Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Danger in the Extreme (#152)

Danger in the Extreme coverPlot: Someone’s trying to sabotage the Hardys at the X Games — no, wait, sorry: the Max Games — as they compete. Also, the president’s son, not content to be a hanger on in his father’s life, is eager to be an extreme games poser. He’s just waiting — begging, really — to be kidnapped.

“Borrowing” from the past: The Hardys saved the president himself from a kidnap attempt in The Billion Dollar Ransom (#73). That was a billion-dollar ransom in 1982. Think of what they’d get for the president’s kid in 2008 (or 1998, in the case of this book).

Jamal Hawkins is ... : An ice climber and the Hardys’ personal pilot. Now no longer do Frank and Joe have to pay someone to be at their beck and call as their pilot and friend. They can just have the black man do it instead.

For those who are curious: Joe’s event is the snowcross (think motocross on snowmobiles), while Frank competes in the ice climb. Joe wins his event, while Frank finishes third (Jamal is second). They were scheduled to compete in the sky-surfing, with Frank doing stunts and Joe as his cameraman, but they skipped it to go skiing with the president’s son.

Inspiration for the Future: In the Extreme Danger, the first book in the new Hardy Boys series (Undercover Brothers), Frank and Joe participate in the summer X-Games — no, wait, sorry: the Big Air Games. Come to think of it, there’s a slight similarity between the titles.

Opinions: There’s something incredibly wrong about Frank and Joe using “hip” slang. Just calling each other “bro” is ... creepy. Forearm bashes are inappropriate touching in Bayport, I believe, yet they do it anyway.

And what’s the use of being in the Winter X Games — sorry, Max Games, forgot — if you can’t get the chicks? The brothers get no attention from females, not even fellow competitors (which is rectified in Extreme Danger, by the way). Iola and Callie don’t even show up. Frank and Joe end up with ... the president’s son. Oops.

Also, for future reference: it’s tough to sell xtreme athletes as perpetrators of an intricate kidnapping plot. Outside the movie XXX, xtreme athletes just aren’t that motivated. Insert marijuana joke here. Weirdly, a friend of the conspirators is “questioned” by agents, but it’s never resolved whether her protestations of innocence are true or rather a dangerous felon lying to save herself. Since this is a Hardy Boys book, the former is more likely.

Frank and Joe get medals from the president himself, which is more than they got when they rescued the president from a kidnapping attempt. One thing I’m sure of: unlike some proud mothers, Laura would have no trouble picking out what to wear for a high-level medal ceremony. Her husband and sons have been through it so many times before (like, for instance, in The Ghost at Skeleton Rock, #37, when they received an award from the president of Cuba), that she probably has an outfit in the closet just waiting. And she probably wore it the week before, too.

Grade: C. Major demerits for the hip slang, bro.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Slam Dunk Sabotage (#140)

The first in my series of reviews of Hardy Boys Digests, which originally appeared on my previous site, The Fagan Freehold:

So in Slam Dunk Sabotage by Franklin W. Dixon

Why? Well, it was cheap at the Green Valley Book Fair. I mean, cheap. And I like Hardy Boys books —

Hardy Boys. Yes, really. I can’t explain. We all have our quirks. Yes, that’s a fairly odd one, but some people paint their bodies weird colors, then pay a lot more money to watch a sporting event. Those people show up on national TV. I think I can afford to indulge this oddity in private.

Anyway. Hardy Boy books. There’s not really any point in reviewing these books — they defy rational analysis, what with their 1-D characters and stock plots. (Well, the Hardy Boys, tools of the establishment, don’t really defy anything, come to think of it. Except when they’re told to keep their nose out of a case. Then they can’t wait to defy, defy, defy, regardless whether the person warning them be a cop or criminal. They might listen to their father, Fenton, but in that case, he’ll generally get captured or near-fatally wounded for the hubris of trying to rein in his children of destiny.)

But anyway, here’s Slam Dunk Sabotage:

Plot: Someone’s trying to keep the Bayport Bombers from winning the conference championship in basketball, and they won’t stop at violence.

“Borrowing” from the past: Frank and Joe don’t play basketball as often as they do other sports, oddly enough. (The Hardys are five-sport athletes, in case you didn’t know, a feat that’s somewhere between groin-strainingly difficult and impossible.) They played hoops in The Voodoo Plot (#72). Then, they won the area basketball championship over Hopkinsville.

Jamal Hawkins is ...: Frank and Joe’s friend, but he’s also a player on the rival Rocky River Rockets (what an awful name). Hey, what a surprise — the black kid plays basketball!

Opinions: There’s a decent mystery here about who wants to sabotage the Bayport Bombers, even if the suspects are fairly obvious. (Then again, what was I expecting? This isn’t exactly a thriller with a twist at the end.) The plot is decent enough, combining high school rivalries with a plausible amount of teenage violence. When the Hardys are around, though, plausible amounts of violence are relative; Biff gets dosed with rat poison, after all.

Whoever Franklin W. Dixon was for this book, his (or her) knowledge of basketball was abysmal, at best. Unforgivable, really — basketball isn’t exactly an obscure sport, and the editor should have picked up on something even if the author was clueless.

But it is impressive that there is a great deal of detail on the Bayport Bombers’ drive for the conference championship — usually, sports is a distraction, but here it’s a goal for the Hardys. Of course, even that’s fishy. It’s unlikely there would be a playoff game between two schools for the conference championship unless the championship was necessary to advance to another level of the postseason; the state basketball tournament, for instance. Otherwise, tiebreakers would be used, or the the tied teams would be declared co-champions. The interrupted game would be replayed from the moment the lights went out rather than in toto, if the game would have been delayed any longer than it took to restore power.

Grade: C+. More athletes should try rat-poison laced sports drink. It’s strychnine-riffic! Besides, it can’t be any worse than Gatorade.