Tuesday, January 06, 2009

H.I.V.E. #3: Escape Velocity by Mark Walden

Escape Velocity is the third of Mark Walden’s H.I.V.E. novels. While a number of loose ends are tied up in this one, it produces some more, including a new antagonist to the heroes, and there will be more in the series -- perhaps a new story arc, now that this one is finished. One prediction I made in my review of the first novel turned out to be correct, if not complete, since there was more information in the second novel.

In this series, the heroes are all villains. H.I.V.E. (the Higher Institute of Villainous Education) is a sort of Hogwarts for young super-baddies, run by G.L.O.VE, an organisation of international criminals. Each of the students has a special skill of one kind or another. The hero, Otto Malpense, has three friends whose particular skills help him to save the day. Scottish Laura is a computer genius who had been caught hacking into a military communications system to find out what the other girls at school were saying about her. American girl Shelby is a former jewel thief who can open any lock. Otto’s best friend Wing is brilliant in martial arts.

Otto has discovered that he can use his mind to interface with computer systems. It’s a skill he’s going to need. After saving the school and the world from an insane artificial intelligence overlord in the previous book, the friends discover their troubles aren’t over by any means. Principal Maximilian Nero has been kidnapped by a mysterious organisation called H.O.P.E (one has to love all these acronyms). His bodyguard, the ninja Raven, appears to have been killed while attempting to rescue him. Number One, head of G.L.O.V.E., doesn’t seem to care. He has his own plans, including replacing Dr. Nero with a woman who had betrayed the school in the previous novel. She, in her turn, has her orders. One of these seems to be “extracting” Otto and his friends from the school, taking them to an unknown destination. Just as well that Raven isn’t dead after all, and that some other characters thought dead are also still alive.

The first book in this series was very funny as well as an entertaining adventure. The whole notion of a school for super-villains was delightful. The trouble is, you can only get away with the joke for one novel, as the author seems to have realized, so the next two novels have put the accent on the adventure and pretty much left out the humor. Another problem is that you forget that these characters are supposed to be in training to be the next generation of super-villains of the kind who plot to take over the world and try to kill James Bond. Dr. Nero is starting to turn into Dumbledore, if not as shrewd or witty. Otto and his friends enjoy their studies, but really, they’re just a technical version of wizards. I think, in the next book, we need to be reminded what these teenagers are actually supposed to be studying, or what’s the point? There’s a tiny bit of humor, but very little.

Still, as an adventure, it works. There’s a lot of hardware and software in this book -- ah, if we could only create invisibility suits in real life.

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