The Air Seller

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The Air Seller
Author Alexander Belayev
Original title Продавец воздуха
Language Russian
Genre Science fiction, Spy novel
Publication date
1928

The Air Seller (rus. Продавец воздуха) is a science fiction spy novel by Russian writer Alexander Belayev. It was first published in 1929, in several issues of Vokrug Sveta magazine.

Plot[edit]

Meteorologist Viktor Klimenko and his Yakut guide Nikola were researching a strange wind anomaly in Yakutia, Eastern Siberia, when they were caught prisoners by a megalomaniac villain Bayley. With a gigantic air-sucking device, built by Swedish scientist Engelbrecht, Bayley is slowly stealing the Earth's atmosphere. The deeply frozen oxygen is stored in a vast cryogenic warehouse. Bayley plans to create oxygen deficit and then to start selling fresh air, thus eventually becoming the master of the world. He even boasts of having trade relations with Martians, though the credibility of this claim is left unclear. Klimenko soon discovers, however, that Bayley is not the one who pulls the strings, but there are wealthy and influential Western imperialists behind the plot.

Engelbrecht's daughter Nora is sympathetic to the prisoners. She helps Nikola to escape and warn the Soviets of the danger. However, the Red Army is unable to break through defences of Bayley's base, created by Engelbrecht. Bayley holds Nora hostage in order to keep Engelbrecht under control. Realising the danger Bayley's plans provide to Earth, Nora commits suicide by exposing herself to the frozen oxygen. Now free and lusting for revenge, Engelbert sides with Klimenko. The base, now with defences down, is finally stormed by the Red Army. Bayley, facing imminent capture, swallows some frozen air and explodes.

Film adaptation[edit]

The novel was adapted into film in 1967 by Odessa Film Studio and director Vladimir Ryabtsev, with Atyom Karapetian as Bayley and Gennady Nilov as Klimenko.