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    Review of TOM SWIFT AND HIS AIRSHIP by Victor Appleton


    Grosset & Dunlap, 1910

    After rescuing baloonist John Sharp, Tom Swift and Sharp go to work building an airship. Combining features of both a lighter-than-air craft and an airplane, the airship, named the Red Cloud, can take off vertically or from a landing strip. With its twenty cylinder engine, the Red Cloud is the fastest thing in the sky, easily winning races.

    After a few explosions and a crash (happily no one is hurt and they crash into the school where love interest Mary Nestor studies), the two decide to set of on a longer trip--and are joined by Wakefield Damon. A rival, Andy Foger, spots Tom near the bank with a set of tools. When it is discovered that the bank has been robbed, Tom becomes a suspect--doubly suspicious because he and Sharp have left the area in their airship.

    Adventures with the airship, including nearly getting sucked into a forest fire, being shot at by southerners hoping to collect the $5000 for Tom's capture, and being struck by lightning, Tom, Sharp and Damon return--but must get to the bottom of the actual bank robbery before Tom is sent off to prison.

    Author Victor Appleton (see more reviews of novels by Appleton) with an adventure that begins to bring science fiction elements into the story. Unlike Tom's motorcycle and motorboat (earlier adventures), the airship is clearly a new creation. The dialect-speaking African-American, Eradicate Sampson appears, but his character has become more sympathetic and the use of the 'N' word seems to have disappeared.

    It's fascinating to read a book written less than a hundred years ago and to think about the changes that have taken place over this time. Swift's airship cruises at thirty miiles an hour and is considered fast. A local sheriff admits to having never ridden in an airship--or even a car. When the sheriff arrests a group of hobos, he contracts with local farmers to use their wagons to haul the prisoners into town. Of course, before Federal Deposit Insurance, a bank robbery could bankrupt both the bank and virtually the entire community.

    The writing is sometimes clunky, and coincidence plays far too great a role, but, as with the earlier novels in this series, the fast-paced story still keeps up reader interest.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 10/08/06

    TOM SWIFT AND HIS AIRSHIP is available for FREE.

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