December 24, 2014

#51 Beware, the Snowman

So I meant to do my write up on Monster Blood III in November, but I didn't. Now it's December and instead of that, I'm going to read Beware, the Snowman, just in time for the holidays! I saw it at the thrift store and couldn't pass it up. Yes, at the thrift store. Even though this is a book from the original series I never had it as a kid. It was rather late in the series and by the time it came out I was about 12 years old and too old for Goosebumps. Now I'm 29 and I'll read whatever the fuck I want, including books trying to make a horror story for 10 year old about Frosty's evil buddy.

Judging a Book by its Cover

This snowman doesn't look scary so much as cranky. Like he is shaking his fist and telling the little snowkids to get off his snowlawn. Seriously, his expression is like, "your dog peed WHERE?!" Snowmen seem like a bad choice for a villain because they are thwarted heat. Like seriously, a sunny day could take him out. Given time and global warming he's doomed. Then again maybe he's some kind of all powerful snow wizard that is causing the frigid weather. That might be interesting though, so that's probably not what happens.

The cover really reminds me of a mash-up of two movies. It's like if you took Jack Frost the 1997 horror comedy about car crash with a genetics truck causes a serial killer to turn into a sentient snowman, and combined it with Jack frost the 1998 family comedy about a car crash that turns a father into a sentient snowman in the pinnacle of Michael Keaton's career. Whats with car crashes and sentient snowmen? Is this a part of snow-lore I have never heard of?

Taglines! I love/hate these things as you can probably tell from past reviews. I mean, the fact that I even mention them says something about them. They are so unnecessary and yet needed at the same time. Up front we got "He's got a heart of cold!" which is some solid pun work. I'll give it a B. "No melting allowed." graces the back cover. I don't get it. Is that some sort of phrase I'm unaware of? I mean, I know that "no _____ allowed" is a thing but... this one just doesn't make sense to me. I mean, sure snowmen can melt and obviously wouldn't want to... I give it an F.

So before we get into it here are a couple of stabs at what I think might happen. I am going to rule out a car crash causes someone whether serial killer or father becoming a sentient snowman. My first thought is that they'd go to Frosty route and have a kid build a snowman but have it come to life EVIL! That might be too straight forward though. Knowing RL Stine the snowman will actually secret be some sort of alien life form. It could also be that the snowman is a Scooby-Doo style costume and something more sinister is afoot. The one way I see the snowman being a reincarnated person would be if it was like, the ghost of a kid who died in an avalanche or something. Or maybe there was a deadly snowball fight. Who knows? Lets jump into it.

Getting Goosebumps

We begin with tween Jaclyn remembering a silly nursery rhyme about bewaring the snowman because he, "brings the cold." She is reminded of this old poem her deceased mother read her when she was little as she arrives at her new home with aunt Greta. It seems they've moved to the tiny mountain village of Sherpia. I assume that is a horrible play on the word Sherpa. In this snowy place Jaclyn wonders why she can't remember the second verse of the poem. Surely it will have no plot significance so I assume we can forget about it right now. Now why did they move to this desolate arctic place? Aunt Greta seems to dodge this question. At least there is a nice friendly snowman there to great them! Except... he actually doesn't look that friendly... and... is that a scar? Oh well!

Jaclyn decides to wander about this frigid town alone and gets frightened by some other kids sneaking up on her because it wouldn't be Goosebumps without false scares. I guess popping out from behind is the way kids like Rolonda and Eli welcome newcomers to Sherpia. Jaclyn spots a new nearly identical snowman and inquires to the new found friends about it. They skirt the question. When Jaclyn talks about walking to the top of the mountain that frantically inform her that she can't. Man, the locals are some weird people.

