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, October 9, 2012

Perry Rhodan #19, Mutants vs. Mutants (1972)

By Clark Darlton ( = German issue #26, “Duel of the Mutants,” Friday 2 March 1962)

A space pilot training mission is ambushed near Mars by one of the destroyers previously stolen in the first move by the as yet unknown supermutant against the New Power. Captain Hawk is killed in the initial attack, but cadet Julian Tifflor, “Tiff,” takes charge and is able to turn the tables and capture the enemy pilot. The attacker is brought back to Terrania, but under telepathic/hypnotic interrogation he simply dies at the Mutant Master's mental command.

A New Power defensive fort outside Terrania attacks the New Power's space ship manufacturing plant. We read this section from the perspective of one of the soldiers who manages to keep some degree of awareness for a time but is unable nonetheless to resist the mental compulsion of the supermutant. Using Arkonide technology, Perry Rhodan manages to quell the attack, but these two assaults are just the beginning of attacks around the world on various fronts. The Mutant Corps is running ragged resisting the enemy's campaign, simply putting out fires until Fellmer Lloyd captures the Russian telepath Tatjana Michalowna.

Tatjana is subjected to interrogation by telepath John Marshall. In this section we receive a clear statement of Perry Rhodan's philosophy:

Mankind [has] to learn that it is not the only intelligent life in the universe. Should mankind remain in isolation in order to one day become the victim of a hostile invader's surprise attack? Or isn't it better to adjust to your surroundings? That's all we are really doing! Only a united Earth, with a strong leadership, will not fail to join up with the rest of the galactic civilizations – on a par with them. Not too long ago, such developments seemed to lie in the very remote future for mankind; they were looked upon like the wild dreams [of] fantasy writers. But today it has become reality. ...”

Tatjana protests Rhodan's statement: “Do you consider yourself the policing force of this globe, or even the peacelord of the universe?”

Rhodan answers her: “In a way. But we are mainly trying to pave the way for a better understanding among the nations of this Earth and a peaceful existence with the rest of intelligent life all over the universe.” (pp. 55-56)

These arguments make an impression on Tatjana, but the clincher is when she learns that the Mutant Master unscrupulously compels his followers to suicide, whereupon she reveals to Rhodan her ability to block the supermutant's compulsions, and furthermore that she knows his identity: Clifford Monterny.

This is the break the New Power needed. With Tatjana's help, working with Allen Mercant and the world's intelligence organizations as well as the FBI, Rhodan and the Mutant Corps nullify as many of Monterny's mutants as they can and mount a raid on his stronghold in the Utah desert. Ray guns and atomics versus Arkonide force shields! Telekinetics versus Arkonide robots! Hypnotics versus ground troops! – until finally Tatjana and Arkonide technology (hypno rays) overwhelm Monterny's forces. Monterny himself cuts and runs, fleeing in one of the other captured destroyers into space. Tiff and a crew in high orbit as a picket line see the launch and follow, but Monterny demonstrates the ability to gain control of a subject's consciousness even through a communications link and gets away – leaving Tiff and his crew compelled to attack Reginald Bell in the pursuing Stardust II until Pucky teleports into Tiff's ship and disable it.

Back on the ground, once Monterny was gone Rhodan and company managed to free the mutants he left behind, about a dozen, who seemingly were none of them following the supermutant willingly but who were helpless against his powerful hypnotic compulsion. They all join Rhodan, but tell him that Monterny has one other secret, and very powerful, mutant as an ace-in-the-hole.

Calm seemingly restored, and Monterny having slipped away into hiding, Rhodan convenes a summit of world leaders. The crisis precipitated by the Mutant Master simply highlights the dangers that face the still-divided world. He gives the world's leaders an ultimatum: They have one year to put aside their differences and bring true unity to the world, or he, Rhodan, would impose unity by force.

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I'm very curious about Tatjana's question to Perry Rhodan: “Do you consider yourself the policing force of this globe, or even the peacelord of the universe?” (p. 56, quoted above, emphasis added here). “Peacelord of the Universe” – virtually a subtitle to the series included on many of the covers of the Ace paperbacks. My question is, however, whether that phrase is original to the German or is it (as I suspect) something that Forrest J. Ackerman dreamed up? Hopefully a reader can elucidate that in the comments.

Judging from the comments from Tom and Peter Brülls to the previous book (see here), Julian “Tiff” Tifflor becomes a very important character. His prominence in this story maybe would have tipped me off to that even were I not clued in by their comments. From the similar emphasis given to Tatjana Michalowna, I would guess she also will be at the very least a recurring character. I have no memory of either of them from my teen-aged reading, which was mainly of English numbers seventy or so onward to about #140-ish (and not every one of those), and only very spottily outside that range. I do remember Monterny's “ace-in-the-hole,” despite Peter's surprise that I remember him and not Tiff. I remember him as a member of the Mutant Corps. ([Spoiler – Highlight to see] But the image of a two-headed giant who can telekinetically create nuclear explosions made quite an impression on teen-age me!)

