The Red Invader (Operator #5) (Frederick C. Davis)
After reading seven Operator #5 novels, The Red Invader stands out as the best, slighting beating out the nastiest, which is Master of Broken Men. Frederick C. Davis is very well liked in pulp circles, and I definitely like a ton of what he does here (and in the Op #5 books Green Death Mists and Blood Reign of the Dictator, which are almost as good).
My one complaint with his writing (here and elsewhere) is that his action sequences are written like sloppy book reports--there is information, but no flow, and he regularly substitutes the word "as" for the word "and" as if they are wholly interchangeable. His action lacks the sense of timing and spatial orientation that exists in the works of Max Brand, Robert E. Howard, and the #1 master of action, Norvell W. Page, and even second tier guys like Paul Chadwick (Secret Agent X) and Emile C. Tepperman (the second Op #5 writer) provide clearer action.
Regardless of that criticism, I am a big fan of Frederick C. Davis, who in this adventure (and others) exceeds most if not all of his hero pulp contemporaries in three big ways:
1. Intelligent tactics. The bad guys have good plans, not just "consolidate the bad guys" or "poison gas guns." And thus, the plans of the good guys must be similarly smart.
2. Expert escalation of tension. The Red Invader should be taught in a course entitled, "How to Gradually Build Tension from Page 1 until The End." The plotting is sharp, purposeful, and suffocating in this tale.
3. An abundance of believable details. The weaponry and foes described in this adventure feel authentic, and the main weapon is a truly harrowing threat.
I can honestly say that I am not sure which of the historical footnotes about weapons and politics are fact and which are fiction. This blurry line also helps sell the story's big ideas.
Do you want to read a tense, paranoia-inducing, grandly explosive, xenophobic, expertly-plotted war fever dream? Read this.