Review of “Perry Rhodan #1 – Enterprise Stardust” by K.H. Scheer and Walter Ernsting

Perry Rhodan is itself a very strange creature. There is a lot of things that it is, and a few things that it is not. Starting with what it is not, it is not a piece of fiction that will grab you and slam you around, it is not something that is going to take you on an emotional roller-coaster, and it is not something that is going to push the limits of what science fiction can be. Of course, as of now, I can only speak to the first two stories on those accounts. But, does all that mean that it can’t be good? I don’t think so, but to enjoy it now takes a special perspective, and one that I would rarely ever want to impose on a piece of fiction.
Most good and great fiction exists in a space that is all to its own. You do not have to think about the time that it was written in, where it was written, who it was written by, politics, the social issues involved, etc. This can be especially hard in science fiction because most science fiction can become pretty dated pretty quickly, especially when the author is discussing the near future, and might even be bold enough to put a year on it. They can still hold up of course, but sometimes they work against themselves a few decades after publication. With Perry Rhodan we have a different story, at least from my perspective.
Let me get one thing clear right up front. I enjoyed the two stories contained with in this volume immensely, but the reasons for enjoyment were definitely atypical, and I have to look towards the pen behind the words to get my fill out of these stories. This first volume was written all the way back in 1961, that in itself is interesting given that the novels start out with a space race that has culminated into a voyage to the moon. Sputnik, if you will remember, launched only 4 years earlier, and it was published the same year that John F. Kennedy made his famous space race speech. The book says that the Americans landed on the moon in 1971, not that far off from the actual 1969 landing. Something else has to be remembered about these words too. They were originally written in German. World War II was not yet a distant memory for this country, or any country really for that matter. The two listed German authors for this double issue are K. H. Scheer and Walter Ernsting (who would later go by the pen name Clark Dalton which appears on most of the more sought after Rhodan novels) both of whom were born in the 1920s. Both had seen World War II first hand, and at least one of them had served. Not a lot of talk is ever focused on the countries that lose a war. We are all told, at least stateside, about the devastation that was spread across Europe and mainly the countries of France and England, but Germany was perhaps far worse off. They had no real government to turn to. They had a ravaged country that they had to try and make work. Communism was knocking on their door, in some cases rather harshly. And they had to deal with the psychological impact of such a terrible war that they had found themselves on the wrong side of. Out of all that, somehow, a huge science fiction universe was crafted. One that was built with hope, lightheartedness, and a keen eye for world building.
That is the perspective that I have to bring to bear on the words present in this volume. It makes navigating outdated concepts of a fluid medium and some slightly misconceived notions about zero gravity and low gravity much more enjoyable (at least they didn’t go so far as to assume that the issue of gravity would simply be solved and therefore not need to be addressed in the fiction, like so many science fiction tales). We are given a window into another time here, and even an entirely different mindset. This is Germany that has produced these words, and yet I had not found a single mention of Germany at all. Instead we have a main character who is American, surrounded by mostly other American characters. Remember, this is not pandering. It will be eight years before these words every get translated and published in America, and they will not be very well received. This is not an ego stroking event either. They were being practical. There were only a few powers that had any kind of infrastructure that could support space travel, and they merely picked the one that was closer to their hearts as America was helping them rebuild their country. Personally I could think of a hundred ways to interject a German into the fore of this story, but the fact that the authors chose not to, shows their humble nature, and it shows something even stronger, it shows an aspect of one of their central themes. A theme that I think most readers of science fiction can get behind. The idea that we are all one people, and that we should stop thinking about ourselves based on the heritage of our country, but rather based on our heritage as human beings.
A final note on this volume has to go toward the translation itself. I usually tend to shy away from translations because I feel that a great deal can be lost when a story crosses language, and it is entirely possible that this volume has taken its own literary hit in the process, but overall I think the stories in this volume have been infused with fantastic and vibrant language for what they are. The translation more than holds up, and the stories are definitely worth a read, or at least to be aware of. If you manage to get your hands on a book, (not a terribly difficult endeavor), then give it a whirl.
Next on the agenda is an old, often brought up, classic. Ray Bradbury needs to have an entry in this review list, and I personally can’t think of a better place to start than Fahrenheit 451. Let’s dive into the words of a true science fiction and literary master.

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *