March 17, 2012

#9 Welcome to Camp Nightmare

Judging a book by its cover

Welcome to Camp Nightmare, I'm creepy shadow monster with bright yellow eyes and I'll be the camp counselor for your stay. Don't mind the massive amount of dead trees they are just a byproduct of the deadly bright red gasses that seem to be infesting our sky. Enjoy yourself!

I don't remember much at all about this book and the cover is not helping. Unfortunately in a series of over 60 books there is bound to be filler. I'm afraid this may be one of those "filler" books, but we shall see, wont we?

The front tagline reads, "It's the little camp of horrors!" Obviously referencing The Little Shop of Horrors. I'm guessing Rick Moranis will not be appearing in this book. The back elaborates, "Those scary stories about camp are all coming true." The only scary camp story I really remember is the episode of Salute Your Shorts with Zeke the Plumber. If you know what I'm talking about, clearly you're at the right blog.

Now, in to the book!

Getting Goosebumps

Camp Nightmare is actually known as Camp Nightmoon, and Billy is heading there on a bus for the first time ever this summer. The bus driver is kind of an odd silent man, who scares the crap out of everyone with a mask before dropping them off in the middle of nowhere and ditching them without an explanation. Then the kids get attacked by wild animals, until they are chased off by Camp Leader "Uncle Al." It's pretty creepy to have an adult of authority force kids to call him "Uncle." But I digress.

They arrive in Camp Nightmoon in a different bus, driven by Uncle Al, who drops the few girls off at a separate camp. The boys all get split up into different cabins and Billy gets into one with a scaredy-cat named Mike. Almost immediately Mike gets bitten by snakes in his bed which proves maybe he has good reason to be a scaredy-cat. He runs off to find a nurse, but quickly discovers from cabin leader Larry that there is no nurse. Uncle Al doesn't believe in "coddling" the children. He also spits in the faces of Child Protective Services. Uncle Al rattles off some camp rules. One is that they absolutely must write home every day. Another and perhaps most notable is never go into the "Forbidden Bunk." Sounds reasonable.

After sleep they are ready to begin their first day of camp shenanigans. First off, Billy goes to play "Scratchball" with a group of boys. Scratchball is like baseball for people who can't afford bats... You just throw the ball into the outfield instead of being pitched to and hitting it. Also, if you are cabin leader Larry to bean kids in the back of the head with the ball because they piss you off, and then claim it was an accident. Then that night they learn camp songs and have dinner. A small food fight ensues and Billy gets grape juiced spilled on his pants, or as the clever kids at camp put it he "purpled himself." When he goes back to his bunk he finds that all of scaredy-cat mike's stuff is all gone. When he confronts Larry about it, Larry acts clueless.

Next on the chopping block are two campers who decide to investigate the Forbidden Bunk despite warnings that "Sabre" will get them. Shrieks in the night signified that perhaps these warnings were correct, and only one of the campers returns sputtering things about a creature. Once again, when Larry the counselor is consulted he acts unconcerned. Later, two campers go for a hike and end up not returning. Larry still doesn't give a shit. Billy however, is getting extremely worried and the addition of 2 new clueless campers to replace all the missing ones doesn't seem to help him.

One day during a swim Billy gets summoned into the woods by Dawn and Dori, two of the campers at the female camp. Turns out strange things are going on at the girl's camp too. This only strengthens Billy's resolve that something has got to be done. Unfortunately for him, the phone at camp is fake, all the letters they've written have been hoarded by the adults remaining unsent, and visitor's day has been canceled.

On the other hand, there is a canoe trip planned for the next day. Lucky for Billy nothing bad EVER happens on canoe trips in the woods. I'm sure his will be just fine... Except that counselor Larry fell off the boat and brave Billy decided he had to jump in after him leaving the two brand new campers drifting away down the rapids... I'm sure they'll be fine. Larry and Billy head back but don't get much time to rest because there is a special hike planned for the next day. Oh boy!

Well the whole camp goes on this hike lead by trustworthy Uncle Al himself. After they get out into the woods he informs everyone that two girls from the female camp have escaped. Then he hands out guns and informs the boys that they are going to hunt them down. For some reason the guys had a problem with that, and Uncle Al informs them they are just tranquilizer darts. Billy however STILL has a problem with it, and is at his breaking point for the whole camp experience. He pulls the gun on Uncle Al and shoots resulting in a tiny pop, and everyone yelling, "Congratulations!" Huh?

