Expedition Vega

This past week, I finished reading the second story arc in J-Novel Club’s translation of the Perry Rhodan NEO series. This arc of eight novellas was presented under the collective title, Expedition Vega. When the first arc, Vision Terrania, ended, astronaut Perry Rhodan, who had been to the moon and made first contact with aliens, had established his city Terrania in the Gobi Desert, and had won over the Chinese General Bai Jun who had laid siege to the city. What’s more they had rescued alien Crest de Zoltral from the hands of the Americans. However, the Americans still held technology from Crest’s race, the Arkonides. Expedition Vega opens as Perry Rhodan leads an expedition to recover that technology, so it doesn’t stay in the hands of just one government.

Perry Rhodan NEO: Expedition Vega

Once this recovery mission comes to a conclusion, Perry Rhodan’s people detect a distress signal from the star Vega. Even though Terrania still faces many challenges, Rhodan decides he can’t ignore the signal and puts together a team, which includes Crest’s adopted daughter, the Arkonide Commander Thora, to investigate. Rhodan and his team arrive at Vega and discover a race of reptillian creatures called the Topsidans have taken it upon themselves to conquer the system. The natives of Vega are blue-skinned human-like creatures known as the Ferron. Perry Rhodan and his team are attacked and soon find themselves separated and fighting desperately just to stay alive.

Soon after Perry Rhodan and his team leave the Earth, another alien species turns up. These are the Fantan, who collect anything and everything that happens to grab their interest. It can be something as mundane as a porta-potty to something as crucial as a major bridge or a rescue vehicle. It can even be people. Reginald Bull and Eric Manoli, two of the astronauts who went to the moon with Rhodan and met the Arkonides, are soon collected along with two young mutants. This group eventually teams up with the alien mutant mouse-beaver known as Gucky and begin to plot a way to escape the Fantan

As all of this is going on, humans have learned that Arkonides visited Earth in the distant past and there’s an ancient Arkonide base and ship under the ocean. The humans on Earth hope to use this ancient technology to find a way to get rid of the Fantan who are proving far more than a mere nuisance.

Through the course of these eight novellas, these very disparate plot lines play out and eventually find their way to a common solution. There were many great moments in the series. I enjoyed how Perry kept trying to find a way not only to survive being stranded in the Vega system, but kept looking for ways to bring peace to the system again. One of my favorite moments in this arc was when Reginald, Eric, and Gucky put on the musical The Pirates of Penzance as a way to distract the Fantan and try to escape. Another fun moment came in the novella “A Step Into the Future” by Bernd Perplies, when he introduces a reporter named Dayton Ward, a name strongly associated with Simon and Schuster’s Star Trek novels in the United States.

As it turns out Bernd Perplies has translated several English-language Star Trek novels into German and was a co-author of the Star Trek: Prometheus novels. I wrote to Dayton Ward and asked if he and Perplies knew each other and Ward confirmed they had, in fact, corresponded. I know Dayton because we were co-editors on our own book of exciting space tales called Maximum Velocity. If you’re a fan of exciting space adventure like Germany’s Perry Rhodan series, I suspect you’d enjoy our short story collection. You’ll find stories by people like Mike Resnick, Irene Radford, and C.J. Henderson. There are even stories by Dayton and me. You can pick up a copy at https://www.amazon.com/Maximum-Velocity-Full-Throttle-Space-Tales/dp/1614755299/

I’m sorry to say, I don’t see any forthcoming volumes of Perry Rhodan NEO listed on J-Novel Club’s website. I’m hoping they’re just taking a brief hiatus, otherwise, I’ll have to dust off my German skills to continue into the next 26 story arcs!

Battle for the Sol

Back in November, I mentioned that my wife had purchased all six issues of Cross-Cult Comics’ Perry Rhodan series for me in digital format. I read and discussed the first three issues almost right away, but then between the holidays and editorial deadlines, I had to delay reading the final three issues. Here’s the link to my first post: Perry Rhodan Comics

I finally had a chance to read the second three-issue arc, entitled “Battle for the Sol.” I suspect the pun is deliberate, since Germans would pronounce “Sol” the same way English-speakers pronounce “soul.” In this case the Sol is one of the long-distance space ships Perry Rhodan uses over the course of his immortal existence to explore the universe. One cool element of this second story arc is that the covers were designed to connect to one another, a fact I hadn’t realized until I assembled the image for this post.

Connecting covers for Perry Rhodan: Battle for the Sol

The second arc of the Perry Rhodan comic series takes up where the first arc left off. Perry Rhodan and the crew of the Sol have agreed to delay the search for their home galaxy so they help the insect-like Skra’Bji settle a new planet. However, the resettlement proves more time consuming than many people had expected and some members of the crew want to resume the search for the Milky Way Galaxy immediately without continuing to help the Skra’Bji. This is exacerbated when the Skra’Bji find the corpse of an ancient enemy, the Herayan, on the new world. For some reason the Skra’Bji begin to panic at the news of this corpse. One member of Rhodan’s crew decides to put an end to the Skra’Bji’s problems once and for all and plans to zap the Herayan corpse with a ray gun. Turns out that’s a big mistake. The energy from the ray gun revitalizes the enemy and it eventually makes it to the Sol, where it begins to rampage through the ship.

