As someone in a thread months ago summed up the series.
I was going to reply to this thread, but realized that I have so much to say, it would be a hijack. So here I go!
Uke, one nitpick: Irene was no one’s girlfriend. The kids were eternally thirteen, and anyway, a romantic pairing would have upset the dynamic of the trio. There was some friction in the story in which she was first introduced, which was resolved when Joe wrote her a poem (“Whose eyes are as blue as a new pair of jeans? Irene’s. Who will I pin up if I have to go into the army when I am eighteen? Irene.”) but after that, they were all friends of equal standing. Also, the inventor guy was Professor Bullfinch, who was described by Danny as “If he doesn’t know it, it’s not worth knowing.”
One thing I especially liked about the stories was how Danny was always screwing up, and it always came out better than okay.
Bullfinch: Bring me that whaddyacallit, Danny, and be careful not to drop it.
Danny: Okay. [drops the whaddyacallit]
Bullfinch: Oh, dear…well, accidents happen…Well, I’ll be! The whaddyacallit reacted with the hydrochloric acid when it fell! That’s just the effect I was unable to get after weeks of experimenting!
As I mentioned on the board a while back, I’ve ordered some of the books used from Amazon. I can understand why they haven’t been reprinted; technology has caught up to most of them and surpassed all of them. But for the most part, they were scientifically sound. Except for the anti-gravity paint and the smallifying machine (GMAFB), they were extrapolations of current technology. A lot of stuff in the automatic house is in common use today. And the invisibility device was not actually that, but a remote-controlled “insect” equipped with cameras and a microphone. We’ve almost come that far with surveillance, and the device was a lot like virtual reality. And the one with the satellite dishes that received a message from space reminded me so much of Contact. (That one was published in 1967, BTW. We’re still waiting…)
That said, I laughed for almost a full minute when Danny proudly demonstrated the computer that took up a whole wall, and held fifty thousand pieces of information!
Joe was an excellent sidekick. I loved his skepticism.
Danny: Okay, suppose you want to jump across a ditch—
Joe: Why would I want to jump across a ditch?
Danny: You just do, okay? So you figure out how wide the ditch is, and then look in your memory to see how far you can jump, and compare the two to see if you can do it. Well, a computer can do that, but faster, and always accurately.
Joe: Okay. But I still don’t know why I’d want to jump across a ditch. Why can’t I just walk around it?
And Irene was just cool. I loved how she had a bit of a temper, and she was never in a maternal role. She was one of the two capable ones, often more so than Danny, who never looked before he leapt, and she didn’t have any of the timidity fictional girls usually had in that era.
And one thing I thought was a nice touch: they had an occasional antagonist by the name of Eddie “Snitcher” Phillips, and though he was a jerk, he was never shown to be dumb. He had a mechanical turn of mind, which is how he was so easily able to tamper with the computer, and although he cheated to win the school spelling bee, he was already good enough that no one suspected a fix.
Mr. Rilch read one of the books at my insistence. He adores the Three Investigators, and scoffs at Encyclopedia Brown, so I made a deal with him: I’d read one Jupiter Jones if he’d read one Danny Dunn. Haven’t been able to sway him on EB, though. Anyway, after he’d finished it, he asked, “What do you think became of them as adults?”
“…My guess is, Irene went to work at Los Alamos, and Danny got a job at NASA, where he stands around in the control room wearing a headset and looking anxious. Joe got drafted into the army, and when he got out, wrote a book about his experiences. He also hasn’t shaved or cut his hair since then, and the first time he went to visit Irene, he almost got arrested as a suspected saboteur.”