She parts with the strange kids and continues on her way. Further up the mountain she locates a lone dwelling. Wondering if anyone is home she naturally just walks right inside because why the fuck not. She grew up in Chicago, I can't imagine she just walked into random houses in Chicago. That would get your ass shot. And here, apparently, it gets your ass tackled by a wolf, because that's what happens. Thankfully it is a pet wolf and refrains from killing her. Its owner has some pretty ridiculous question for Jaclyn though like "who are you" and "why did you break into my house." Silly. She starts to run away and the wolf guy asks her where she is going, because apparently when you are running away from someone you are expected to tell them where you are headed to? Anyway, she informs him she is heading to the top of the mountain. Wolf guy thinks this is a bad idea and tells her to, "Beware, the snowman!" Eeeee! They said the name of the book inside the book! Yay! Anyway, apparently there is a big evil snowman at the top of the mountain so she runs back from whence she came and bumps into those weird kids again. The kids' theory is that the wolf guy named Conrad works for the snowman. Why he would warn kids about the snowman if he worked for him is anyone's guess. Regardless Rolonda is going to inform Jaclyn all about it the next day at the church. Back at home Jaclyn asks her aunt about the snowman. Like everyone else she seems to avoid the question and get nervous.

That night Jaclyn can't fall asleep due to howling outside. Doing the only logical thing a 12 year old in a frigid arctic wasteland full of creepy people and wolves, she goes outside alone late at night. Those queer snowmen litter the town, and she feels the presence of something following her, so she quickly heads home. She wakes up her aunt who doesn't seem thrilled by the notion of a 12 year old girl being outside in this place alone. Can't imagine why. Also, it seems Jaclyn's obsession with that snowman poem continues.

The next day rolls around and Jaclyn meets her pal at the church to learn about the snowmen. According to her, the evil snowman was created by 2 sorcerers who were fooling around one day. Their magic couldn't stop it. I don't know why they didn't just try heat. A flame thrower oughta do the trick. But anyway, the creature was imprisoned into a cave made of ice the locals creatively refer to as "the ice cave." After this happened Conrad the wolf guy moved into the cabin by the mountain and no one knows why. Now all the villagers build snowmen that look like the evil one to try and appease him. Now, he hasn't asked them to do this or anything, they just figured it would be a good idea. I mean what else would an evil sentient snowman want except a lot of inanimate copies of himself in everyone's yard? Makes sense... right? Jaclyn thinks its all a joke until Eli fake jump scares his way into the scene. He tells her that he has seen the snowman with his very own eyes, and the snowman saw him too. And because no kid would ever make shit up, Jaclyn starts to believe him. At home Jaclyn questions her aunt some more about the snowman but gets no answers. Her aunt, however, makes her promise never to go up the mountain.

She goes up the mountain. Of course she fucking does, lying-ass kids! She cons Eli and Rolonda into helping her out in exchange for building a snowman which seems like a crap deal. They are gonna distract wolf guy Conrad while Jaclyn goes up the mountain. At the top she discovers that, holy shit, the snowman is real. He is cold and angry sounding and demands to know who she is. Upon hearing her name he informs her that he is not just a snowman... he is... her father! Then she screams, "Noooooo, that's not true! That's impossible!" and then falls down a shaft in the Death Star. Ok maybe that last part didn't happen, but the snowman is claiming to be her father. Mr. Freeze's story is that Jaclyn's mom and aunt are sorcerers. Her mom turned him into a snowman and then they left the village when they could not turn him back. However, Aunt Greta want's to keep him a snowman and came back after 10 years to renew the spell. I don't know why simply being a snowman would cause a wife to leave, I mean if it was sentient you'd think she would learn to live with it, and if she just had to wait 10 years?  Anyway, reasoning doesn't occur to 12 year olds, and apparently Jaclyn can stop this all but the only clue she gets of how to do it is the first stanza of the poem she obsesses over.

Well naturally it's at this time that her aunt shows up with her own version of events. Her story is that her sister and brother in law were sorcerers and accidentally created the snowman that is in fact an evil monster. Greta asserts that she herself has no magical abilities. Now what makes more sense, that a wife accidentally turns her loving husband into a snowman and then leaves him to deal with it on her own, or that a husband and wife accidentally create and evil beast and leave when they can't undo it? Once again the 12 year old doesn't think and instead reads from the book of poetry the aunt brought with her to presumably renew the spell to keep the evil guy in ice. But the second stanza, apparently, frees the monster within the snow. Frosty no longer, a horrible red-skinned monstrosity is loose. How will they ever get saved? Because Conrad sends all the villages snowmen up the mountain to push the monster back into a wall of ice? But that's stupid you say? Well that's what happens. Conrad is Jaclyn's dad. He stayed there to make sure the the monster never got set loose. Now isn't that a happy ending that doesn't at all make you wonder why the fuck Conrad lived without his daughter for 10 years without making any contact whatsoever, especially after her mother died? Indeed, what a happy ending.

