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    Review of TOM SWIFT AND HIS WIZARD CAMERA by Victor Appleton


    Grosset & Dunlap, 1912

    Tom Swift really means to settle down and work on his silent airship (and help his father with his gyroscope), but when movie promoter James (Spotty) Period shows up, Tom can't turn down the challenge of inventing a better movie camera and heading off in search of the perfect documentary footage. Unlike the hand-cranked cameras of the day, Tom's is electrical, has built-in lighting, can hold multiple reels of film, and film can be changed in daylight. Of course, Tom's great airship gives him the added advantage of being able to get angles that no crew on the ground could hope to capture. Unfortunately, Period has rivals and they'll do anything they can to get their hands on Tom's new camera.

    Tom's adventures take him to Africa to film a tribal war, to Peru for a volcano, and to India to see an elephant roundup. Great footage is achieved when Tom's airship sends the elephant hunt into a stampede, with attendant excitement for everyone concerned. Fortunately, when it comes to filming wars, the African blacks have learned to treat Europeans/Americans with extreme caution.

    In 1912 when this story was published, movies were all the rage and a camera with the capabilities of Tom's Wizard Camera would have been quite the thing. Tom's development of aerial shots would also have been quite advanced for such an early era.

    As with many of these early Tom Swift novels, the depiction of non-European races is sometimes demeaning and offensive. Unfortunately, it's likely that these attitudes reflect those common among the white population of America--and target readership. In fact, Tom's relationship with African-American Eradicate Sampson is one of friendship (although certainly one where Tom is dominant).

    TOM SWIFT AND HIS WIZARD CAMERA was marred by long stretches of internal dialogue as Tom wondered about patents, dangers to his inventions, and his boredom in having to stay home and invent when he could be out having adventures. Still, for those looking for an easy-to-read and mostly pleasant adventure that also gives a picture of an earlier era in American history, WIZARD CAMERA is worth a look.

    See more reviews of novels by Victor Appleton.

    One Star

    Reviewed 5/18/07

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