Book Review: Perry Rhodan 10: The Ghosts of Gol by Kurt Mahr
Following clues retrieved from the distant past, Perry Rhodan continues to search for the secret of immortality. Accordingly, the crew of Stardust II is searching a particular sector of the galaxy for structural anomalies. Soon, they discover a particular signal coming from a supergiant planet which is quickly dubbed Gol. Despite the misgivings of his Arkonide allies Khrest and Thora, Rhodan orders a landing. Once there, Rhodan and the others must brave the bizarre inhabitants and lethal environment of Gol to find the next clue left by the mysterious guardian of the secret.
The Perry Rhodan series has been published weekly since 1961 in Germany, with over 2800 novellas in the still-continuing original continuity, as well as numerous spin-offs. The first installment, written by series creators K.H. Scheer & Walter Ernsting, had the first moon landing happen in 1971. U.S. Space Force Major Perry Rhodan and his crew find a stranded alien spaceship captained by the impetuous beauty Thora, assisted by frail scientist Khrest. While Arkonide technology is eons ahead of Earth’s, their society has become stagnant and decadent, and it is soon arranged for a trade of alien science for the exploration assistance of the vital Earthlings.
Rhodan swiftly (but not entirely without opposition) unites Earth, and then leads it against an invasion of more hostile aliens. With that out of the way, he’s free to search for immortality. It’s not much of a spoiler to say that he eventually finds it and he and several of his allies become immune to aging, allowing for the vast timescale of the series.
This volume (which translates Issue #16 of the German edition) is part of the Ace Books reprint series which ran from 1969-1978, translated by Wendayne Ackerman and edited by her husband Forrest J. Ackerman. At this point the series was published monthly as a “bookazine”, with a film review column (this issue was First Spaceship on Venus) and letters section. Sadly, the vast majority of the series has never been officially translated into English.
Kurt Mahr (pen name of Klaus Otto Mahn) was trained as a physicist, which gives his technobabble a feeling of verisimilitude. It’s clear that he enjoyed trying to figure out what conditions might be like on a 900+ gravities planet and how the heck our heroes were going to get around on it. The inhabitants of Gol are energy beings who exist primarily in a higher dimension and provide a unique hazard to the three-dimensional humans.
This story is in the pulp SF tradition, heavy on the exciting things happening, light on characterization. Rhodan is very much the omni-competent hero, inventing a new branch of physics during one of the chapters to solve a technical problem. The person who shows the most personality is Thora, whose back and forth with Rhodan suggests that she’s sweet on him but not willing to admit it even to herself. There’s no overt sexism in the text, but the gender ratio of the crew is such that there are only two named women in a crew of at least one hundred.
There are several mutants with psychic powers in the crew of the Stardust II; the majority of them are Japanese (though I am dubious about the name Tanaka Seiko for a male characters.) It’s not made clear in this volume if this is due to the atom bombs giving that area extra radiation or just coincidence.
The novella concludes with a bit of a cliffhanger; Rhodan has succeeded in finding the next place to go, but the ship’s new location isn’t anywhere in known space and they have no idea how to get back.
While this is an exciting, fast-paced read, the series is hard to find, being decades out of print. Recommended primarily to fans of German science fiction of the old school.