in the minority with regard to Mission Stardust, but it's also admittedly one of those things that the bad rep tends to feed on itself. Sometimes it happens. Sometimes it's quite undeserved. For my more in depth comments on the PR movie that, according to Wikipedia, some PR fans like to deny even exists, see my blog entry from back in May:

    No argument at all on Essy Persson! -- Rowwwllll! indeed!


  4. What I liked best about the podcast was that it made me want to seek out the series and start reading it.
    I never liked "series" books or comics as a kid. Which is why I probably gave PR a pass after SNOWMAN. I wanted the story intact in whatever form I bought it. Chances were, I'd never get around to finding the next one. Which could be frustrating for a kid in the 70's.