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    Review of TOM SWIFT IN THE CAVES OF ICE by Victor Appleton


    Grosset & Dunlap, 1911

    THE WRECK OF THE AIRSHIP: Tom Swift #8 In the previous novel in this series, young inventor Tom Swift had met a prospector who had found an entire field of gold--in far northern Alaska. The dangerous ground could be reached safely only by air and the prospector, Abe Abercrombie, seeks Tom's help, agreeing to split the gold if they, using Tom's airship and Abercrombie's map, locate the gold.

    Tom's arch-enemy Andy Foster is able to make a copy of the map and, using his own airship, also sets off in search of the treasure. Tom, accompanied by sidekick Wakefield Damon, buddy Ned Newton, gloomy scientist Parker, and Abercrombie also travel north, looking for gold.

    In Alaska, Tom and his friends run into dangerous Indians and Eskimos (who must be fought off with rifles, but who are also superstitious about Tom's big airship), charging musk ox (which Tom's party continues to slaughter even after the herd breaks and runs away), the ever-present warnings of doom by Parker, but most especially claimjumping by Foster and Foster's father.

    As always, the Tom Swift stories combine plenty of adventure (targeting especially the pre-teen reader) with an interesting and sometimes depressing look at both science and social beliefs of a century ago. I found black sidekick Rad (Eradicate) Sampson's referring to Tom as "Massa Tom" and to other blacks (and himself) as 'coons' to be offensive--and wondered how contemporary readers would have read that. Would contemporary blacks have enjoyed seeing a black character who was, after all, on Tom's side and was liked by Tom, or would they be mortified and offended? This story adds stereotypical versions of Indian and Eskimo people. Tom's unconcern for their survival after he was forced to shoot a number of Indians in the legs stands in marked contrast to his usual treatment of even the worst of white characters.

    I'll confess that these social and racial attitudes put me out of the story more in TOM SWIFT IN THE CAVES OF ICE than in most of the other stories I've read in this series. I suggest that young readers be given a bit of a history lesson if they're asked to read this story.

    See more reviews of novels by Victor Appleton.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 1/21/07

    What do you think? Too generous? Too stingy? Or did I miss the entire point? Send your comments to Give me the okay to use your name and I'll publish all the comments that fit (and don't use unprintable language).

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