What I Thought

They say sequels are never as good as the first one, and I guess the 51st in a series just can't hold up to the 50 in front of it. Seriously though, this felt like a book slapped together by a guy who is running out of ideas and perhaps just doesn't care. I mean, I know Goosebumps were never great works of fiction, but this book just feels like the series ran out of any steam. I have often joked that RL Stine doesn't really write his books anymore but just inserts key ideas into a computer program that writes the books for him. This kind of felt like that.

So my major problem is that nothing really made sense. There is no reason for the reader to be scared of the snowman. We know that the villagers are scared of him... but why? They claim he's evil, but what has he done? What does he do? Does he freeze people? Is he the one making the place so damn cold? Seriously, give the snowman some supposed evil acts that he has done. Maybe claim that kids that go up the mountain mysteriously go missing. Also, while I'm on the topic, doesn't it take a fairly long time to climb up a mountain/ This book makes it sound like walking to your mailbox. Anyway, off topic. So seriously if this snowman is so evil what has he done? Does he eat people's pets? Curse people with snow voodoo? Murder drifters? Maybe he turns people into the snowmen you see all around? Without having any actions attributed to him, why should we be scared of him? Snowmen aren't typically scary, and just being a big living snowmen isn't menacing.

Then there are all the flaws in logic I have already pointed out. Why doesn't the father have contact with the child? Why does the aunt bring the child there if she doesn't want anything bad to happen to her? Why do they have move there if she just wants to redo the spell? Can't they just take a short vacation? Why do the villagers get it into their minds to make snowmen? That makes no sense unless you can attribute one to actually protecting people, but you can't. Wouldn't the aunt know that the father is still there and try to make contact with him? Why would a child side with a sentient snowman that growls and yells instead of her caretaker of the past 10 years? If you can capture it in a prison why live it in a prison of ice? Why not construct a prison out of metal? Why not sell tours to the evil snow man, showing it off like King Kong... well I suppose that story ended badly. Also if Conrad was one of the wizards that made the monster and trapped it there, why did the other kids say that he didn't move into the place until after that? Wouldn't the villagers know him?

Sometimes I feel like I am nitpicking a children's book, but I feel like there were serious flaws with this one. It would have been better if they did Scooby Doo this shit. The monster was really a robot built by Conrad to keep people away from his gold mine in the mountain. Aunt Greta is into the supernatural and hears about this living snowman so she goes to Sherpia to investigate. It'd be better than this crap. How did this book manage to make wizards with snow golems seem lame?

Bottom line is that this is a sub par entry in a series that isn't particularly known for literary excellence. With so many books they can't all be winners but I can't help but feel that he could have churned out a little better tale about an evil snowman. Perhaps if he stuck to writing only 1 or 2 books a year instead of 10,000?

Rating: 1 snowball out of 5

Up Next

Well, I did this book for Christmas. Now that I'm done, I promise, for like the third time, that Monster Blood III is up next. We will ring in the new year with some more Monster Blood. Also in the new year expect some more of the other series of Goosebumps. I've been thrift store shopping and found some Goosebumps 2000 and Goosebumps Horrorland. I've also got some Give Yourself Goosebumps left in my collection, and I'll be on the look out for even more. Perhaps I'll even remember to update frequently next year? Who knows! It could happen... Anyway, have a great holiday everyone.

October 31, 2014

HorrorLand #16 Special Edition: Weirdo Halloween

Judging a Book by its Cover

Happy Halloween! As you can see I am celebrating with a Grain Belt and some Goosebumps! Not just any Goosebumps though, Goosebumps HorrorLand Special Edition! HorrorLand was the series of Goosebumps  RL Stine did around 2010ish. The books apparently take part partially in HorrorLand, a book from the original series I've already reviewed here, and partially in a setting outside HorrorLand. I always thought HorrorLand was a locale that offered a lot of options for things to happen. I think it's kind of cool he made a whole series off of it. This is going to be the first "new" Goosebumps book I've ever read. I was about 8 when the original series started coming out. I was about 25 when this series came out, so it's a bit out of my age range. While the original idea of this blog was to revisit books I read in my youth, I thought it might be interesting to see where the series went after I left it. When I saw this book at the thrift store in October, I knew this was the perfect opportunity.

