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    Review of TOM SWIFT AND HIS AERIAL WARSHIP by Victor Appleton


    Grosset & Dunlap, 1915

    Abandoning his hybrid airship/winged aircraft for a semi-rigid airship, young engineer and inventor Tom Swift has built a huge airship he intends to offer the U.S. government. With war ongoing in Europe, America needs to be strong, he feels. His problem isn't the airship, it's the recoil from on-ship artillery. Because an airship is far less massive than a naval ship, the recoil from large cannons threatens to tear the airship apart. Tom has been wrestling with this problem, and his father, inventor Barton Swift, repeatedly assures him that such a design is impossible and doomed to fail.

    Tom's first attempt at solving the problem comes as a result of an insight by best friend Ned Newton. But what neither Tom nor Ned realize is that the recoil problem is not the only issue the face. The European powers, fearful that the U.S. may enter the war on the other side, will do anything to keep Tom from succeeding in his design. Led by Frenchman La Foy, European spies of many nations (France, England, Germany, Russia and Italy at least) attempt to sabotage Tom's project, first by arson, then by mechanical sabotage and finally by stealing the invention itself.

    Written during World War I, at a time when the U.S. was neutral, TOM SWIFT AND HIS ARIAL WARSHIP provides intriguing insight into the attitudes of a nation about to elect a President on the campaign slogan of "he kept us out of war." Author Victor Appleton choses a Frenchman as the leader of the spies--although France was soon to become a U.S. ally. Tom Swift ultimately makes free with a German zeppelin design to resolve the recoil problem (although Ned's suggestion should have worked), without a lot of concern for possible patent violation although Tom has, in the past, been highly protective of his own patents. As with the earlier books in the series, Appleton uses the lone black figure, Rad, as a humorous foil. Tom himself seems unjustifyably overconfident, urging his friends not to bother taking basic cautions as he repeatedly proves that his airship really isn't quite ready for combat.

    TOM SWIFT AND HIS AERIAL WARSHIP was written with the young adult market in mind and the reading level and dialogue are certainly suitable for that age. These stories also make an enjoyable light read on a PDA or phone because they're easy to pick up, read a few pages, and leave off for days or weeks at a time. WARSHIP is not a book you'll fall in love with, but it provides an intriguing look into the mentality of America in the early days of World War I--with the prejudices and hopeful dreams of that time.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 10/10/07

    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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