Tom Swift in the City of Gold

June 18, 2007

I thought that it would be pretty difficult not to like a book containing a chapter called “Beware The Head-Hunters!” But then, I didn’t expect a Tom Swift book to make blatantly untrue statements about anything but science.

I really need to figure out who was writing which of the early Stratemeyer series. The differences in quality between them are sometime really pronounced. I mean, they’re all basically bad, but some of them are really enjoyable and some are incredibly painful. Like, there’s the Dave Porter series, written by Stratemeyer himself, which is pretty okay, aside from the weird incestuous vibes. And then there’s the Rover Boys series, also written by Stratemeyer, at least in the early days. It’s very much like the Dave Porter books, down to the weird incestuous vibe, except that there are three main characters instead of one, and one of them’s a sociopath. And it’s unbelievably awful. I mean, seriously. Worse than the Frank Merriwell books, maybe.

And then there’s the first Tom Swift series, written just a few years later under the pseudonym Victor Appleton (hilariously, the pseudonym for the Tom Swift Jr. series was Victor Appleton II). With Tom Swift, Stratemeyer and his people sort of hit their stride. There are no entertaining subplots about bullies with a taste for alcohol, as in Dave Porter, but the plots and dialogue are far from being as unqualifiedly bad as they are in The Rover Boys.

Tom Swift in the City of Gold is a fairly straightforward adventure. Tom receives a map of an underground city in Mexico made entirely of gold, and he and his friends set out to find it. They are followed by Tom’s archenemy Andy Foger and his dad, and by a group of Mexicans who have discovered that Tom is looking for Gold. Tom and his friends get to the city first, but are trapped inside. The Fogers and the Mexican are the means of their escape, but they also cause the underground city to be flooded. End result: Tom and his friends are alive, with pockets full of gold. The Fogers and the Mexicans are alive, but empty-handed. None of them can ever go back to the city of gold. It’s all very convenient.

This one deals with Tom’s inventions a lot less than most other Tom Swift books, and since I don’t know that much about science, the many inaccuracies that no doubt fill them have always been mostly lost on me. On the other hand, it makes a lot of completely outrageous, moronic statements about Aztecs and pre-columbian Mexico, not to mention the horrible stereotypes about the Mexican guides.

I really, really enjoyed the first few chapters. If Stratemeyer had hired a fact-checker or something. I might have really enjoyed the whole thing.

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