Anyway, it looks like Stine left behind the 2 tone ooze design of the original series. It still looks familiar though. You got the drippy lettering and raised letters. The letters don't have bumps anymore though, which is a bit of a let down. The illustration itself is not unlike those of the originals. It's bright and cartoony. This one looks more fun than creepy. Almost a little cute. That pudgy little alien likes his candy, d'awww! Those are some pretty big gaps between his teeth. I doubt he even needs to floss! There are no taglines on this book, which may be for the best. Those could get pretty hit or miss.On the back, however is a lizard gypsy lady. I am not sure if she is related to this book or is just some sort of generic HorrorLand series character. Is she actually a gypsy or is she just a lizard dressing up like one for Halloween? Lets find out!

Getting Goosebumps

Part One: Yes this book appears to be in parts. As it's a "Special Edition" I believe it is longer. Your standard Goosebumps are a little over 100 pages, while this one is a little over 200.

We begin with siblings Meg and Chris entering HorrorLand. Meg's a year older than Chris and that makes her 12 year old self totally more mature.That maturity doesn't seem to assist in keeping her from being scared by the amusement park's Horrors! Chris takes this opportunity to do some scaring of his own, which is rewarded with a nice pulling of his ears by Meg. It seems an odd form of physical punishment, but apparently it is because he has big Dumbo ears, suitable for pulling. A bit later Chris manages to get in an actual scare by having no face! Just a nice toothless skull. Near the exit, though, Meg spots her real face in tact brother. What was the deal with that faceless kid though? Was it just an employee in a mask? No, claims Madame Doom, a strange gypsy woman who appears from nowhere. It seems that ol' faceless Chris may just be a vision of their future. With this bold proclamations he lures them to her fortune telling hut. Now, naturally it would be wise to assume she is a charlatan but she seems to know Meg's name. Also, she happens to have a doll that looks exactly like her. Wait, is she a psychic or a stalker? That's just weird Madame. Then in a flash Madame Doom is gone. They ask a park employee where she is, and he points in her direction. When they follow that way they see that Madame Doom is indeed there... in the form of a robotic fortune telling machine. It gives them an advertisement for the Chiller House Gift Shop. A crummy advertisement! How lame! Of course, it might be worth checking out...

In the gift shop they spots all sorts of oddities. For starters there is King Kong's diaper ping which is huge as you can imagine. There is also an "eye-bacus" which is an abacus made out of eyeballs, naturally. After browsing a bit the kids meet Johnathon Chiller, the Benjamin Franklin-looking owner of the store. Meg finds a weird froggy looking doll that piques her interest. It is apparently called a Floig, and when you squeeze it, it's eyes pop out. Fun fact, anything's eyes will pop out if you squeeze it hard enough. Meg decides to add this Floig to her doll collection, even though her collection consists of antique dolls. Mr. Chiller sends her on her way without making her pay. He insists she can pay the next time she sees him... Next time, what does he mean by that?

Part Two:

Back at home the kids find out their parents are going on a business trip and leaving them in the capable hands of Penny the elderly, nearly blind, slightly dimension inhibited, frail, former nanny. Luckily they have plenty to keep them occupied while their parents are gone. Friend Kelly is having a day-before-Halloween party. Meg unpacks her Floig and sets about finishing her vampire costume. The next day parents leave and penny shows up talking to a trio of goldfish. She even named one after Meg. Aww.

So the party rolls around. Meg is dressed in a fancy vampire costume where as Chris just threw on some point ears and called himself a Vulcan. On the way out they spot a baby stuck in a bush. Wait, it's not just a baby, it's a baby in an alien costume. Naturally the baby seems to have strange grasp of grammar. For some reason this alien baby followed them to the party and when they got there Kelly's dog came rushing out at him, only to go skittish when it got near. Strange.

Well the party started out pretty good by tween standards (even though Kelly was dressed like a vampire too!) They had pizza, played games, and told the story of the headless ghost! Unfortunately someone ruined the ghost story by throwing a stink bomb through Kelly's window. It was bad enough to cause some kids to hurl! Fortunately they seem to be the responsible bunch and cleaned up the broken glass and tossed cookies.

