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    Review of TOM SWIFT IN THE CITY OF GOLD by Victor Appleton


    Grosset & Dunlap, 1912

    Young inventor Tom Swift receives a letter from the missionary he rescued in TOM SWIFT AND HIS ELECTRIC RIFLE (see our review) and resolves to set off in search of the underground city filled with gold that the letter describes. Together with his usual sidekicks, Ned and Wakefield Damon, Tom talks black servant Eradicate (Rad) Sampson into joining the expedition. The allure of gold is sufficient to overcome Rad's (presumably humerous) fears.

    Reflecting the social prejudices and regulations of the time, Rad is segregated aboard ship, dining with other African Americans while Tom and his friends socialize with the whites. Once in Mexico, however, Rad is treated more equally and the brunt of prejudice falls on the Mexican laborers Tom hires. Tom is quick to dismiss their desires for siestas, and Mexicans are generally referred to as lazy. Certainly the desire of the Mexicans to take part in the hunt for gold is unacceptable.

    It takes a lot of searching, even with the map from Africa, but Tom and his friends eventually discover the vast underground city where all of the gold of Mexico had been gathered. Not only statues and flatware, but even cobblestones and shingles were made of gold.

    In the golden city, Rad sensibly loots small gold objects. Tom, however, wants the huge central statue and, when this proves impossible, decides to hack off the head of this historic artifact.

    As with all of the Tom Swift books I've read, TOM SWIFT AND THE CITY OF GOLD combines adventure with a fascinating look at the social prejudices and conventions prevalent less than a century ago. The racial attitudes toward both blacks and Mexicans are shocking by current standards. Equally shocking to me was Tom's unconcern for his destructiveness. Destroying a centuries-old statue of possibly great historical value simply to take home a trophy might be common, but it's hardly admirable.

    See more reviews of novels by Victor Appleton.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 1/22/07

    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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