The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew have teamed up numerous times on television and in books. In 1992, the Hardy Boys crossed over with another long-time long-running literary franchise, Tom Swift. I read the first of these two crossovers, Time Bomb when it was first released. Recently, I spotted it in a thrift store and decided to give it another read to see if it lived up to my fond childhood memories.
The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew literary properties began to be published by Simon and Schuster in the late 1970s. In the late 1980s, the company launched the Nancy Drew files, and the Hardy Boys case files which offered readers a new book every month.
These were written for what the modern publishing world calls the young adult market. The original books were written for kids. The new series’ plotlines were clean but a bit more intense. For example, in the first Hardy Boys case file, Joe Hardy’s girlfriend killed in a terrorist car bombing.
This led the Hardy Boys, in addition to their typical mysteries, to serve as freelance operatives for the top-secret government organization known as the Network.
The books were successful, each series running for eleven years. In 1991, Simon and Schuster decided to launch another well-known juvenile fiction from a past generation in a similar series, Tom Swift.
In the 1990s series, Tom Swift Jr. was an eighteen-year-old inventor and the son of the founder of Swift Enterprises. He was constantly discovering and dealing with cutting-edge technology and facing a recurring enemy, the Black Dragon.
The Swift corporation tracks down the notes of a scientist who disappeared in the 1960s. Meanwhile, on an investigation with their father, they run into the scientist, alive and well, having traveled back in time from the 1960s.
However, both the Swifts and the Hardys are targeted by the Tom Swift, Jr.’s archenemy, the Black Dragon. He steals the Swifts’ nascent time-travel technology and tries to kidnap the scientist, and the Hardy boys’ father, Fenton, disappears. The Hardys mistakenly believe the Swifts are behind it. However, once the obligatory misunderstanding is sorted out, the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift join forces.
The Black Dragon plans to hold America hostage, giving the President a chance to either serve as a puppet ruler for the Black Dragon. If the President refuses, the Black Dragon will take an entire American city back in time so it lands on top of itself, destroying the city. And the only thing that can stop him? Three teenage boys.
The book feels much more like a Tom Swift book guest starring the Hardy Boys. Swift’s supporting cast plays a much more prominent role and the plot is very much science fiction with very little detective work to be done.
It’s a good time travel yarn with some interesting theoretical ideas and plot twists, but also a good deal of adventure. Swift and his talking robot, Rob, journey back to prehistoric times as part of their efforts to stop the Black Dragon, It’s easy to see why it was such a fun read for me when I was twelve. There’s a lot of really cool stuff in there.
That said, the story’s not without its flaws. Some of the dialogue is a bit cheesy. Like many books from this era, it was updated to connect with readers of this era, and now the book is a bit dated. In addition, the plot can be too cute for its own good.
For example, one character gets trapped back in time and writes a story about what happened in a pulp fiction magazine. He also writes a message to other characters that he has delivered to them in the 1990s, advising them to get a copy of the magazine. The Black Dragon finds out and is having every copy of the magazine stolen and sends his goons back in time to eliminate the character. This raises the question of why our time-stranded hero didn’t include a copy of the article in the envelope or just write them in the letter about what happened so he would be rescued without letting the bad guys know.
Still, despite the weaker plot points, this book was still fun to re-read. It offers 1990s nostalgia and a good time-travel story. If you like Tom Swift, or are curious to see the Hardy Boys in a different type of adventure, this book will be a worthwhile read.
Ratings: 3.5 out of 5.0