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review 2018-11-09 12:57
Maxwell's Demon: "Master of the Five Magics" by Lyndon Hardy
Master of the Five Magics - Lyndon Hardy

(Original Review, 1980-10-02)


Just out from Del Rey is MASTER OF THE FIVE MAGICS by Lyndon Hardy (who "became interested in fantasy while wandering through the fringes of fandom as an undergraduate at Caltech"). My skepticism was challenged by the cover blurb's claim, "one of the most logical detail of the laws of magic ever to appear in fantasy".
 
 
 
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.
 
 

 

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review 2018-11-07 04:20
The Missing Chums, Hardy Boys #4
The Missing Chums (Hardy Boys, #4) - Walter S. Rogers,Franklin W. Dixon

'The Missing Chums' is the fourth book of the Hardy Boys mysteries and the first released after the simultaneous launch of the first three in 1927. This is a marketing move still used by publishers for some juvenile series. I've also always loved how incredibly outdated the title of this one is, revise THAT Harriet Strathmeyer. Ha.

 

I never read the revised version of this, likely because of that silly title, but I can imagine this would have been drastically altered after seeing how our boys behave in this round. They put themselves in a great deal of danger, blithely discount the proper authorities until the case is wrapped up in a neat bow, and show a lack of respect to their long-suffering Aunt Gertrude.

 

I forgot to mention that this title is also the introduction of good ol' Aunt Gertrude, an often tiresome relation, but one who offers a great deal of color to the series and a much needed tonic to the blissful perfection of the rest of the Hardy family.

 

The mystery here is that shortly after a strange encounter on the waters while testing out Biff Hooper new speedboat (every teen boy in Bayport gets a motorcycle and a speedboat it seems), Chet Morton and Biff go missing! Could they have been lost in that sudden storm, or is it something else? As most of Bayport assumes our two supporting characters are dead, the Hardy Boys refuse to give up, especially when they connect the boys' disappearance with a high profile case Fenton Hardy is working on.

 

A trip to a snake infested island caps off a so-so mystery, but a good adventure story. Much like in 'The Secret of the Old Mill' I couldn't find anything objectionable enough to merit revision.

 

Hardy Boys

 

Next: 'Hunting for Hidden Gold'

 

Previous: 'The Secret of the Old Mill'

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review 2018-11-07 03:34
The Secret of the Old Mill, Hardy Boys #3
The Secret of the Old Mill (Hardy Boys, #3) - Franklin W. Dixon,William G. Tapply

The third Hardy Boys mystery begins with the boys being duped by a stranger at the rail station. They change a large bill for him, which turns out to be counterfeit. In the revised edition the brothers would never be so daft, so it was their chubby chum Chet who takes the fall.

 

Counterfeiting, the boys are informed by their father, is becoming a serious issue in Bayport, and up and down the Eastern seacoast. Mr. Hardy suspects that production may be centered near their own city! Meanwhile, the boys went on a fishing trip and discovered a disused mill is being repaired and put back into business. However, they aren't interested in Chet's father's business as their rates for milling are outrageous. A theory is floated about that they're developing a new breakfast cereal and are understandably hush-hush about it. Meanwhile they befriend the lonely young boy (after saving his life, natch) who lives tat the mill, and try to pump him for information. The biggest development is the boys finally getting a sweet motorboat for their very own, and naming it the 'Sleuth'.

 

There are some interesting chase scenes and additional character studies, but while the original 'Secret of the Old Mill' is superior writing, the mystery was too thin to recommend it very much. The revised book tried jazzing up the story with cleverly delivered threatening notes to the Hardy's, but also fails to gel. The original gets three and a half stars for fun slang and period details circa 1927.

 

Hardy Boys

 

Next: 'The Missing Chums'

 

Previous: 'The House on the Cliff'

 

 

 

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review 2018-11-07 03:03
The House on the Cliff, Hardy Boys #2
The House on the Cliff (Hardy Boys, #2) - Franklin W. Dixon,Leslie McFarlane

At last! I've been collecting the vintage, unrevised Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew novels and after a few bites decided to wait and read them in order, but it took me forever to find the second book for either series. After a lucky visit to Providence R.I.'s Cellar Stories bookstore I found 'The House on the Cliff' and I'm back in business.

 

I read the later, revised edition years and years ago, but didn't feel a need to read it again. Reading the original brought back to me enough of the more ridiculous elements that were added to soften the objectionable edges of the original.

 

In this story, the brothers and a few of their best chums are out for an extended ride on their motorcycles. For a lark they decide to check out the gloomy, abandoned house on the cliff and see if the rumors of hauntings are true. There's a bit of a frightful episode and the boys flee the house. Later, the boys witness two speeding motor boats, one is blown up and a man left for dead. The boys make a daring rescue.

 

This triggers an interesting investigation into jewel smuggling (drugs in the later book), disappearing fathers, and lots and lots of bullets. Problematic elements included those bullets and the boys cheerfully loading their firearms, unrepentant thugs, and bumbling and lazy policemen. Actual horribleness is Frank using a colloquial racist expression (top of page 77 if you're curious) and, of course, a sinister Chinese man named Li Chang who sure would like 3 white men in his power. Joe's response is merely that he "doesn't want to go to China." Haha.