To make matters worse Rhodan along with Tr’Frel, the leader of the Skra’Bji, learn that a breach in the fabric of space will allow even more Herayans to invade the Umal Galaxy where the Skra’Bji live. Rhodan is sent on a quest for the sigil that will seal the breach which will allow the Herayan into the galaxy. In the meantime, Rhodan’s companions Gucky, Belayn, and Tolot must deal with the Herayan who have already invaded the ship. They succeed and learn that the Herayans remember all the galaxies they’ve been to and their brain patterns effectively contain a “map” that will point them back home. This strengthens the resolve of those who want to abandon the Skra’Bji to their fate and a “Humanity First” movement is formed and plots to take over the Sol from Perry Rhodan and his close companions.

Like the first story arc, the second was written by Kai Hirdt, illustrated by Marco Castiello, and colored by Michael Atiyeh. I liked the way the story explored the challenges of deciding whether to prioritize helping those who are “alien” or your own family and friends, especially when both groups are in need. Another thing I liked was that by sending Perry Rhodan and Tr’Frel off in their own quest, it allowed some of the secondary characters to shine. In fact, the second issue put the spotlight on Belayn Parcer who believes in helping the Skra’Bji and her struggle with a woman named Micaela who speaks for the Humanity First movement. Overall, the first two issues of this second story arc did a great job of allowing the artwork to tell the story. The third issue was a little exposition-heavy. Given the number of plot threads that needed to be wrapped up at the end of issue 2, this would have been hard to avoid without expanding into a fourth issue.

Also, like the first story arc, the second set of Perry Rhodan comics are only available in German. Once again, it was a nice opportunity for me to practice reading the German language and to learn more about one of the longest-running science fiction literary series. If you don’t speak German, but would like to explore the universe of Perry Rhodan, many of the early novels from the 1960s and 70s were translated into English and are widely available in used bookstores. Otherwise, the publisher J-Novel Club is translating the updated Perry Rhodan Neo series and releasing new volumes about every six weeks. I’ve been reading these as well and enjoying them a great deal.


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Perry Rhodan Lemuria

Two weeks ago, I shared my discovery of Perry Rhodan Neo. This is the German space opera series which the publisher J-Novel Club started translating into English and publishing in the United States this year. In effect, it’s a reboot of the original Perry Rhodan series, which contains over 3100 stories written between 1961 and the present day. I was curious whether any other Perry Rhodan stories had been translated into English after the Ace Books editions ceased publication circa 1978. I discovered a series of novels called Perry Rhodan Lemuria. This is a six-novel series that was published separately from the main Perry Rhodan serials, but fits within the original continuity. The first novel in the series was translated into English in 2005. The other five novels finally saw translation and publication as ebooks starting in 2015.

As I mentioned in the earlier post, I first learned about Perry Rhodan because he inspired Bubonicon’s mascot Perry Rodent. I also have an interest in science fiction and fantasy published in other countries and languages. What’s more, I took several German language classes in high school and college. I’ve translated a few of the original Grimm Fairy Tales for my own interest, so it’s fun to look at modern science fiction from Germany.

Perry Rhodan Lemuria is set almost 3000 years after Perry Rhodan made first contact with aliens on the moon. He’s still alive thanks to a device called a cell activator, which gives him virtual immortality. In fact, one of the things I enjoy about these later Perry Rhodan books is how Rhodan takes immortality in stride. He doesn’t complain about living too long. Instead he enjoys the fact that he has time to see large swaths of human history and explore vast reaches of the universe. The Lemuria series opens with Perry aboard the prospecting vessel Palenque. He’s there to make peaceful inroads with a group of people called the Akonians. Meanwhile, the Palenque has sent out several of its exploration vessels and one is destroyed when a shuttle traveling near the speed of light collides with it. It turns out, the shuttle was stolen by a Lemurian named Venron, who has been aboard a generation ship. When Venron comes aboard the Palenque, it spurs Rhodan to seek out the ancient craft to learn more about it. Soon after they reach the craft, they discover the Akonians have also intercepted it.