After the party at home they find out alien baby threw the "aroma message" because "his feeling is lonely." Apparently his name is Bim and he comes from Weirdo Planet. You know I'm starting to think just maybe this little kid is an alien. Meg and Chris aren't convinced though. Chris tries to toss Bim out and the kid weighs practically nothing... then he sudden weighs a thousand pounds. Meg tries to tear off his mask but... it isn't a mask! He is an alien with cookie habits like consuming "living meat" and then vomiting it out thrice before digesting it. Neat party trick. Penny wakes up in the middle of this but is too old and senile to realize Bim is an alien. They try to kick Bim out but he's not having it. He sort of hulks out when his "feeling is unhappy." He grinds Meg's favorite doll to dust. The only way they can calm him is to agree to rub his back. Bim happily fell asleep. Unsure of how to solve the problem of their alien home invasion the kids fall asleep too. In the morning Bim is gone. Hurray, the problem solved itself! Story over! But wait, there are still over 100 pages left...

So Meg decides to see how Kelly is managing after the aroma message fiasco. Turns out today someone decided to drop a slimy rabbit carcass into Kelly's living room. Why, whoever could have done such a thing? Meg decides to ask her nerdy sci-fi friend if he can think of anything. To convince him she is telling the truth she brings him home to discover Bim happily gorging himself on some animal corpse. Yum yum. Bim happily forces Meg to taste his twice vomited squirrel meat. That is a genuinely disturbing notion. Sci-fi friend does the only sensible thing and runs away. Bim eats all of Meg's dolls and she does the only thing she can to calm him down, rub his back. This makes Bim so happy he vows to invite his friends. The kids decide enact a plan to try and lose Bim at a Halloween party so he can't find his way back.

So that night they carry out that plan. Meg dresses as a vampire again but Chris lost his Spock ears so he paints his face green and says he is a frog. Excellent. They take an uncostumed Bim on a convoluted path to a party then ditch him there. When they get back home their friends Kelly and Sci-fi-guy are there to trick or treat. Our main characters want to explain what they have been through but a perturbed Bim is there desiring to know why they ditched him. Needless to say his feeling is not happy. In fact his feeling is ANGRY. In the midst of Bim totally wrecking the shit out of the place Senile Penny comes in and screams at him, calling him an idiot. Not sure idiot would be my first reaction but oh well. It makes him smaller. The rest of the group starts insulting him to ensure that his feeling is small. Guess what happens when his feelings are small? He gets even more pissed off. Oops. Nice try guys. In desperation to keep him from enjoying their living meat they start throwing things at him. When Meg throws her Floig doll at him, something happens. It turns out Floig belongs to Bim and that's why he came there in the first place. Reunited with his doll, his feeling gets homesick and he leaves. But then his 3 friends show up looking for him! oh no!

Part Three

Well the aliens easily part when they find out Bim already left. Whew. Then Meg gets pulled back into HorrorLand. Wait what? My, so I guess they are really going in a different direction for part three. She is back in Chiller House where Mr. Chiller tells her he brought her back for more fun. Halloween, naturally, is the best time to come to HorrorLand. And he has a fun game for her to play. All she has to do is prove that she is Meg. Seems easy, but he doesn't seem to be interested in seeing her ID. Chiller ignores her so she wanders out into the park. Attempts to call her parents and thwarted as Chiller is the on on the line. He tells her not to try and escape. If it were me I'd try and escape anyway.

Anyway, out and about she samples some free Hallowieners and Apple Spider, which is just fun festive pun snacks. A weird girl dressed like a lizard keeps staring at her, and a gorilla costumed boy convinced her to check out The Haunted Pumpkin. Sadly it started on fire. Nevermind, that was just part of the ride! Nevermind the lawsuits that are sure to come from all the people trampled trying to escape. Everyone seems to be staring at Meg. A horror asks her about masks. Sensing it may be a clue she goes to a costume store in the park and gets a Lizard costume from a joking Horror. The same lizard costume as the weird girl who was staring at her.

Then off Meg went to Halloween Town. She found a haunted house there where all sorts of frightening things happened. There were screams, walls closing in, a talking shrunken head, and she can't seem to get out! The door is locked and a ghoul is closing in. When it lunges at her she jumps out of the way and he crashes through the door, creating an exit for her. Outside she spots creepy staring lizard costume twin. Only, she doesn't just have a twin costume, she is Meg's twin! She looks exactly like her, and her name is Meg Oliver too! Then brother Chris shows up and can't seem to tell them apart. So this must be Chiller's game. The real Meg agrees to answer questions to prove she is the real one, only Chris says that all her responses are wrong. What's going on? He doesn't even remember Bim and the Floig!

