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Perry Rhodan Magazine, Issues #1800 and #1801
Robert Feldhoff, translated by Dwight Decker
Vector Enterprises, 72 and 48 pages

Perry Rhodan Magazine
Perry Rhodan Magazine
Perry Rhodan
The first issue of the new American-edition Perry Rhodan starts with an introduction by Forrest J Ackerman. These magazine-format serial novels, handsomely packaged by start-up publisher Vector Enterprises, offer complex, involved stories with an old-style mix of character and action. The series starts with a new storyline, Bridge to Eternity. As an added bonus, the first issue includes a detailed summary filling in background details of the first 999 issues of the German edition of Perry Rhodan.

Vector Enterprises

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mark Shainblum

At last! The return of a good old-fashioned, honest-to-God pulp magazine.

I approached these publications completely unfamiliar with the world of Perry Rhodan, a German space opera series which has been in continuous publication since the early 1960s. Unfortunately, Perry's been in continuous German publication since then with several non-continuous forays into the North American paperback book market throughout the 60s and 70s. Though the character established a core fan following on this side of the Atlantic, he never really gained sufficient critical mass to sustain him over the long haul.

Thankfully, that seems to be changing. California-based Vector Enterprises has acquired the North American rights to the immortal, star-spanning hero and have relaunched him in an accessible, affordable newsprint magazine. A pulp magazine, in other words.

Perry Rhodan is a pulp in terms of content too, following the adventures of the title hero and his band of Immortal Circuit-bearers. According to background material provided in the first issue, Perry Rhodan is a American astronaut of German descent who was the first man on the moon in his universe's timeline. While on the moon, he and his teammates encounter a disabled alien vessel which has crash-landed and establishes humanity's first contact with an alien race, the Arkonides. Rhodan arranges for the Arkonides to transfer their advanced technology to Earth, and he uses his new-found status to avert a nuclear war and unify humanity. Later on in the series he thwarts extra-terrestrial invasions and acquires immortality. At the point where this new English-language series begins, he and his companions have been alive for literally thousands of years.

It's always a little daunting stepping into the middle of a history-rich continuing series like Perry Rhodan. I am unavoidably reminded of DC Comics' The Legion of Superheroes (in more or less continuous publication since 1957) and Doctor Who, the BBC science fiction which premiered in 1963 and was the longest running drama show in television history, until recently. The lore is so deep, the history so convoluted that you can't help but feel like an outsider, like a foreigner who doesn't know the local language and cultural referents.

Thankfully, Vector seems to be an extremely smart operation and they've included a considerable amount of background information in both issues. This allows a painless, if not entirely seamless segue for the new reader. Keep in mind that this series is a galactic-spanning space opera saga with a time frame measured in thousands of years. The various authors shrug off half-centuries and centuries like water off a duck's back. These two issues alone cover almost a full century of the Rhodan-universe's history, and the second issue covers literally millions of years on the surface of the time-accelerated world of Trokan -- from total sterility and vacuum, through the beginnings of the evolutionary process to the rise of an intelligent species and civilization, all in less than 100 pages. Pretty impressive stuff.

I hope it's not ethnic stereotyping to say that, even in translation, these magazines have a particularly Germanic feel about them. Years pass, civilizations rise and fall, heroes begin and then abandon huge Arthurian quests and then begin even more grandiose schemes -- and yet there always seems to be a certain blasé mechanistic, matter-of-factness about the whole exercise. Which is not to say that the stories are uninteresting or badly written -- in fact the translations are some of the best I've ever seen of foreign-language SF. And Perry Rhodan himself, despite his specific unfamiliarity, is still extremely familiar in terms of the heroic archetype he represents.

All in all, I feel confident giving a hearty recommendation to this series. Fans of space opera and heroic fiction who may be getting tired of formulaic media tie-ins will particularly appreciate the magazine. Perry Rhodan may not be great, Earth-shaking literature, but it is well-executed space opera and an awful lot of fun.

Copyright © 1998 by Mark Shainblum

Mark Shainblum is the co-editor of Arrowdreams: An Anthology Of Alternate Canadas (Nuage Editions, 1997) the first anthology of Canadian alternate history. A veteran of the comic book field, Mark co-created the 1980s Canadian superhero Northguard and currently writes the Canadian political parody series Angloman both in the form of a paperback book series and as a weekly comic strip in the Montreal Gazette. He lives in Montreal with his computer, his slippers and a motley collection of books.

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