In the Perry Rhodan storyline, it turns out the Lemurians are the progenitors of all the humanoid species around the galaxy. Not only that, but the Lemurians come from Earth itself. The idea is that a great space faring civilization rose to prominence on Earth, but it ultimately collapsed and vanished before humans again reached their potential and went out to the stars. Admittedly, having human-like aliens in your space opera helps to make them more relatable. Star Trek once suggested that many of the human-like species in the galaxy might share a common ancestor. That said, it does push my willing suspension of disbelief a little to suggest that such a common ancestor would come from Earth itself, but that’s never really a major plot point, at least in the first two volumes of Perry Rhodan Lemuria. Doing a little research, it seems the Lemurians have been part of the Perry Rhodan mythos since around 1966 and I would guess that changing their backstory wouldn’t be a simple matter. It will be interesting to see how and if Perry Rhodan Neo deals with the Lemurians.

Circumstances in the first novel send Perry and the crew of the Palenque after a second Lemurian ark in the second novel. That second ark ends up crash-landing on a planet. There, the idea of human-like aliens is turned on its head when the Lemurians and the crew of the Palenque encounter a group of energy beings who don’t seem happy about the human-like aliens on their planet.

Overall, the first two novels in this series have nicely woven plots, some interesting ideas, and characters I care about. The first novel seemed well translated, but the second one could have used some careful copyediting. I found several places where words were missing or sentences seemed a little too close to German word order for easy reading. The storyline has caught me well enough that I want to read more in this series and I was grateful to see an example of Perry Rhodan’s later adventures after he left the Earth and started exploring other worlds. I recommend it, especially if you’d like to get a taste of a very long running science fiction series published outside the United States.

Perry Rhodan Neo

The line might be a marketing cliché but in this case, it might literally be true that Perry Rhodan is the most famous space hero you’ve never heard of. Perry Rhodan is the protagonist in a long-running series of space adventure stories published in Germany. The series started in 1961 and continues to this day. There are over 3100 Perry Rhodan novellas. I can’t think of anything quite like that in the United States. The closest equivalents I can think of are some long-running comic book series or Harlequin romances. Neither one quite hits the mark since comic books aren’t the same length as novellas and Harlequin romances aren’t a single, continuous narrative.

Rhodan is not unheard of in the United States. Forrest J. Ackerman acquired the rights to translate the stories into English and publish them in the United States. Ace Books published the series from 1969 until 1977. I first discovered Perry Rhodan by attending the Bubonicon science fiction in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Given that the convention is named for the Bubonic Plague, the mascot was named Perry Rodent as a nod to Rhodan, whose adventures were in print in the U.S. when the convention first started.

Perry Rhodan is a NASA astronaut who goes to the moon and discovers two aliens aboard a space vessel. Realizing this is an opportunity to start a new era, he brings them to Earth and hatches a plan for world peace. He’s aided by a group of human mutants who have manifested special talents. As the series progresses, Rhodan leads humanity outward to explore space. With the help of alien science, he’s able to extend his life and becomes virtually immortal. In effect, the series has elements of Star Trek, Doctor Who, and X-Men all rolled into one — and it predates all of those!

This brings us to Perry Rhodan Neo. Launched on Perry Rhodan’s 50th anniversary, this new series goes back to the beginning and re-imagines the series. The original starts in 1971. The new series pushes the events forward to 2030. It ramps up the action, feels a little grittier and a little sexier. In a long-running series like Perry Rhodan, plot points tend to evolve organically as different writers introduce them over time and as different editors shape the direction of the series. Neo starts folding in some of the longer running plot points early on to make a more unified story. While the original series hasn’t been seen in translation since 1977, I was excited to discover that Neo is being translated and has started appearing in the United States this year, the 60th anniversary of Perry Rhodan.

Perry Rhodan Neo is being published in the United States by J-Novel Club, a publisher best known for translating and publishing Japanese light novels. In fact, the covers for the translated editions are taken from the Japanese editions, which is why they have a distinctly manga-like appearance. The covers above are for the first two novellas, Stardust and Utopia Terrania. On the left we see Perry Rhodan and on the right we see the Arkonide captain, Thora da Zoltral. Each ebook contains two novellas.

Back in 2012, the Bubonicon chair asked me to write a Perry Rodent story for the program guide. Although it wasn’t required, I thought it would be fun to capture the flavor of the Rhodan novels, so I read the first few. They were fun, pulp adventure, but they felt dated and it wasn’t all that difficult to step away from the series and move onto other things. Even though Neo tells much the same story, I found it much harder to put down. The storytelling was fun. The action whipped along. I haven’t read these in the original German, but the translations seem well executed. I see that the first eight-novella arc of Perry Rhodan Neo is complete in English and that J-Novel Club will be continuing into the second story arc. I’m looking forward to reading more of these stories and learning more about a character I’d heard of, but don’t know well enough.

If you’d like to read my Perry Rodent story, I published that here on the Web Journal at: https://davidleesummers.wordpress.com/2012/09/01/perry-and-the-apocalypse/

You can find Perry Rhodan Neo at your favorite ebook retailer or buy them directly at J-Novel Club: https://j-novel.club/series/perry-rhodan-neo