Thursday, January 12, 2012

Enterprise: Stardust by K. H. Scheer

We all have guilty pleasures.  Some people hide them.  Me, I put it out there to show others that every book is liked by someone.  But I am getting ahead of myself.  Let's go back to the early days of my life long love affair with science fiction...

When I first got the science fiction bug, I was picking up every book I could find that looked even remotely like it belonged in the genre.  Some of the books were from the library.  Others were ones I bought in stores.  One of the malls we visited had a J. C. Penney's store.  If you go to one today, you won't find any book shelves.  At that time, at least in our store, they had a few racks of books. And one of the sections was devoted to science fiction.  This is where my first copies of the original Foundation trilogy came from.  

Another town we regularly visited had a department store called Weston's.  For those of you who read my post about DAW Books, this was my source.  They seemed to carry all of the DAW publications.  That store introduced me to the Elric books by Michael Moorcock, "The Man With a Thousand Names" by A. E. Van Vogt, the various Dorsai books of Gordon R. Dickson, Mark Geston's "Siege of Wonder", Cap Kennedy, Dumarest of Terra, and many others.  And this leads me to the third place I could buy books.

It was a local newstand called "The Village News".  They had two spinner racks of paperbacks.  One was devoted to westerns, the other to science fiction.  It was always filled with the new Signet and Ace books.  On Friday evening, our family would go to town to do the banking, pick up groceries, and let me go to the news stand to pick out a new book or two.  At that time, Signet was putting out Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry series.  I was excited to pick up his "The Rebel Worlds" and "A Circus of Hells".  Earlier I had started subscribing to the Galaxy, Worlds of IF, and Analog magazines.  One of my favorites from Worlds of IF was a two part serial called "A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows".  It was one of the final Flandry stories.  I plan on devoting a month to re-reading the Flandry series later this year.  When I finished reading them, I went in search of another science fiction series.  That is when I stumbled upon a book called "The Giant's Partner" by Clark Darlton.  It was listed as Perry Rhodan number 31.  Perry Rhodan was a massive German pulp series that was being translated into English.  The German novels (more like a novella today) appeared on a weekly basis.  It did not take long for my one science fiction reading friend and I to pick up the first 30 books.  We stayed with the series until Ace (and then Master Publications) quit publishing them. 

And that brings me to "Enterprise:  Stardust" by K. H. Scheer.  Scheer, along with Walter Ernsting (who mostly wrote under the name of Clark Darlton) started the series and wrote the overall plotlines.  Many other authors joined the team.  Names such as Kurt Mahr, Kurt Brand, W. W. Shols, and many others wrote individual stories.  Story arcs would last anywhere from 30 to hundreds of issues.  Are they classic science fiction?  No.  Do many fans dislike them?  Yes.  I decided to go back and re-read my collection and you know what?   I still enjoy them for what they are.  Perry Rhodan is an amazing pulp style achievement that has lasted for thousands of stories and continues to be published in many countries today.  I would recommend them to fans of pulp style stories. 

In "Enterprise:  Stardust" we are introduced to some characters that would become mainstays of the series.  Keep in mind that this story appeared in 1961.  Perry Rhodan is leading the first American manned flight to the moon.  At the same time, the Chinese are trying to beat them.  Perry, Reginald Bell, and the rest of the team spot something as they approach the moon.  Their ship, the Stardust of the title, is shot down.  The crew suspect that the Chinese got their first and opened fire on their ship.  It turns out that the Chinese ship malfunctioned on take off and exploded (similar to the Challenger space shuttle disaster).  So who shot them down?  That is the mystery.  The solution will eventually unite a troubled Earth under a world wide government, the secret of Atlantis, lead to exploring Venus, a quest for the secret of immortality, clashes with many alien races, a clash with the Arkonide Imperium, and that is all in the first 30 some books.  After that, the series keeps expanding with numerous spin off series.  Perry is destined to bring peace to the galaxy but at a great personal cost.  This appealed to my teenage mind.  The series has it's ups and downs but if you enjoy reading an adventure filled , arc driven, series this one is for you.  Is it the deepest, best written series?  Not even close but sometimes it is enough to cut loose and just have fun.  I am anxious to get through the first couple of books and relive the adventure as the space opera kicks into high gear. 


Carl V. said...

This was a GREAT post. Loved reading about your memories of your early exposure to science fiction and the places it could be found. Reminds me so much of my own experience, particularly in growing up in a small town that was devoid of bookstores other than the occasional used one that would pop up briefly. Most of my purchases were from a small row of paperback books in a general purpose store in our small mall.

These sound like fun, and like you I love floating my guilty pleasures out there (heck, my blog is named after a guilty pleasure series). I've often seen these books and used bookstores and wondered about them. I will be on the lookout for this one now.

Please, please, please let me know when you are planning to re-read the Flandry series. I picked up Ensign Flandry not long ago and actually want to snag the recent reprints by Baen and would love to at least read the first one with you or roughly around the same time so that I can discuss it with you.

Jim Black said...

Thank you for your kind comments.

I will definitely let you know about the Flandry Non Challenge ahead of time. While doing some research on the series I uncovered something that I was not aware of. Flandry made an appearance in another author's series. It was in "The Dark Dimensions". It is a John Grimes novel by A. Bertram Chandler.

Carl V. said...

That's fun! Look forward to checking out the first Flandry book.

Doctor Zen said...

I remember hearing about the Rhodan series in Forry Ackerman's SPACEMEN magazine, so I was thrilled when I found the first Ace book on the stands. I followed the series too through the Master editions and then the 4 Vector issues. The sheer scope of the series was amazing, especially when they got into the history and workings of the universe with Chaotarchs and Cosmocrats, and I loved the way it included every archetype of science fiction: aliens, star travel, robots,mutants, immortality, superintelligences, Atlantis etc.
I was a little off put by Forry's "improvements"; changing the characters' names like Gucky/Pucky (a lot of the comic aspects of the mousebeaver were apparently made up by Forry; Gucky was a more serious character) and Bull/Bell (Bull was meant to represent his bull-in-a-china-shop temper; "Reggie" or "Bell" sound almost effeminate) I also wish Ace had used the original cover art like you show here. Their covers were good, but the artists painted whatever they felt like; there was no sense of continuity in the artwork. I think this hurt sales, especially among Star Trek fans who have ship schematics, uniform guides and identifiable alien races to work with. It is worth noting that the Mutant Corps was created a year or two before X-Men, and that the Posbis were very like the Borg, down to the cube shaped ships and adaptability to weapons. You may already know this, but a fan named Cedric Breust has an issue by issue set of story summaries at The German publisher is looking at again making the series available in English; you can read about it on the Yahoo Perry Rhodan group. And just to indulge in a little self promotion, Rhodan is mentioned on my blog StoriesAreSignposts and in my Facebook group Retro Rockets.

Doctor Zen said...

BTW, when I clicked to subscribe to your blog, I get a page of html-like text. Dunno if it's a problem with Blogger or with my connection. I'll try again later.

Doctor Zen said...

John Carter - an alternate world version of him called Sam Carter - appeared in Chandler's THE ALTERNATE MARTIANS, where ERB's and HG Wells' Martians co-existed. In fact, John Grimes also met A Betram Chandler in one novel! Anderson, Chandler, Cordwainer Smith and James White are my favorite SF writers of that period. HIGHLY recommend the Sector General series.