source for free and affordable eBooks


Powered by FreeFind

Site search
Web search

    Review of TOM SWIFT AND HIS ELECTRIC RIFLE by Victor Appleton


    Grosset & Dunlap, 1911

    Young inventor Tom Swift has completed his latest invention--a rifle which fires electric bullets. He reads about elephant hunts in Africa and wonders whether his electric gun would make a good weapon for hunting the large beasts. When a professional hunter, contracted to bring home huge tusks, approaches Tom for his airship assistance, Tom is quick to agree and Tom, the hunter (Mr. Durban), chum Ned, and sidekick Wakefield Dammon, set off for Africa.

    On the steamer, Tom meets Floyd Anderson, one of the victims of Earthquake Island (see our review of TOM SWIFT AND THE WIRELESS MESSAGE). Anderson's church has sent him to Africa to rescue two missionaries who have been captured by the dreaded 'red pygmies.'

    In Africa, Tom and his friends are able to use both standard and Tom's electric rifle to hunt down a large number of elephants, much to the delight of the natives who feast on elephant meat. Elephants are increasingly hard to find, so Tom's airship is a handy vehicle for tracking them down. Rescuing the captured missionairies is more difficult, however. First, the natives all fear the red pygmies and are unwilling to tell Tom their location. Second, the red pygmies really are fierce and fight back when Tom finally does find them.

    This may be the weakest Tom Swift novel so far. The social/racial prejudices that marr the earlier books are even more evident here with Tom and his friends wondering whether their black servant, Eradicate (Rad) Sampson might have helped them communicate with African natives (presumabley blacks all speak the same language?), and with the red pygmies being described as imps, devils, and other terms. Tom's initial test of the rifle results in the electric bullet going through the target and nearly hitting a neighbor--whose concerns form a humor point rather than a real warning about the dangers of firearms. And Tom's slaughter of sharks and whales on the way to Africa continues with the slaughter of elephants and other animals (as well as red pygmies) in Africa. Tom does attempt to limit this slaughter when it comes to the red pygmies, setting his rifle to stun, and he has some concern for over-killing elephants, but the casual slaughter for ivory reminds me of the slaughter of the American Bison not many years before--and helps explain why elephants are currently endangered.

    The electric rifle itself is an interesting invention--with an ability to penetrate objects without harming them (to discharge on targets behind them), setting levels that allow it to be set to stun or to completely disintegrate its target, and range limitations that can prevent a missed shot from harming innocent bystanders. It's interesting, however, that Tom doesn't make use of the rifle in the next volume in the series when he reverts to a standard rifle in his hunt for gold.

    See more reviews of novels by Victor Appleton.

    One Star

    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).

    Check out the Alexa toolbar. It blocks pop-ups (you get to choose), it's free, and it tells you about what websites are popular and who owns them.