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    Review of TOM SWIFT AND HIS WIRELESS MESSAGE by Victor Appleton


    Grosset & Dunlap, 1911

    When an inventor having problems with his airship sends a telegram to Tom Swift asking for his help, the young inventor decides to give him a hand (while refusing any payment). The inventor, a Mr. Fenwick, is attempting to develop an electric airship and Tom finds a number of problems with his design. Still, Tom is finally able to improve the design to the point where it can fly. Then he, along with usual sidekick Wakefield Damon, and Fenwick, take the airship for a test cruise.

    While on their cruise, a storm develops with such force that the airship is swept far to the south, finally crashing in a mysterious Earthquake Island in the West Indies. There Tom and his friends discover a group of castaways, including the parents of Tom's girlfriend, Mary Nestor. Somehow, Tom has to find a way to summon help--while the island itself is quickly being destroyed by earthquakes.

    Author Victor Appleton (see more reviews of novels by Appleton) continues his Tom Swift series by throwing Tom and his friends into continual danger. The normal dangers of air travel in the 1910 period are compounded by the dangers of earthquakes--and compounded again when Tom and his friends learn that these particular earthquakes are the signal of the destruction of the island where they've taken refuge.

    As with all of the Tom Swift books, TOM SWIFT AND HIS WIRELESS MESSAGE is both fast-paced adventure and an interesting look at how much technology and the world has changed in the past century. The 'high concept' of this novel is the use of a wireless radio to signal for help. Obviously, in today's world, this would be the first alternative rather than the last. The ease with which highly fallible airships could be built and launched (with no FAA to certify their air-worthiness) is a high contrast to today's regulations--and a reminder that government really can play a useful role. Outdated sexual roles also jumped out at me.

    Compared to some of the other books in this series, TOM SWIFT AND HIS WIRELESS MESSAGE is a bit lightweight (and none of these stories are especially high-brow). Still, the story is fun and a reminder that single inventors can make a difference.

    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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