November 15, 2013

#23 Return of the Mummy

Judging a Book by its Cover

Didn't get enough mummy in Curse of the Mummy's Tomb? Well now we have a returned mummy. Where the previous book's cover had merely a mummy on the cover, this book coming out of the sarcophagus. I definitely had to use spell check to spell sarcophagus. It's not a word that pops up in day to day usage. Anyway, sarcophagi are pretty cool looking so it makes for a neat cover. We can only see the mummy's hands emerging... well that and some stink mist. Stink doesn't have a visual component but I guess you gotta get the concept of odor across somehow. I wonder how much a mummy stinks though... I mean I get dead bodies rot and smell but this dead bodies is thousands of years old. I bet it smells a little musty at worst. I doubt there is any flesh left to rot. Oh well, it makes for a good looking cover.

Also of note is the color scheme. So often the two tone Goosebumps' ooze logo seems just randomly pick but here the blue green goes around quite nicely with the blue toned background and striped sarcophagus. Man I am using the word sarcophagus more than I have in the past 10 years combined here in these few paragraphs!

Now there is a blurb for the Goosebumps Fan Club on the front. Often in the later books there would be blurbs for selling shit. I always wanted to join the fan club but never did. One of life's regrets. You got a hat, pen, autographed RL Stine poster and more for like 10 bucks. How could my mom never have under stood how much I needed that? Oh well. Are fan clubs even still a thing? I feel like the news letters and such that you get from them are now an online thing. I could be wrong about that though.

The taglines are disappointments. No puns. I like puns dammit. The front merely states that he's back from the dead which is pretty obvious from the title of the book and the cover illustration. The back says, "Dead... or alive?" And that is a trick question because it is both! Undead!

Enough about the cover. This was my favorite book growing up (if I remember correctly) and I want to get to reading. I am pretty sure this is a direct sequel with the same characters and everything. Though if memories serves right this isn't a return of THE mummy, as it is a different mummy than involved with the last  book. Speaking of the last book, if you need to get caught up here is my review of Curse of the Mummy's Tomb. Now onto Return of the Mummy!

Getting Goosebumps

As this is a direct sequel we have returning characters! Once again tween Gabe is going to visit his Uncle Ben (once again, not the rice guy) and his daughter Sari as they excavate another pyramid. It's a different pyramid this time so even though it is called Return of the Mummy it is a different mummy. Also despite the undead shenanigans of last time Gabe seems pretty psyched. He has his mummy hand trinket that he carries with him at all times. Last book it woke the mummies from the dead but he seems pretty unsure about it's abilities. Mostly it is just a good luck charm. While last time he went to Egypt with his parents, this time he is going alone to be with Uncle Ben because truly his parents can trust in the "almost lead our son to his early demise" antics of ol' Ben.

So Gabe arrives by plane and immediately is onto Uncle Ben's sense of humor. He is dressed up in robes with a thick accent looking to pick up Gabe in a cab. Nevermind, that's just an Egyptian cabby. Simple mistake to make right? The real Ben arrives with his daughter and immediately Sari and Gabe resume their rivalry. Gabe is slightly sympathetic towards her, however, as he realizes she rarely gets to see her dad due to his studies. Not overly sympathetic though because she is kind of a bitch.

Instead of staying at a hotel this time they are camping right at the dig site.After arriving at the pyramid and Gabe is startled to find a mummy risen from the dead out to get him. Already? Jesus this is only like chapter 3. Oh right, practical joke from their trickster uncle. What a hilarious joke to play on kids that were almost murdered in a tomb last time you saw em. I am sure that's not horribly traumatizing in the slightest. Turns out that was an actor, as the media is there to shoot a commercial. Uncle Ben isn't such a horrible bastard though. He gives his nephew the gift of a scarab trapped in amber. They are said to be good luck for some reason even though one bite from a living scarab would kill you. And now Gabe feels a pinch at his leg. Oh god he's gonna die this early in the book? Or it's yet another prank this time from Sari. Again these tricks would probably be funnier if they didn't almost die in the last book. Maybe I'm just uptight.

Anyway so this time around the tomb in question is believed to belong to Prince Khor-Ru the cousin of King Tut which makes this a pretty major discovery. That is, if it hasn't been pillaged by robbers over the centuries. This importance has caused interest from a beautiful pantsuit wearing reporter named Nila who interrupts the crew as they enter the pyramid. She wants to cover this story and since she is a looker and has supposedly talked with Uncle Ben's partner he allows her to accompany them. She admires Gabe's scarab necklace showing him her own amber necklace that is sadly scarabless.

Now you would think entering a pyramid with a group that all have lights would go somewhat smoothly but somehow almost immediately Gabe gets lost and tumbles into a pit with thousands of spiders. How are those good luck charms working out for you now Gabe? He fears he is also getting attacked by a snake but it's actually a rope to save him. After he shakes off the thousands of spiders he makes sure his mummy hand thingy survived the fall. Oddly Nila seems to recognize it as "The Summoner." While the others move on Gabe sees The Summoner's fingers move. Creepy! After this whole fiasco they give up because they "explored enough." Explored enough? you were in there for like 10 seconds for Gabe got his stupid ass covered in spiders!

