2 DECEMBER 1911, Page 8


THERE is a certain boldness, we might even say grandeur, in the conception of Mr. Herbert Strang's tale, The Air Scout. He projects himself and his readers into the future. The" Yellow Peril " has come upon the " White World." It is not Japan that is threatening the West. Japan, we are told, has disabled itself by internal faction. It is China that has Awoke. The effete Manchu dynasty has been expelled, and a Chinese republic has come into existence — so far our prophet has done well, and the world has to look on at a conflict which matches the most critical of all periods in its history, the Persian invasion of Greece. A Chinese Armada assails the Australian Commonwealth, and we are called to look on at the spectacle. And what we see is certainly managed in a way worthy of the occasion. First we have the doings of the Fleet, a very spirited story which is told with a very effective mastery of detail. And then, to keep up the parallel between the old struggle of East against West and the new, we read of the doings of the great Chinese army which is left behind when the Fleet disappears. After Salamis we have Platiea ; and the fighting on land is as good as the fighting on sea. Of course the aeroplanes do excellent work in discovering the enemy's intentions. The element of the wind will hardly be so entirely eliminated in the actual future as it seems to be in the airy realms which Mr. Strang's heroes traverse so successfully; but we certainly get an excellent idea of the military possibilities which the aeroplane possesses. We have here, to sum up, a tale of very great intrinsic interest, having behind it a purpose of the most valuable kind, the promoting of an effective organization of Imperial defence. The Australian reader will find in it another lesson specially intended for himself. He sees in this imaginary conflict the forces of his own country enormously overmatched. The writer of fiction is not bound to be, like Providence, on the side of the big battalions, and all goes well. But anyone who understands the conditions of modern warfare will find himself compelled to look a little further. A " New Thermo- pylae" would be impossible now that the proportion between the human and the mechanical element is so seriously changed. If Australia is to defend itself against the possible dangers of the future it must have an adequate population, for • (1) The Air Scout. By Herbert Strang. London : Henry Frowde ; Hodder and noughton. [68.]—(2) The Flying Boat. Same author. Loudon : Same publishers. Os. Oda to check immigration in the supposed interests of a class is to invite destruction.

The Flying Boat is a capital story of its kind, but on a lower plane of interest. It is not a world conflict that we see, but a crisis in the fortunes of two young Englishmen who have to do with a revolutionary movement in China. There is a wonderful invention which is, we are told, " the logical de- velopment of the hydroplane." Get on speed enough and the "hydroplane leaves the water and becomes a hydro-aeroplane." That is a possibility which we neither question nor affirm. It is good enough anyhow for the region of fiction, as little disturbed by atmospheric troubles as is the " island valley of Avilion." Then there is the more ordinary human interest of the friendship, the falling-out, and the reconciliation of the two heroes of the tale, Errington and Burroughs. Altogether the tale is a distinct success, though it is not on the great scale of The Air Scout.