Monday, September 03, 2012

Sam Steele's Adventures: The Valley of the Tcha

And onto book... Yes, that is a very different cover design. Back in the day, Hungry Tiger Press was trying to publish the series in a matching set like this. I suppose sales weren't too high (as evidenced by the fact that they still have this one in stock), and the only books published in this format were the last two books. This means only the last five books have been reprinted in standalone format, while the first still remains reprinted recently in Oz-Story #1 only.

In this one, the Seagull crew is taking a break. In fact, Sam's father and Uncle Naboth have advised Sam to stop these adventures, considering how close he's come to death. So, the Seagull isn't sailing for adventure this time.

Adventure comes to the Seagull!

Lt. Paul Allerton and his aide Chaka approach the crew of the Seagull, and tells them how his widowed mother and sister need money to pay off their mortgages and he isn't earning enough in the army to even try it. But he has a plan: Chaka told him of his homeland where his father rules the ancient tribe of the Itzaex. However, not far from there lies a valley completely hidden by a mountain, in which is the city of the Tcha, who decorate everything with gold and gems.

Using special equipment his uncle has devised, Paul plans to break into the Valley of the Tcha and take enough riches to pay off the mortgage and give his family something to live off of. And also pay back the Seagull crew for their trouble and assistance.

The special equipment consists of inflatable suits that, when filled with themlyne (I can't seem to find this gas listed anywhere, so it is possible that it is a Baum creation), allow the wearer to rise into the air. The wearer can even "fly" using fan-like wings attached.

Also, they are equipped with electrites: electric tubes that send a ray that can stun a human unconscious for about two hours. (A footnote notes a real ray that was able to kill a horse from four miles away from about the same time, and that the author disavowed any knowledge of this ray.)

Arriving in Yucatan, the group heads to the Itzaex, and along the way, they have to fight off the enemy tribe of Mopanes, who have killed Chaka's father, making him the new ruler. However, the priests of the Itzaex demand that all accompanying Chaka must die, so they are forced to use the new equipment to make a daring escape from the Itzaex village and head over to the Tcha's mountain.

Breaking into Tcha, they are captured and sentenced to be used for sacrifices. However, the High Priestess (who Sam calls Ama for lack of a proper name, Ama is actually her title) is fascinated by them. Can Sam and his friends exploit her curiosity and earn their safety, or is it curtains for Sam at last? And furthermore, how safe are the Tcha from invasion?

Baum keeps up as typical for the series. An exciting pace with quite a bit of action and intrigue. Reading the series chronologically for the first time, I couldn't help but be reminded of the second book in which curious new technology helps Sam and his friends with dealing with fierce natives who want to kill them. The stories are, of course, different, but Baum's fascination with technology was bound to turn up again considering the number of books he wrote.

Wait... There's also a girl one of our leads falls for... So, there's another similarity to the second book... Huh.

Anyway, I begin to suspect that this wasn't one of Baum's favorite series. Despite his vivid imagination, the stories were beginning to get repetitious. So, is it any wonder that the next book was the shortest in the series and also the last?

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