I was reading the Wikipedia article on Perry Rhodan today, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perry_Rhodan. In the section titled “Critical reaction”, I read that many English speaking critics thought the series “too juvenile”. Interestingly enough, they also indicated that the American run was canceled even though it was profitable…
I really don’t consider critical acclaim to be all the important when selecting a book. The real question is why do I like the Perry Rhodan series?
Its first strength is its incredible length! A series consisting of more than 2400 books in the primary series, with over 800 books in the Atlan spin-off series, has a lot plot development! The characters get more sophisticated and interesting as the series progresses. The aliens are varied. You can’t have a series for as long as this one has been around without a lot of character development. The plots in the individual books are solid. The overall story line is where the real action is. Since they have so many books, the authors don’t have to rush plot development. Perry Rhodan is to sci-fi space opera what the game of cricket is to sports, not just an event, but a campaign!
Its second strength is the fact that most of it has not been translated to English. One of the biggest reasons I am learning German is to make it through this series! The story is an epic and the challenge of making it through the epic, knowing that most of it is not in my language, makes it a genuine challenge of Herculean proportions! When I make it through this series, I will have accomplished a task worthy of a true sci-fi loving geek!
Its third strength is the affects of the surrounding real world on the story lines. The Rhodan books are, to a much greater extent than most other books, a product of their times. The series has been published since 1961 and it is still going! As the world changed from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, until now, so did the series. Back during the cold war days, the books had the feel of the cold war thinking and feelings. The books from after the fall of the Berlin wall have a completely different feel. There is a a more subtle balance between the galactic alliances.
Its fourth strength is its Euro-centric thinking. Because it is writen by Germans, the series has the typical European world view. While I am no fan of that thinking, it does make for a interesting change of pace. The way they often define and describe problems is sometimes quite educational. The solutions are sometimes very different than what an American would expect. If you want to find out how European thought has evolved over the last fifty years, this series is a nice way to do it!
Its fifth strength is its “pulp” feel. Anyone who has read the pulp scifi from the 1950s, will be comfortable with the feel of the Perry Rhodan stories. That pulp feel in there in the early series and makes the stores a relaxing read. I have not started reading the German editions yet, so I am not commenting on any of the non-English books… YET!
Its sixth, and final strength,ever increasing number of authors that write the stories. Since there a numerous authors, you never have to worry about a lack of change. The series doesn’t go stale, unlike some stories.