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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Tom Swift and His Undersea Search Now Online

The twenty-third installment of the Tom Swift saga, Tom Swift and His Undersea Search, 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 adventure, Tom's eccentric friend, Wakefield (“bless my treasure chest”) Damon has joined forces with a a smooth operator named Dixwell Hardley who claims to know, being the only survivor of the wreck, the location of the Pandora, sunk in the West Indies carrying gold worth millions of dollars on its way to finance a revolution in a South American country. Although Tom is put off by Hardley's behaviour, his friendship with Damon persuades him, after he has verified that the ship did indeed exist and was lost in the region claimed, to update his submarine and set off to recover the fortune.

Before departure, however, Tom discovers that this Dixwell Hardley is the very same person who swindled his sweetheart Mary Nestor's uncle out of his share in a Texas oil well whose discovery and development he financed. With this, the undersea mission becomes as much about payback as payoff. Many hazards lurk under even the most placid sea, and Tom and his intrepid crew encounter an assortment of them, the playing out of which unmasks Hardley's character. In the end, despite surprises, everybody gets what's coming to them.

Tom Swift novels are generally accurate when it comes to technical details (while freely bending things as required to make Tom's inventions work, of course). In this book, I noticed two apparent lapses which could have been remedied without affecting the plot in any way. In chapter 15, Tom fires his electric gun, which sends “a powerful charge of electricity, like a flash of lightning, in a straight line toward the object aimed at” toward the attacking creature. It is dubious in the extreme that firing such a weapon in the salt water of the ocean would result in anything other than a short circuit, which may prove more detrimental to Tom than the intended target. In chapter 17, when the compressed air supply has been exhausted and the crew are at risk of suffocation, Tom exhorts them to lie down with their faces near the floor because “The freshest air is near the floor; the bad air rises, being lighter with carbonic acid.” In fact, carbon dioxide is around 50% denser than air, so it would be concentrated near the floor. Perhaps the author is confused by the counsel, when escaping a fire, to crouch near the floor, but that's because the heated combustion products will rise above the cooler, uncontaminated air.

Two 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 May 5, 2012 15:37