 

The racist elements needed to go, but the revised edition takes away over 20 pages. Descriptions are changed, authority figures become above reproach, and the Hardy Boys have a minimum involvement with undesirables. The main villain, a hardened, if naive, criminal whose only fault was lusting after Fenton Hardy's pledge to leave him alone is revised into a sad sack who is just misunderstood and wants to reform himself and turn the House on the Cliff into a home for kids who ain't learned so good.

 

The mystery itself wasn't as solid as 'The Tower Treasure', that and the old timey racism knocks the stars down to three and a half.

 

The Hardy Boys

 

Next: 'The Secret of the Old Mill'

 

Previous: 'The Tower Treasure'

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text 2018-10-26 18:56
The return of the classics
The Return of the Native - Thomas Hardy,Alexander Theroux

There was an interesting thread on Twitter this morning about the pros and cons of teaching "the classics" in high school (or younger grades).  Some people felt the dead white male canon was no longer relevant, others thought there should be a new "mixed" canon, and so on.  Some tweeters made comments regarding whether or not the classics should be enjoyed on their own or just as cultural icons.

 

I'm not sure exactly when we began to have assigned readings of full-length novels in school.  In eighth grade (age ~13) I remember being assigned Conrad Richter's A Light in the Forest.  I never read it.  We also had to read Robert Louis Stevenson's The Black Arrow, but I'm not sure exactly what grade that was.  I didn't read that one either.  Somewhere along the line was Esther Forbes' Johnny Tremain.  I had seen the Disney movie on TV, so I didn't read that one either.  Oh, yeah.  And we had to read The Pearl by John Steinbeck.  It got the same treatment from me.

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In high school we had the usual: Dickens' Great Expectations in an abridged version in our literature book along with Romeo and Juliet. Nope and nope on those, too.  I think Julius Caesar came in sophomore year.  Another nope.  Junior year was American literature, with Miss Cobb, which meant Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea.  Maybe The Scarlet Letter was thrown in for good measure, but I'm not sure.  I didn't read them.  Senior year I had Miss Leonhard with her Thomas Hardy obsession, so that meant The Return of the Native.  I managed maybe 40 pages of it before I gave up.

 

This was not an issue of getting a student to read or to like reading.  I loved reading, and I devoured books like potato chips.  I read Michener's Hawaii during American history class because Miss Black's teaching was too boring.  For my senior English research paper, I read most of Tolstoy's major works -- Anna Karenina, War and Peace, The Cossacks, The Kreutzer Sonata -- and even if I didn't completely understand them, I read them.

 

Later, years later, I read The Return of the Native and found it fascinating enough that I've reread it several times.  I read an unabridged version of David Copperfield and loved it. 

 

Why is it that more than 50 years after I graduated high school, these same issues keep coming up?  Why are kids still being taught depressing "life's a bitch and then you die" crap like Steinbeck and Hemingway and Shakespeare?  Why can't the canon be expanded to include women writers and writers of color and books written in the 20th and even 21st centuries?

 

I clearly remember hating The Old Man and the Sea because there was absolutely nothing in it I could relate to.  Not the fish, not the old man, not the lions that Miss Cobb said had such immense symbolism.  I didn't get it, and I didn't like it, and I couldn't concentrate on it.  The same with Thomas Hardy.  Egdon Heath was a living, breathing entity to Miss Leonhard, so much so that she and her two equally unmarried English teacher sisters made biannual pilgrimages to England and Hardy country to collect fresh specimens of gorse and heather and other plant to show their students.

 

Johnny Tremain probably had more relevance to our teenaged selves, but The Pearl sure didn't.  Yet these stories are classics.  There's something about them that has transcended the popular culture of their time to become universal.  Why didn't the teachers then -- or the teachers now -- manage to convey that universality to their students?

 

When my daughter was in high school and her freshman English teacher handed out a list of acceptable books for book reports, there were virtually no women authors on the list.  Not even Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte.  Just a bunch of dead white guys.  When I confronted the teacher, she looked at me like I was nuts.  These were the books that had always been on the list and no one had ever complained before.  Well, honey, I complained.

 

The following year, when my son was a freshman, the high school canon had been expanded, but not by much.

 

And the kids still didn't read it.

 

I'm not sure kids are even capable of understanding most of the themes of classic adult literature unless the teacher knows how to make it relevant to their limited experience.

 

There's a certain similarity between The Pearl and a silly horse story I read in fifth grade, Silver Saddles.  The ending is the exact opposite, of course, because the horse story ends happily and the Steinbeck classic is a monumental tragedy.  But is the tragedy the whole point of the story?  Is that what eighth graders should be taught, that life is a never ending struggle and you shouldn't hope to have anything good come of it because more than likely you'll just end up worse than you were before?

 

Romeo and Juliet is another tragedy.  Why is it still being taught to teenagers who are maybe just starting to experience romance and love and sexual desire?  I still remember that English teacher's rapt expression when I said I didn't think kids needed to see love and suicide in the same context without some kind of warning.  "Oh, but I just love Romeo and Juliet!" she exclaimed.  "It's so romantic!"

 

Yeah, suicide at 14 is so romantic.

 

We're a diverse society and we need a diverse canon.  But if we're going to impress the importance of that canon or any canon on young readers, don't we have to make it relevant to them?  If Jane Austen's universal truth is truly universal, shouldn't there be other examples from literature, from popular culture, from the news, from the kids' real lives?

 

Maybe I just see all this through the lens of 70 years, or maybe I'm just nuts. 

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