Captain Hawk who meets an early demise in this book immediately reminded me, solely because of the name, of the rather ill-conceived avian warrior of the same name introduced in the equally ill-conceived second season of the 1970s TV show, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, as played by Thom Christopher. But once the image was in my mind, it stayed.

One feature of the Ace series pretty much since it started regular publication with #6, I believe, was little blurbs at the end of each chapter announcing what adventure would be coming ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred or more volumes after the current book. I was mildly amused to learn on p. 106 of this issue that “300 ADVENTURES FROM NOW [we would] Gasp at The Fantastic Four.” Needless to say, that didn't happen; publication of the English translation of Perry Rhodan had ended far short of that mark, but for what it's worth I believe that the adventure in question would have been German #327, Die vier Unheimlichen, “The Four Terrifying Ones,” by K. H. Scheer, accounting for various discrepancies in numbering.
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The Gray Morrow cover on the Ace paperback edition – I got the 1974 2nd edition, but the first edition had the same cover – sports what I most remember about the 1970s Perry Rhodan covers in that the man and woman (Rhodan and Thora?, except her hair is too dark) are clad in garb that is very much like then-current comic book super hero costumes.  I find the design aesthetic in this case very reminiscent of Mike Grell's costumes for the Legion of Super-Heroes
And doesn't that Arkonide robot's face on the Johnny Bruck German edition cover look very Cylonish?

This volume is dedicated “to the late ROG PHILLIPS who, among many other stories, wrote 'The Mutants' in 1946. Gone but Not Forgotten” (p. [4]). Wikipedia has a very short entry on Phillips here; his bibliography appears on The Internet Speculative Fiction Database. “The Mutants” appeared in the July 1946 issue of Amazing Science Fiction.

For the first time in I believe several volumes, there's actually an interior illustration – of our favorite mousebeaver, Pucky – on p. 6:

Ackerman gives over his “Stardust Editorial” to a rebuttal against an Australian reviewer who went by the nom de plume “Mouser,” who in SFNews #36 evidently heaped a good amount opprobrium on Perry Rhodan, specifically #6, The Secret of the Time Vault, which ultimately considered and rejected coining a new term for “this sort of stuff … moroni-fiction” before concluding “that there is already a completely satisfactory category: trash.” Ackerman's retort? – “One man's trash is another man's treasure” (p. 9). … I'll bet that made “Mouser” reconsider his judgment!

As insulting as it is, I'm kind of tickled by the term, “moroni-fiction” ….

After the Perry Rhodan lead story abstracted above, there is a “Shock Short,” “Relics from the Earth,” by John Pierce. An archaeological expedition makes its way from Triton to the mother world of humanity and back, retrieving the Woolworth Building (the tallest building in the world at the time of this story's writing – 1929 says the introduction although it was published in Science Wonder Stories' March 1930 issue according to the ISFDB here) as well as the Eiffel Tower. Frankly, however, I can't figure out the point of this story. It's pretty straightforward as a narrative although there is some kind of undefined trouble on the return trip.

We are then treated to Part Four of the serialization of Garrett P. Serviss' unauthorized sequel to H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds, “Pursuit to Mars,” comprising two more chapters, seven and eight, “Mars' Mask of War” and “Mars' Great Surprise.” [ Links to Parts One, Two, and Three. ] The retaliatory expedition headed by Thomas A. Edison tours the red planet at a high alititude, then the a black smoke screen forms enveloping the entire globe. The Earthlings realize that they do not have time to outwait the Martians because their provisions, packed for three years, have mysteriously spoiled. They have only ten days left, not even enough time for them to abandon their campaign and return to Earth. It's imperative that they win a quick victory and, moreover, find some way to reprovision. Edison intrepidly determines a way through the cloud layer to attack the main population center. A great aerial battle ensues, and the Earthlings inflict great damage on the Martians – but they are outnumbered and lose about a third of their forces before they retreat back to above the cloud layer. A new strategy is deployed – attempt to land a task force on the other side of the planet and attack the Martians from the rear. The narrator joins this force, so we follow them to man's first actual landing on Mars. Exploring the area on foot, he and his companions hear the unexpected sound of Earthly music – from a human girl!

A second “Shock Short” featurette is entitled “Little Johnny,” written by Oscar G. Estes, Jr. (originally published in Fantasy Book, February 1948). Maybe I'm obtuse or something, but again I'm not sure what the point or even the plot of this story is. On the surface, it's the tale of the narrator being beguiled by some spider-like creature into believing it is his distant son, then another individual is affected the same way.

Finally, an expanded “Scientifilm World” column bumps thePerryscope” letters column this month, announcing the First Annual Science Fiction and Film Convention in typically Forry overblown bombast. Assuming it took place as announced (I can find no Internet record of it under that name), it was 72 straight hours of “imagi-movies” over Thanksgiving weekend 1972 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

Next issue, it's Clark Darlton again for The Thrall of Hypno ….

Thanks for reading! Cheers!, and Ad Astra!