Almost all of these books are very, very plot driven with minimal characterization and theme. Harsh, I know but I think fair.
What I didn’t think about until looking at Mad Scientists Club was tone.
It’s not really fair to pull the Rover Boys out since it’s well over a hundred years old and the start of the Stratemeyer Syndicate which is defined by being extruded literary product. But, man, the tone is so wooden that the engineering-style of early Avalon Hill rule books seem F. Scott Fitzgerald. Really, the only reason to read the books is as some sort of history study. I’d avoid them if I were you.
In comparison, while I truly think three of the seven members of the Mad Scientists Club could have been merged into one without losing anything, the tone of the stories is wonderful. It’s casual and colloquial and slyly witty. The series has a great voice and really deserves to be more widely known. (Yeah, I’ll blog about the books sometime. STEM meets Boy Scouts meets shenanigans)
And, yes, looking at Encyclopedia Brown, I have to give that series props for tone. It’s corny as all get out with a narrator who pulls out the stops with dad jokes but it adds a lot to making logic puzzles actual stories. (Yeah, the whole point of this is really that I sold Encyclopedia Brown a bit short. But it was a fun journey)
Frankly, tone adds a lot to a wide variety of game experiences as well. I mean, just look at _anything_ in the Warhammer 40K, where the whole grim dark can run from painfully earnest to satirical to completely hysterical. Tone transforms every WH40K experience, which is cool.
But tone in gaming really deserves its own blog entry or three.