Real Meg chases Chris and Fake Meg through the park trying to convince Chris. They go to the Halloween Hopper, which breaks down. Then some zombies have a voodoo doll that looks exactly like Meg. Has that Madame Doom been selling her creepy stalker doll? The zombie throws it into a fire, and Meg braves third degree burns to fish it out. Desperately Meg tries to call her parents again, but Chiller answers yet again. Then she realizes she can use her phone to prove who she is! It has all her contacts and information in it! When Meg calls Chiller back to tell her how she had won his game, the other Meg answers. When she hangs up all her phone's info has been cleared.

Things wind up at the world's most dangerous pumpkin pie.Seriously, that is the name of an attraction at the park. They walked in a catwalk over the giant pie and after a scuffle end up falling inside. Sinking deep inside, they struggled to breathe. Drowning in pie, what a tasty way to die. They managed to be brought to safety by a giant pie cutter.

After showering off, determined to settle the Meg despute, they go back to the Chiller house. They decide to answer more question to prove who is real, since that worked so well the first time. Other Meg seems to know all the right answers. In frustration, real Meg tugs on her brother's ears like she did in part one but this time she pulls off his face! He's a robot! Meg wins the game! And Chiller explains that he scans every entrants DNA and has a bunch of super sophisticated robots he keeps as a sort of doll collection because he's lonely. No wonder he has no friends, he is a creepy dude who steals DNA to make robo friends. I wouldn't want to be friends with him. Robot guards came to take the robot imposters away, but of course they take the wrong Meg. Her screams achieve nothing. In an act of quick thinking she grabs King Kong's diaper pin and stabs herself showing that she bleeds. That convinces the guards she's human. Finally, Chiller agrees to send her home. Her real brother and Penny seem glad to see her, but she was only gone for 10 minutes in their mind... After this fiasco Meg just wants to settle down in her room but once there she discovers... another Meg.

The End.

What I Thought

What a trip. Goosebumps haven't changed that much over the years. The book still felt the same as the old ones more or less, but the little things are different. Instead of referring to Nintendo, Ninja Turtles, and X-Men Comics, they refer to iPods, blogs, and Spongebob. The writing style, however, is much the same. The only real difference is that this takes place in parts and is a little longer because it's a special edition.

Now about it taking place in parts. I am not sure how I feel about this. They weren't very related to each other. While I like the idea of revisiting HorrorLand, I kind of just wish he wrote a better longer single story than what is essentially two stories. The only thing that connects them is that Chiller gave Meg the Floig. It caused Bim to come and got rid of him, but it doesn't really matter where she got it from. She could have easily just picked it up at a garage sale in chapter 1.

That being said I did like the part in HorrorLand. Even though there wasn't much of a reason for it to happen it was a fun parade of Halloween creeps. Sure having a look alike and having to prove you're the real one is kind of a cliche, but little kids don't know cliches. This might be the first time kids are introduced to that trope. I may have even enjoyed it a bit more than the Bim part which is the bulk of the book.

Now about the Bim part. Being a little almost cute thing that gets bigger and dangerouser is kind of a trope too, but once again this may be kids first exposure. I like how he kind of hulked out and lost control, but I'm not too sure about his whole "my feeling is____" dialect. His flesh cravings were actually a bit disturbing though. Always bonus points when a Goosebumps can actually unsettle you a bit. Having a senile old caretaker that doesn't understand the realities of their paranormal encounter is a nice touch too.

So in its own way this was actually kind of reliving nostalgia for me. Sure this book wasn't written when I was an adult, but it is essentially the same product I had was a kid, redone for kids of the era. It was interesting to see how now the kids have cell phones and other modern things. It's also good to see that these things don't change the Goosebumps experience too much. This book really put me in the Halloween spirit, so mission accomplished I guess.

Rating: 3 out of 5 pumpkins

Up Next

So the next book up will probably return to your regularly scheduled original series book Monster Blood III. However at the thrift store I found other newer Goosebumps books. I have a couple of Goosebumps 2000 and a few more HorrorLand books. I will undoubtedly work them in at some point. At the very least they will come after I finish my collection of original books.

