First I want to correct the other review - it was 5000 tons of rubber, not 500,000. It's an important distinction, since the Admiralty's plan was to ferry it out in Liberator bombers. They didn't have C5A Galaxies back then!
This is a great story for Biggles fans. It has all the formulaic cliches, like Algy getting shot down 200 miles from land, facing death by drowning or thirst, carried by destroyer to the sinister "Jap" Admiral's torture lair, refusing to talk and then being saved by Biggles as the executioner's blade begins to descend.
It's comic book action start to finish, but very well done. The later Biggles books are much more polished than the early books, in their setting of mood and their description of exotic locals, though they continue to be juvenile fiction with ridiculous plot twists, narrow escapes and blatant racial prejudices. ("You could tell he was a foreigner, by the way he waved his arms around when he talked.")
You must accept silly premises for these books to work, whether it's a magnetic ray that confuses compasses, a glowing blue radium mountain that emits a paralyzing beam (but could also cure cancer), or a simple invasion of a mythical (but friendly) country by an evil dictatorship. In this book we must believe that simple workmen can construct a floating landing strip from teak logs, boards and nails, and it will hold up to heavily loaded bombers landing on it day after day. And that painted blue, it becomes invisible to planes flying overhead. LOL!
In all the Biggles books, the reader has to accept lots of coincidences, lucky rescues, and miraculous recoveries. Rarely is a major character seriously hurt; for example, in an earlier book when Ginger is shot through the shoulder by an enemy aircraft's machine gun bullet, his pals shrug it off "A couple of days in hospital will see him right." Sure enough, Ginger is helping out in a few days, free of pain other than a little discomfort. Shot through the thigh in another book (after nearly bleeding to death), he is gamely walking around the precipitous slopes around Monaco after a few nights of soup and nursing, though he does admit that he feels a little worn. He and his companions are shot down in flames, bludgeoned, smashed in aircraft wrecks too numerous to count, tumbled off cliffs, stabbed, interrogated, bombed, washed away in floods, frozen, starved, burned and imprisoned. All in a days work for Biggles' Squadron!
Speaking of Ginger, nobody ages in these books, just like The Hardy Boys. By the time this book comes along, Ginger has been Biggles' young protege for 20 years and he still has the same rank and never seems to gain any maturity or good sense. Nobody has been promoted or retired, and everybody still seems to have all his body parts.
Bertie is my favorite character. He's an aristocrat and a fop, overplaying his silly mannerisms, like furiously polishing his monocle when he is perturbed. But when the chips are down, he really delivers, with smart decisions, gutsy boldness and tireless uncomplaining persistence ("Biggles Fails to Return").
My one wish is that there could be more female characters. But I suppose they would get in the way with their feminine weaknesses and hinder all the high testosterone action.
These books are silly as can be. But addictive. Google "W E Johns Biggles ebook download", and you just might be surprised and pleased.
Spokane WA USA