It turns out that this whooooole thing was a test. Billy's parents are important scientists and they want to take Billy on their next trip. Apparently to do so there are government tests he has to pass. He passed 1 by not entering the Forbidden Bunk. He passed another by saving Larry. The third test was passed by standing up to Uncle Al. Yes, this whole time the entire camp was in on it. Every single kid, and counselor was acting the whole time and for some reason there is no law against pulling this stuff on your child. Bullshit you say? Well before you call bullshit, it turns out that the expedition the parents are planning is to Earth. Because they are aliens. Yep.

What I Thought

I seem to keep addressing the end of the book first, but how can I not when the endings are this stupid? I guess RL Stine wanted to out-dumb the ending to the last book in the series, and he very well may have done it. It was a double-twist ending, and both of them were terrible. When the original twist of it being a government test was revealed I immediately thought it was dumb. Kids aren't good actors, how could all of them be in on it convincingly? Why would the government allow this to be done to a child? What about that kid that got beaned with the ball? How can you fake that? But then all those stupid questions went away when the alien thing was revealed and a new batch of stupid questions popped up. Why are they on a world where the people look like humans, have exactly human level technology like phones and buses, and all the plants and animals are apparently like ones on earth? Bears, fish, wolves and birds? They even eat Earth food. Billy has french toast. How the hell can you have french toast if there is no France?

My guess would be RL really just pulled this out of his ass at the last minute. I can see him sneaking it in at the very end of the writing process with a shit eating grin on his face. How clever I am! The kids will eat this shit up! Then he rolled around on his bed of money cackling the whole time. Bastard.

It's kind of a shame. Up until the end the book was fairly solid for Goosebumps. Being alone at camp with everything going wrong around you and no adults you can trust is kind of a scary thought. If Uncle Al had some sort of nefarious plan, it could have wound up being genuinely entertaining. Instead we have bullshit about aliens. Disappointing. I'm hoping the Goosebumps series shapes up from here on out.

Rating 1 Spooky Cabin out of 5

Up Next

Next up is The Ghost Next Door. Let me guess, the ghost really isn't a ghost, it's a robot. Also it doesn't live next door it is actually sending a hologram of itself up from the center of the earth. Why did I decide to reread these books again?

March 1, 2012

#8 The Girl Who Cried Monster

Judging a Book by its Cover

The Girl Who Cried Monster. The name obviously is a play on The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and it leads me to wonder if it will follow that tale at all, or if it just happened to be a clever title. Conspicuously absent from the cover is any monster. All we have is a chubby bald guy who seems to be interested in bugs. Specifically, in eating them. The guy bears a bit of a resemblance to R.L. Stine himself. Coincidence? Probably! But it is still marginally interesting.

The front tagline reads, "She's got the monster of all problems." Get it? Because her problem is literally a monster. Presumably. Not a winner of a tagline. The back one is worse, "She's telling the truth... but no one believes her!" Come on Stine, these are supposed to be clever! Actually, I wonder if he wrote these things himself, or if some marketer slapped em on after the book was done. Something to consider... Ok, enough considering, lets get to the part where I actually read the book.

Getting Goosebumps

Eeek! A toe-biter!
This book stars the usual 12-13 year old protagonist, this time named Lucy Dark. She has a 6 year old brother named Randy and lives with her family in a place called Genericville. Wait, no, it was actually Timberland Falls where there are no falls and little timber. Lucy is generally an average kid but she has one peculiar obsession: monsters. She loves everything about monsters, especially scaring the pants off young Randy by telling him tales of beasts like the "Toe-Biter."

It's summer time in Timberland Falls, so instead of  going to school she has weekly meetings of the "Reading Rangers." Not nearly as cool as the Rescue, Power, or even Texas Rangers, but it's a way to kill time I suppose. Each week she gets assigned a book and if she reads it at the end of the summer she gets a prize. The one in charge of this is the pudgy librarian Mr. Mortman who is a bit of an odd fellow. He's always sweaty and has a pot with pet turtles on his desk. You'd think he could afford an aquarium of some sort.

After one meeting of the Reading Rangers Lucy forgets her rollerblades and has to come back for them. She feels as though something ominous is going to happen. Guess what? It does! She spots Mr. Mortman at his desk with a jar of flies telling his "Timid Little Friends" that it is feeding time. Then he eats the flies and transforms into a bug-eyed, snake-tongued monster! You'd think on a diet of flies he wouldn't be so fat... Anyway, naturally Lucy's response is to run the hell away. Correct response. Unfortunately she realizes she left her rollerblades there again decides to go back again to get the. Wrong response. Her efforts are thwarted however, because the doors are locked.

