A happy crowd, inspired by the spirit of Christmas, was milling joyously in Times Square, New York. Suddenly, cutting through the sounds of gayety, came a shrill whine. It became louder, and at the very second of midnight, a gigantic shell exploded, killing, maiming, destroying! At twelve hour intervals thereafter—no man knew in advance where—another shell burst devastatingly. Two great powers were openly accused in the newspapers. War—savage and bloody—was imminent, and Operator 5 realized that he had encountered his most cunning foe, the clever woman spy—Radi Havara!
“The Red Invader” is the tenth Operator 5 novel and was originally published in January 1935.
The novel opens with an unknown country attacking the US. Three initial thrusts of the invasion are:
- A beautiful spy, Radi Havara, in the US whose country affiliation is not known.
- A large gun in place with its first target of earnest being Times Square. The gun is compared to Big Bertha of the First World War that shelled Paris from 76 miles away. With updated technology cited by Davis, the America government believes that the gun could be located anywhere in the US.
- Automated (no humans in them) and heavily armored bombers which seem to be immune to America anti-plane flack. The bombers’ target is also NYC. When the armed forces are unable to bring them down, Operator 5 uses a unique strategy of using feathers from hundreds of pillows to block the air intakes of the planes, thereby bringing them down. Operator 5 is also instrumental in tracking down the airplane carrier off Long Island from which the planes had come.
It is hard to believe that a significant attack on the US is possible without the country behind the attack being known, but that is the premise of this story. So, Operator 5 begins to piece together clues to solve the identity of the attackers. First, there is an indication of England as the guilty party, but that is soon discarded by Operator 5. Despite the facts, misleading information is leaked to the press, and the public is quick to condemn the US’s best and longest ally. Soon, there are allegations that England has teamed with Japan against the US, and that the US’s partner in the coming war is to be Russia.
Eventually Operator 5 proves that the real culprit is Urakia, a mythical small central European county. Apparently, it is waging this phantom war with the US to start a conflict among the big powers in which it will not be involved. Oddly, the country does not seem to realize that war begets war, and that once started a major war will encompass most nations, as World War II would demonstrate a few years after this novel was written.
The premise of this story is rather absurd, which is perhaps part of the reason why it has not had a greater reprinting history. For instance, where does a small central European country get an airplane carrier or develop in the 1930s the technology for radio-controlled aircraft?
Operator 5 also determines that the cannon firing on American cities is in Urakian territory and is being fired from Central Europe as far west as Denver. I will not write that this is impossible, especially given Jules Verne’s calculations in “From the Earth to the Moon,” but again where would a small Central European country get the technology to pinpoint artillery fire from so far away? While the story’s science might be science fiction, the absurdity of the novel is that Urakia would have the technology for such a weapon. In any case, Operator 5 takes an inter-continental fight and destroys the gun.
Our first question for all Operator 5 novels, could the invasion be successful? Clearly, the invasion is not really an attempt to take over the US as the other invasions in the Operator 5 magazine. However, the intended purpose of starting a war that would bypass Urakia seems silly as well. First the strategy is unlikely to save Urakia from war if the US becomes involved in a war with England and Japan. Second, the chances of Urakia being discovered as the true aggressor is high, especially given that attacks are originated in this country, thereby reaping severe retribution.
The second questions concerns the possibility of Jimmy Christopher, Operator 5, stopping the Urakian effort. The various activities in the novel seem reasonable, except that Operator 5 is at the center of all activity. Of course, he is our hero, and this complaint could be weighed against the magazine in all its novels.
If you can get by the absurdity in the novel, it is rather enjoyable, but it is clearly not the best story in the Operator 5 series. Indeed, the end underscores the absurdity by having Urakia only having to pay reparations despite having shelled several major US cities.