Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero gets four stars.
So, I’m going to start out stating that Edgar Cantero will be someone to watch in the future. Meddling Kids is a good read with several good things going on throughout it. You can enjoy the “Scooby Doo” mystery, the Lovecraft-ian elements, or the somewhat more literary Obsession story. It is fun to read. The tone is a bit poorly held in some areas, and the mystery is a bit too convoluted, but it is a good read.
While there are differing opinions on how well he succeeded in this novel, it never becomes a bad novel. At worst, it is an inconsistent novel, where some jokes are a bit overplayed.
Traditional Scooby Doo
The main conceit is the Scooby Doo gang re-imagined in a more-gritty, more-realistic world. This is lightened by cartoon elements from the past as well as certain scenes were cartoon elements are more prevalent. The core characters are Andy and Nate. Andy may fall into the Daphne position, but she resembles the original character none at all. She is the “tough girl with a heart of gold” archetype and that is continued solidly throughout the novel. She shows a lot of heart and seems to really care about each of the others. Nate, the Shaggy character, is a horror geek and, unfortunately, psychotic. He appears to be visited by Peter (Fred)’s dead spirit and in that way, along with a dog named Tim and a geeky girl named Kelli, the team is “back together.”
I’m not here to give you a ton of spoilers, but basically this is the same old plot of all the movies, only ten times more. This time, unlike all the other adventures in the popular cartoon, the monsters are real. Of course, this is the base plot of every live-action movie made of Scooby Doo. Also, every movie edition has been turning Daphne into this Andy character, so it isn’t much of a change. And again, due to the same forces, Fred has become less and less effective in each movie, pushing him into an ineffective ghost of his traditional role – a direction that this book takes literally. Kelli/Velma breaks free of her nerdy role – reprised in the movies – but she is as sexy as every nerd-boy fan fiction dreamed she would be. (Don’t ask, you can google as well as I can.) Shaggy is the only one with a truly different role. He’s still taking drugs and running away, but it’s anti-psychotic medication, not marijuana. Overall, Meddling Kids version of the Mystery Inc. gang is spot-on with modern sensibilities.
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SUMMER 1977. The Blyton Summer Detective Club (of Blyton Hills, a small mining town in Oregon’s Zoinx River Valley) solved their final mystery and unmasked the elusive Sleepy Lake monster—another low-life fortune hunter trying to get his dirty hands on the legendary riches hidden in Deboën Mansion. And he would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids.
1990. The former detectives have grown up and apart, each haunted by disturbing memories of their final night in the old haunted house. There are too many strange, half-remembered encounters and events that cannot be dismissed or explained away by a guy in a mask. And Andy, the once intrepid tomboy now wanted in two states, is tired of running from her demons. She needs answers. To find them she will need Kerri, the one-time kid genius and budding biologist, now drinking her ghosts away in New York with Tim, an excitable Weimaraner descended from the original canine member of the club. They will also have to get Nate, the horror nerd currently residing in an asylum in Arkham, Massachusetts. Luckily Nate has not lost contact with Peter, the handsome jock turned movie star who was once their team leader . . . which is remarkable, considering Peter has been dead for years.
The time has come to get the team back together, face their fears, and find out what actually happened all those years ago at Sleepy Lake. It’s their only chance to end the nightmares and, perhaps, save the world.
In some ways, Meddling Kids is far from Scooby Doo. One third of the novel is an interesting coming of age story with a specific interest in obsession. Peter was apparently a charismatic character. The fact that he leaves them and becomes an actor may have been somewhat traumatic. He then commits suicide, which further poisons their ability to reasonably grow up. Kelli, who had a somewhat unresolved relationship with Peter, is crashing at college, focused more on drinking than study. Andy, who is obsessed with Kelli, has chickened out of confessing her love to Kelli and run off to explore the US. Nate, who may also have been obsessed with Peter, is having a psychotic break and imagines that he’s visited by Peter’s ghost. Kerri/Velma dips back and forth into relevance, but is mostly a foil for the hyper-athletic Andy, and focus for Andy’s obsession. Tim/Scooby Doo is a good dog, who contributes to conversations in a realistic, dog fashion. The dog also has his obsessions…which are fairly reasonable given that he’s a dog.
All of them seem to have been running away, in one way or another. This third of the novel is an interesting exploration of obsession and running away, which would make a dirt-common novel on the literature aisle. Not a bad read, but without the other two elements it would have been a bit boring.
The Nate/Shaggy character is the center of both the ‘cartoon hijinks’ and ‘Cthulu mythos’ plots, which is a bit odd of a combination. He isn’t a particularly sympathetic character, as Shaggy was, but is more of a mental mover. Here the combination of comedy and horror leads to the conclusion that fantasy novels are based in real magic, so a lifetime of reading Conan prepares you to become a sorcerer. Overall, some of the sorcery explanations seem a bit ‘tacked on’ so I’m not positive I understood ‘what caused what’. That and the constant flips in tone from serious to comedic, during the Lovecraftian scenes, made the novel less solid than it could have been.
Overall, I think Meddling Kids tries a bit too hard to be experimental and weird. I enjoyed it, but I think it could have been more consistent in tone and more clear on resolutions. I really liked it and think that it was a top-notch book, so I recommend it. But, I’m only giving it 4 stars. It was 5 star fun in places…but dropped a bit in others. Definitely, Edgar Cantero an author to watch.