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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tom Swift and His War Tank Now Online

The twenty-first installment of the Tom Swift adventures, Tom Swift and His War Tank, is now posted in the Tom Swift and His Pocket Library collection. As usual, HTML, PDF, PDA eReader, and plain ASCII text editions suitable for reading off- or online are available.

In this episode of the Tom Swift saga, originally published in 1918, war has come to America and war fever ginned up by the proto-fascist regime in Washington has begun to corrupt even the world of Tom Swift. Tom's chum Ned Newton has left his job as the Swifts' financial man to peddle “Liberty Bonds”, his girlfriend's father reproaches Tom as a “slacker” for not volunteering to jump into the meat grinder, and Tom turns his attention from productive inventions to an engine of destruction: an enormous tank (big enough to have two engine rooms with their own crews, multiple gun emplacements, as well as a conning tower for the commander) intended to crush any obstacle in its way, breach trenches and barbed wire, and massacre any “Boche” who dare oppose it. Naturally, nefarious German spies (one curiously named “Simpson”) conspire to steal Tom's design as Tom and his entourage try to thwart them.

It is all rather sad. Tom, in earlier adventures the very model of rectitude, drives his tank onto a neighbouring farm and destroys private property because “the blood was up”. Nobody questions what quarrel the United States has with the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires, or why it is conscripting its young men (by what right?) and converting its productive capital to fight on behalf of the British and French Empires. Tom, whose constant goal has been to invent the fastest, the longest-range, the highest-flying, the deepest diving, now turns his talent to “do his bit” by building a machine whose only purpose is to destroy property and kill men. Purely as an adventure, the novel works superbly, but it also provides, in its own naïve way, an insight into the moment in twentieth century U.S. history when everything started to go wrong.

Four public domain Tom Swift novels remain to be posted. When all are complete (this is a long-term project begun in 2004; I have averaged between two and three novels a year), I will revise the already-posted books, bringing their production standards up to those of the more recent postings and incorporating corrections to typographical errors spotted by readers.

Posted at June 26, 2011 18:42