Finally she makes it home, and is shocked to find that her parents don't believe her just because she is always telling monsters stories. I don't know why he had to turn this into a "Boy Who Cried Wolf" thing because even if she didn't lie about monsters all the time, what parent would believe their kid that the librarian's a monster?

Anyway, now Lucy has a mission. She has to prove that Mr. Mortman is actually a monster. She met the next week for the Reading Rangers, to discuss the book she read which was of course, Frankenstein and afterwards hid out to see him change again. Just when she thought that she'd gotten it all wrong the first time, he indeed changed into a monster again this time dining on one of his turtles. After escaping this time she tries to convince her friend Aaron of Mr. Mortman's monsterdom instead of trying to convince her parents. This tactic doesn't seem to work though. Also to her surprise when she gets home Mr. Mortman shows up. Fortunately for her it just seems to be to return a book bag she left there. Of course her parents remain ever skeptical.

Indisputable proof of monsters.
Her next course of action was to get her friend Aaron to tag along with her and witness Mr. Mortman's change. He agrees only after being bribed with 5 bucks. What a true friend! Not only that, but the bastard doesn't even show up because he's got an orthodontist appointment. Lucky for Lucy, she owns a camera. Unlucky for her she is too fucking stupid to turn the flash off. Thankfully apparently monster eyes are extremely sensitive to light... for some convenient reason, so she is able to escape yet again. And back to the unlucky part... Apparently monsters don't show up on film. Her picture of an empty library does nothing to convince her parents of monsters despite Lucy's assertion that the picture absolutely proves he's a monster, because he doesn't show up. How can you argue with that logic?

Ready for another bout with the beast, Lucy finally persuades Aaron to come with her. This time they follow him home and peep in his window, which happens to be behind a fish tank. For some reason Lucy looks first, and sees him change, then he spots her and she falls on her ass off the wheelbarrow she was standing on. Aaron of course saw none of this because he was looking for a ladder and he ran away as Mr. Mortman came out of his house. Being back in human form he confronts her about what she is doing there. She, as a kid, is a natural born liar and says she was just there to tell him she'd be late to Reading Rangers tomorrow and she takes off.

Since Aaron saw nothing and her parents remain unconvinced her parents force her to go to her book meeting. There Mr. Mortman locks the doors and lets Lucy know that he is on to her and he can't let her go. He turns into a monster and gets ready to devour her, but she puts up a fight and in the scuffle she knocks over the drawer of the card catalog sending cards everywhere. He may be a monster, but he's a librarian dammit so he's gotta organize those cards. Seriously. That's how she gets away. I'm not making this shit up.

It turns out that Aaron sneaked into the library and witnessed the whole thing. One extra child's belief that this man was a monster was enough to sway Lucy's skeptical parents and they only had 1 option. Invite him to dinner. Mr. Mortman showed up skeptical and confused. Eventually he settled in to conversation and asked them what was for dinner. The parents responded, "you are." And then ate him. Because they are monsters. Seriously. That's how it ends. Seriously.

What I Thought

WHAT THE FUCK WAS WITH THAT ENDING? It was terrible! I get the urge to have a clever twist at the end, but that wasn't clever and just leads to so many flaws with the book. It's implied that even the kids know they are monsters. Why would Lucy be so obsessed with monsters then? Why would her patents be so skeptical? Why would her brother be so frightened? Why wouldn't their parents wait to get first hand proof before cannibalizing the bastard? Up until the end it was a pretty run of the mill Goosebumps book but the end just fucking ruins everything. I don't think I can even discuss other aspects of the book because the all I can focus on is the stupid fucking end. Ugh.

I guess I have to dicuss the only other aspect of this book worth talking about. That would be how this is a take off on The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Wouldn't it have been awesomely clever if it turned out that the boy was really a wolf himself? Wait no, that would have been fucking stupid. Ending aside the injection of this fable doesn't really work, because a wolf eating sheep from your flock is a very legitimate threat people would genuinely believe and be angry if you lied about. Your librarian being a monster however is something almost no one would believe, except maybe the fine folks at the History Channel.

In summation. Wow. That ending. That fucking ending. Terrible.

Rating 1 out of 5 flies

Up Next!

Welcome to Camp Nightmare! I think there were a few books about camp and I don't remember any of them particularly well. Camp however makes for an excellent setting for scary books and telling scary tales at camp is a time honored tradition. Check back next time for my thoughts on this and as always, thanks for reading!