So I hope you enjoyed this. Happy Halloween1

October 14, 2014

#28 The Cuckoo Clock of Doom

Judging a Book by its Cover

My oh my, that cuckoo bird doesn't look particularly scary. It just looks... annoyed. Like, it is totally sick of this shit. Popping out every fucking hour? God, what an existence! Also, that has got to be the longest fucking perch for a cuckoo bird ever. Pretty typical though, Goosebumps covers like to have weird angels and crazy proportions. It's creepy I guess?

As for the taglines, the front's is "keep your eye on the birdie!" Is that... a badminton reference? Or... I don't know where else that would come from really. Not particularly clever, funny, or anything. The back's is "don't beat the clock." Which... I also don't get. So beat the clock means you are timed and you get done in time, right? So... don't.... do that? Or... don't... physically assault your clock? Whatever.

One thing on this cover I do like is the color scheme. I comment on color schemes every so often. Some of them just seem sort of randomly chosen. This one compliments the blue walls and yellow bird. I like it!

Getting Goosebumps

Michael is a pretty average 12 year old kid. Because all of RL Stine's main characters are pretty average 12 year old kids. But Michael's little sister Tara is not so average. She is kind of a pain in the ass. In fact, she is sort of an evil cunt. Now that's not something I usually say about 7 year old girls, but she's fictional so whatever. His parent's always think she is the sweetest little angel, but Michael knows better.

Now speaking of his parents, his dad totally loves this antique cuckoo clock from the antique shop. He's been looking at it for years in a nearby antique shop, and the owner finally decided to sell it because there is a small flaw in the clock. Since no one can tell what the flaw is, it doesn't bug them. One weird feature is that it has a hand that points to what year it is, up to the year 2000. I guess the makers of the clock figured Y2K was gonna end the world at that point, so no need to go higher. Oh also, apparently the clock is magic. If you know the secret of the clock you can go back in time! Har har, surely Dad is just making up stories.

So back to the bitch of a 7 year old sister. In the opening 3 chapters, she purposely causes Michael to step in gum, stomps on his feet, teases him for being startled by the cuckoo coming out of the clock, bothers him while he's doing his homework, jumps out of the clock with a Halloween mask on to scare him, and laughs at him again for being started by the cuckoo clock. And seriously, she's just getting warmed up. She also ruined his birthday by ripping down decorations, scratched his brand new bike before he even laid a finger on it, told his crush that he is likes her, opened his presents while he was in the other room, and tripped him while he was carrying his cake so he fell into it and got cake all over himself in front of everyone. Seriously, this is just the first 3 chapters. Hella short chapters too. And of course mom and dad always side with the cute little girl. Michael just wishes he could go back in time and do his birthday over again. Surely he shall never get that chance! Chapter 4 is just a flashback to all the horrible things his sister did to him a few days before. She was abusing their family cat then it scratched Michael. She purposely lead friends from a play Michael was in, into his room while he was changing. Girls saw him in his under pants! Two days earlier she got Michael beaten up by an athletic kid by hiding his had inside Michael's backpack. Now do you understand why I called this 7 year old brat a total cunt?

I guess now you can understand while Michael would want to get back at her. During one afternoon their
dad caught Tara playing with the cuckoo clocks dials. Now if Michael messed with the clock the parents would think she did it! So he sneaked out one night and turned the cuckoo bird's head backwards. Not the most clever of tricks, but perhaps it shall do the job.

The next day, instead of the glory of framing his sister he instead got... deja vu. His parents were acting like it was his birthday again. In fact... it... was his birthday again. He got his bike again. Tara scratched it again. Every horrible thing she did on his birthday happened again. In fact, despite knowing what was going to happen he couldn't even prevent himself from falling into his cake. It was terrible!

The morning after he woke up really early and had to talk to his parents about how his birthday had already happened before. His parents didn't understand him though, because his birthday is 2 days away! Maybe that clock really is magic! But wait, the cuckoo clock is gone... because it is before his father bought the clock! It must still be at the antique store. Naturally his attempts to convince his family that something is wrong are futile. He has to go to school and relive a day he already lived through. He remembered everything that happened and... oh no! The day his female friend see him in his underpants. Even though he knows its coming he can't find a way to stop it.  The next day he relived the incident of getting beat up by the athlete.

