Title: Nick and Tesla's Robot Army Rampage: A Mystery with Hoverbots, Bristle Bots, and Other Robots You Can Build Yourself (Nick and Tesla #2)
Authors: "Science Bob" Pflugfelder, Steve Hockensmith, and Scott Garrett (Illus.)
Publisher: Quirk Books
Release Date: February 4, 2014
In this second novel of the Nick and Tesla series, the precocious brother-and-sister duo find themselves solving another baffling mystery. As the story opens, their Uncle Newt takes a consulting gig at a cut-rate amusement park, engineering animatronic figures for a cheap Hall of Presidents knockoff. One perk of the job is that Nick and Tesla have unlimited access to the amusement park all summer long—but the kids quickly discover that one of the park employees has a sinister plan. They’ll have to build a few robots of their own to foil him!
Readers are invited to join in the fun as each story contains instructions and blueprints for five different projects. Learning about science has never been so dangerous—or so much fun!
You can read my review of Nick & Tesla's High Voltage Danger Lab (Nick & Tesla #1) HERE.
Steve Hockensmith Guest Post
Hello My name is Steve, and I’m a fraud.
Or so it seems to me as I sit down to write this blog post. I was going to write about the books and TV shows and movies that influenced Nick and Tesla’s Robot Army Rampage, the second entry in the new middle-grade mystery series I’ve been doing with “Science Bob” Pflugfelder. So the first thing I thought of was my elevator pitch. You know -- the cheesy “It’s such-and-such meets so-and-so!” line you’re supposed to have ready in case you find yourself in an elevator with a movie producer.
The elevator pitch for the Nick and Tesla books would be “It’s the Hardy Boys meets MacGyver!” Or maybe “It’s Nancy Drew meets Popular Mechanics!”...though that sounds terrible, doesn’t it? Nothing in an elevator pitch should meet Popular Mechanics.
So we’ll stick with “It’s the Hardy Boys and/or Nancy Drew meets MacGyver!” The books are about a pair of science-loving 11-year-old twins who solve mysteries using gadgets they cobble together from common household items and simple parts. (The books even include directions so readers can build the gizmos at home.) So I think the elevator pitch is pretty accurate.
But here’s where the fraud comes in. I’ve never read an entire Hardy Boys book. I’ve never read more than a chapter of Nancy Drew. And MacGyver? I think I saw the credits once, but that’s about it. Everything I know about the show is pure hearsay. I think it’s about a laid-back adventure-bro (I’ve seen the mullet) who...umm...gets into a lot of trouble, most of which he gets out of by turning old refrigerators into hang-gliding flamethrowers or whatever.
So what really influenced the Nick and Tesla books? Well, the idea of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew and MacGyver, I suppose. But I have to give Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? a lot of credit, too. That’s where I first encountered and (through hours upon hours of TV-viewing repetition) internalized the mechanics of a mystery.
Heroes stumble upon sinister, puzzling plot. Gather clues. Identify suspects. Entrap and unmask the culprit. Howl “Rooby-rooby-roooooo!” while stealing food from a hungry hippie. The End. (The “Rooby-rooby-roooooo!” and food-stealing are, of course, optional for non-Scooby-Doo mysteries.)
But while the Nick and Tesla books have a lot of humor in them, I don’t think it’s necessarily Scooby-Doo humor. There’s nary a talking dog in sight, and you won’t find lines like “That vampire is a real pain in the neck. Get it! Pain in the neck? Ha ha!”
So where does the humor come from? You got me. I guess it’s sort of James Thurber-y in some of its whimsy and Monty Python-y in some of its absurdity and Phineas and Ferb-y in some of its geek-friendly goofiness. And there are a gazillion other influences I could trot out, too, but won’t. I think asking a writer where his or her sense of humor comes from is like asking a stray mutt about its pedigree. You’re better off just making your own guesses.
As for the inspiration for the gadgets, it’s a lot easier to come up with a simple answer: Go ask Science Bob.
So what would my real, honest elevator pitch for the Nick and Tesla books be?
“It’s Scooby-Doo meets James Thurber meets Monty Python meets Phineas and Ferb meets all kinds of science stuff you’ll have to ask someone else about!”
So I think if I do ever end up in an elevator with a producer, I’m going with “The Hardy Boys meets MacGyver.” Maybe that would make me a fraud, but at least I’d be a fraud with a movie deal.
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About the Authors
Steve Hockensmith's novels for grownups include the Edgar-nominated Holmes on the Range, and the New York Times bestseller Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls. This summer he'll launch a new mystery series for adults with The White Magic Five & Dime, about a con woman-turned-fortune teller who uses her newly discovered skills with the tarot deck to track down a killer.
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Enter to win the audiobook of the first entry in the Nick and Tesla series, Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab by Steve Hockensmith and Science Bob Pflugfelder, courtesy of Quirk Books!
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