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