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.