Two days later they get back into the pyramid for some excavating. As they are working to open the tomb they hear a bellowing, "PLEASE LET ME REST IN PEACE!" but alas it still isn't a real mummy woken from the dead, it's just Dr. Fielding who is Uncle Ben's partner. He believes there is a curse on the tomb. Hieroglyphics say if you repeatean ancient Egyptian phrase 5 times you will wake Prince Khor-Ru and feel his wrath. As a man of science Ben isn't swayed and his partner refuses to witness it and leaves. After chiseling away at the entry they reveal the tomb full of splendorous... nothing. But there is a seal to another room. They chip away and finally enter that one revealing the real resting place of the Prince. It is filled with jewels, treasures, and a sarcophagus containing the prince's mummy. The celebration is short lived, however, because 4 police officers from Cairo show up. They were sent by Dr. Fielding who has apparently changed his mind about the find and just wants to "protect" it.

Later that night Nila cons Uncle Ben into telling her the words that supposedly wake the prince from the dead, "Teki Kahru Teki Kahra Teki Khari." So if you at home want to raise the dead, now you know. I think Ben just told her because he wants to get in her pants and what better way than revealing an ancient curse? He is one smooth operator. Since Gabe was present for the reveal too he decides to try and get back at Sari for all the pranks by reciting the curse for her. Doing so freaks her out, but I think it also scares him a bit as well. To further add to the scare Dr. Fielding busts in right after they finish the curse. He needs to see Sari's father urgently! Suspicious, the kids follow him and see him gruffly push Uncle Been into the pyramid and then leave abruptly past the kids without even acknowledging them. Weird.

Well the kids get some lights and enter the pyramid. The follow footprints to the tomb and see that the
sarcophagus is now closed. They open it revealing Ben inside. But if he is in there then where is the mummy? Alive and out to get them! And for real alive this time, none of this prank shit. Gabe's uncle is unconscious in the casket and the kids run into an empty room where they discover Nila. Instead of being a source of help she is the cause of the problem! She is not merely Nila but PRINCESS Nila, the mummy's sister and she stole Gabe's Summoner to raise her sibling from the dead. She tells the mummy to murder the children to eliminate the witnesses but in some sort of ancient sibling rivalry (or a desire to be left in peace) the mummy attacks Nila. In a chaotic panic Gabe accidentally rips off her amber pendant and drops to the floor. The princess disappears and a scarab scurries away in her place. Apparently through some magic kept herself alive all these years by turning into a scarab at night. Anyway I guess with his summoner a scarab or whatever, the mummy stops moving and Uncle Ben finally regains consciousness. Dr. Fielding returns with the police. Apparently he was a good guy after all and was just in a panic earlier.

Finally Gabe has the chance to brag to Sari since he saved the day. She, however, points out the Nila is still out there as a deadly scarab and she is probably out to get him. A moment later in bed Gabe screams, "OUCH!"


What I Thought

I remember this book! Many times reading things I find it hard to fathom that I had ever read it before I remember nothing. Sometimes things come back to me as I was reading but this one I remembered a fair amount pretty early on. I didn't remember specifically that Nila was the mummy's sister but I did remember she was the bad guy. I have long remembered that this was my favorite Goosebumps book growing up and my actual memory of the plots seems to confirm it. I seem to remember having a mummy phase at some point in my life. I am not sure if this book caused it, or if I just liked this book because I read it during this phase.

So anyway, Goosebumps tend to be split between books that happen at home in every day life of a kid or books where kids go away to a location to get spooked. While the first option can be scary in it's own way I think I tend to find the latter more interesting. I've been at home, to school, etc. I have never been to a pyramid and reading about a kid going there is exciting! That isn't to say I wish all the Goosebumps were like this but perhaps that I tend to lead towards them.

Now I was worried rereading this. I didn't remember which mummy one I liked so much and the first book disappointed me. This one however I feel pretty favorably towards. I feel like it is just better written. There is more focus on one specific mummy which is good. Also Gabe doesn't summon it randomly like in the last book it's part of Nila's devious plan. And her plan isn't immediately obvious to the young. She seems like on of the "Good Guys" Pretty ladies don't have devious plans!

Of course this book has plenty of holes. It's a Goosebumps book! In true horror b-movie fashion it seems like the characters have all forgotten everything about the previous book. Gabe seems surprised his mummy hand summons mummies WHEN IT ALREADY SUMMONED MUMMIES. Also what's the deal with Nila? So she's like thousands of years old and just now happens to show up to revive her brother? Shouldn't she have known where he was buried this whole time? Couldn't she have tried this any other time during the past several thousand years? Also how did she not know the curse when it was written in the hieroglyphics? She should speak ancient Egyptian because she literally is an ancient Egyptian. I also don't completely understand why her brother attacked her. I guess he really just wanted to be left in peace, even by his sister? You think she woulda known about this.. But still, these are nitpicks in a series you can't really nitpick with. It's for kids. I am sure 8 year old me didn't think about this shit.

Really though, despite its flaws it may be my favorite Goosebumps book again. The setting is fun. The rivalry between cousins and the prankster uncle make for some decent false scares. It seems like it got into things quicker than the previous book. Also there is less ridiculous bullshit than the earlier one. I recall rolling my eyes a lot at Curse and not so much at Return. It's the rare sequel that improves the series.

Rating: 4 scarabs out of 5 (also did you know scarabs are a kind of dung beetle? DUNG!)


Phantom of the Auditorium. Presumably it will be based on Phantom of the Opera. A least very loosely based. I don't remember much about this book off the top of my head but I am pretty sure this was one of the first Goosebumps I read in 1 sitting. The idea of reading these books in one sitting now seems laughably easy but back in the day it took a little bit longer to get through. I plowed through it in one day however. I don't know why I remember that, but I do. So we shall see if any of the plot comes back to me as I'm reading it or if is entirely unfamiliar. Next time!