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, December 28, 2011

Perry Rhodan #16, Secret Barrier X (Aug 1972)

By W. W. Shols (= German issue #23, Friday 9 February 1962)

After a short chapter establishing that even mutant teleporter Tako Kakuta cannot penetrate Secret Barrier X from the helplessly orbiting Good Hope V – the attempt subjects him to literally hours of subjective time in hell during which pass only seconds for his crewmates  the balance of the story takes place on Venus itself. Basically, in addition to the wounded Perry Rhodan and Son Okura traveling slowly to catch up with John Marshall who has gone ahead to try to establish telepathic contact with the semi-intelligent seal-like creatures whom they encountered in their initial explorations of Venus (#4[b], Base on Venus), Gen. Tomisenkov with the captive Thora makes his way toward Venus Base while being harried by the rebel Lt. Wallerinski's “pacifists,” and a new force is added to the mix – the remnants of the Eastern Bloc reinforcements that were decimated before ever they landed on Venus (Menace of Atomiggedon), whose commander Col. Raskujan has declared himself the sole authority on the planet and launched an attack on Tomisenkov's forces with vastly superior forces and equipment, including helicopters. Early on, Tomisenkov ambushes and destroys Thora's robotic companion R-17, but by the end both himself and Thora have been captured by Raskujan. Meanwhile, Marshall has not found the “seals,” but has been rejoined by Rhodan and Okura, and together the three have made first an abortive attempt to steal a helicopter from Raskujan's forces, then managed to get away with an inflatable life raft and supplies with which they mean to cross a 200-mile wide stretch of Venusian sea that lies between them and Venus Base.

So, ultimately, not a whole lot happens except pieces being moved around on the playing board.

* * *
The Ace cover is a pretty generic science-fiction cover by Gray Morrow – literally, pretty but generic, having nothing whatsoever to do with the story. The original German cover by Johhny Bruck at least illustrates the ambush of poor R-17 by Tomisenkov's men. Once again there are no interior drawings.

The dedication is to Otis Adelbert Kline, “Whose Grandon of Terra Once Had Grand Adventures on Venus too.” Kline was an early 20th-century pulp science-fiction and adventure writer who penned planetary romances much in the vein of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars and Venus series. The oft-repeated story that Kline and Burroughs engaged in a running feud over Kline's supposed imitation of Burroughs is almost certainly not true. Kline was also important as a literary agent for Robert E. Howard.

Both the editorial and the “Scientifilm World” column are repeats from the previous issue, q.v. This period in the books' publications seems to have been rife with such production snafus.

But with this issue, Perry Rhodan does become more of a true paperback/pulp “magabook” with the inclusion of two shorter stories at the end. First there is the initial installment of Garrett P. Serviss' almost immediate sequel to H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds that began in the New York Evening Journal within weeks of Wells' original reaching its first US publication conclusion in Cosmopolitan (yes, you read that right, except that here we're not talking about the modern women's magazine, rather an earlier and “far more erudite publication whose broad remit included journalism, serious comment and stories from some of the best known writers of the age” – War of the Worlds website). Serviss' original 1898 title gives away one of the major conceits of his story, which had as its hero none other than the “Wizard of Menlo Park” – it was called Edison's Conquest of Mars. Here the tale is retitled Pursuit to Mars. Besides Thomas Edison, who in short order invented both an electrical means of space propulsion and a disintegrator beam weapon, other characters include Lord Kelvin and physicist Wilhelm Roentgen – all part of leading the Earth's effort to pick itself back up to take the war back to the Martians! By the end of the second chapter reprinted here (in Forrest J Ackerman's heavily edited form), the new united Earth fleet has launched for the red planet.

Second there is the first of what FJA calls “Shock Shorts,” short one-to-two-page stories with some twist at the end. This one is by Clive Jackson, entitled “The Swordsmen of Varnis,” and is a pretty typically ERB-esque tale of a brave hero and a beautiful maiden valiantly holding off seemingly hopeless odds on Mars ... until one of the attackers says “To hell with this!” – or to quote it exactly:

“Leaping backward out of the conflict he flung his sword on the ground in disgust. 'Bah!' he grunted. 'This is ridiculous!' And, so saying, he unclipped a proton gun from his belt and blasted Lehni-tal-Loanis and her Warrior Lord out of existence with a searing energy-beam.


Frankly, I found Pursuit to Mars and “The Swordsmen of Varnis” both more engaging than this installment of Perry Rhodan. It just confirms that W. W. Shols is my least favorite Perry Rhodan writer (see also here). Luckily, he wrote only one more issue after this one.

Next: The Venus Trap by Kurt Mahr.

Cheers! … Ad Astra! … and Happy New Year!