Perry Rhodan NEO (J-Novel Club)
As you might deduce from the title, Perry Rhodan NEO is a newer rebooted take on the original Perry Rhodan series. It’s not so new in its homeland of Germany, where this version has been running since 2011 — although printed in its native language, of course. Having this particular series available digitally in English however, is definitely a brand-new development.
Despite its status as the world’s longest-running serialized science fiction story, it’s relatively unknown to most members of the English-speaking public. That’s not what drew my own interest though, as I first discovered Perry Rhodan back in its original English-language version decades ago, when it was published in paperback by Ace Books (when I was still in grade six?!). So, one might say that it had a fairly formative effect on my interest in the whole genre, or that it held some reasonably large amount of interest for me, at least…!
Some of the 126 English language volumes of Perry Rhodan published by Ace Books (1968-79)
For the uninitiated, perhaps the easiest way to see what differentiates the brand of space-faring adventure on offer here from other established series is to take a good look at the main character, Perry Rhodan himself. That’s not to say that there isn’t a large ensemble cast — as there most definitely is, building up steadily as events progress — but Rhodan is the character whose circumstances and decisions place him in position to alter the destiny of the Earth (and eventually other worlds, as well). And as such, he is the clearest indicator of the predominant themes underlying the tale.
Perry Rhodan is an American astronaut who leads his crew on an emergency mission to the moon, and who definitely has ‘the right stuff’, and at exactly the right time and place — as he finds himself confronting members of an alien civilization, for the first time in human history. As readers will very soon see, many of his higher-ranking associates back on Earth (especially within the US government) might disagree with that assessment, as his more independent spirit asserts itself… eventually showing his utter disregard and outright defiance towards them, in fact.
Although he can be a man of action when the situation calls for it, and is definitely not averse to taking extreme risks in general, Rhodan is above all a very calm, clear thinker. He’s quick to notice details, and also to see the much bigger picture and the potential opportunities within it, which many might lack the awareness or imagination to grasp as easily. So when presented with possibilities that could dramatically alter the future of humankind (and beyond!), he is ready to step up and see it through at all costs.
The overriding theme here is the ‘Collision of Opposites’, and of course its eventual resolution, usually to the most optimal or utopian effect possible. Rhodan is as keenly aware as anyone of the all-too-obvious foolishness, weakness and corruption of humanity — which often seems to be amplified by people in power — but he’s also aware of the need to embody and represent the best of what our species has to offer… as our world bears witness, and now, those from other worlds as well.
Perry Rhodan – Mission Stardust (2036) Fan Animation
In volume one of Perry Rhodan NEO, our otherworldly visitors are aliens known as the Arkonides — a technologically superior race who appear very similar to humans. While they clearly hold themselves to a culturally higher standard, in addition to all of their scientific advancements, it’s evident that they have also started falling into a certain level of social/psychological malaise — losing their vital spark, so to speak. Can the primitive Earthling species somehow prove itself a worthy ally who could help bring that spark back to life, even as our planet teeters on the edge of nuclear self-destruction? Perry Rhodan believes that they can!
He can’t do it alone, however. Aside from winning the trust and help of the Arkonides themselves, he must also seek out the help of humanity’s best and brightest… including a number who possess some very unusual abilities. From the very beginning in fact, from our first entry into this continuing story, we get a glimpse into what will eventually become the Mutant Corps — individuals who will help to back up our hero’s efforts, when more conventional methods just won’t cut it!
Perry Rhodan NEO 1 (Trailer)
The story focus regularly alternates between Rhodan and those side characters, and you can trust that they will be significant down the road, even if that’s not immediately evident. Those familiar with the series will certainly recognize where things are heading, right away…
The new English language volumes of Perry Rhodan NEO contains two novella-length installments (around 150 pages each), corresponding to two volumes of the original Ace paperback edition. They are published by the light novel and manga ebook service J-Novel Club. In this debut release, the first installment is authored by Frank Borsch and translated by Philip Reuben, while the second is by Christian Montillon with translation from Barbara Wiebking.
The first German-language versions of Perry Rhodan NEO were written in 2011, fifty years after the original series started publishing back in 1961, and thus certain details have been updated to fall more in line with the modern world. For example, we see an obvious presence of digital communications and social media — which were not yet manifest at that time, but are pretty much ubiquitous these days. (And it’s probably safe to assume that the readership for this series will be considerably newer also!)
Ace experimented with double-length volumes towards the end of its English-language run of Perry Rhodan
Currently the English-language volumes are only available in digital format; two have been published so far. Hopefully, this digital distribution method will allow it to continue successfully into the future. English releases of the original series seemed to fare quite well for a decent amount of time back in the 1970’s — in its pioneering magabook format, combining one novella installment with some shorter features at a nice budget price.
Unfortunately, it was forced to change its publishing format to that of double-length books, at a time when thin inexpensive paperback books were quickly disappearing from the marketplace and the cover price on books across the board seemed double or triple (almost literally) overnight. Combined with a new but much less interesting style of cover art, it sadly soon fell by the wayside… However, the digital model promises to sidestep these pitfalls; so, this might be just the solution that it needed.
Perry Rhodan — “Geleitzug nach Andromeda” Fan Animation
I’m not sure how many people outside Germany these days actually know about Perry Rhodan, but this is obviously the best chance for English readers to discover it, at least this newer incarnation of the franchise. For several decades now, it has basically been absent from the English-based science fiction fandom — there have been some nifty fan-animated videos available on YouTube, but even those are still in German!! I have thought over the years that it would be nice if it could return in some form, but without having much expectation that it actually would. Now suddenly, it has come to pass…! So, if you are interested in checking it out, then your opportunity is indeed here. Discover it, for yourself.
John MacMaster lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. His last article for us was The Beckoning Future World: Kalen Anzai.