Things didn't get better from there. The next day when he walked into class they wondered what a third grader was doing there. A THIRD GRADER!??! He went back in time 4 years in just 1 night. Back and home things weren't any better. Even as a 3 year old Tara is a cunt. She still tormented the cat, and she pulled Micahel's hair. The next day he was a second grader. 2 year old Tara poked him in the eye. Was she a cunt from birth?

Finally Michael came up with a plan. He rode a bus to the antique store, which is slightly odd for a second grader to go. He managed to claim his parents were cool with it. He had to be careful though, his dad works right next to the store and he can't be spotted. Especially because he's going to have to break his way in. The antique store owner is on vacation! He ventured off to find a brick and came back. Just when he was about to throw it, his dad came up from behind him, surprised to see him. Despite Michael's attempts to get dad to go get the clock, it was not to be.

The next day Michael woke up in Tara's room. That's weird. Mom and dad don't seem to know where Tara is. That's because she hasn't been born yet! Now life as a kindergartener sucks. He has the mind of a 7th grader but has to go through shit like "learning" to tie his shoes.  Throughout his day he couldn't think of a way as a kindergartener to get to that antique store.

Then he regressed to nursery school. His female friends he remembered from the future were here and thought he was a gross boy. They teased him and typical little kid shit. His crush dared him to climb a tree. He can do that no sweat! Wait... Isn't nursery school the year he broke is arm?

Well he woke up next day and his arm was fine. Unfortunately he was in a crib, wearing diapers. And his mom... had to ... change his diapers. I gotta imagine that's unpleasant for a 7th grade mind to go through. Luckily though, it just so happens at this point in time Michael's parents had to go to the antique store and look for a table. With some babyish requests to get down out of his stroller, he toddled over to the clock. And as luck would have it, it just started to chime! But how could he reach it as a toddler? He pushed a chair up to the clock and turned the birds head around. He managed to turn the year setting back to 1995 before his parents caught him and pulled him from the clock. The store owner was trying to set it back to the right year but then a flash of light happened.

Did it work? Well it was back to the day of his birthday! I guess that's good and bad, it means he got the time right but he is going to have to relive all those horrible things for a 3rd time! Oh no! But wait, he got the bike and Tara didn't come in and scratch it. Where is she? Mom and dad don't seem to know who Tara is. Her room is now a guest room? Oh well, he had the best birthday party of his life? Maybe something about the flaw in that clock has to do with why Tara is gone? Michael examines the clock and notices that on the year gauge, the year 1988 is missing... The year Tara was gone. He really probably should go back in time and fix this. I mean... Maybe... Whatever, he might get to it... Perhaps...

What I Thought

I liked it! I actually thought it is one of the better books in the series so far. For once there was a character I felt pretty strongly about. Now granted I hated her, but those are strong feelings! And you were supposed to hate Tara. Also there was no twist ending that made everything stupid. Like... the clock also being a vampire, or him being a Benjamin Button kid and the clock having nothing to do with it or something.

Now I think this is an interesting example of not completely linear story telling for kids. I feel like they probably don't experience that much until they get older. Now granted it wasn't an extreme case of that, but they did do it. Michael explained about his recent life, then went back to days before, and then to days before that. I think exposing kids to flash backs like that makes them think a little more than usual. Also it sort of foreshadowed how he was going actually go back in time. If I didn't know better I might think he did it that way on purpose.

I liked how even though Michael knew what was happening when he was back in time, he was powerless to stop the terrible events from reoccurring. It wasn't some mystical force keeping him on the same track, it was just happenstance, perhaps things he forgot or couldn't figure out. But it was interesting how he was doomed to repeat the embarrassments.

Also it was interesting how the villain was sort of his little sister. I mean, usually there is some villain at work here, but the only despicable being working against Michael was Tara. The actual mystical things happening were just an accident, not the work of an evil wizard or a scientist or something. So while he was working to undo the time travel, he wasn't working against a villain. The only one he was clashing with was his little sister. And I think anyone who has a sibling probably knows about not getting along with them, even if it's not to this extent. I mean I had an older sister, but she was also pretty evil to me growing up.

So the favorite thing was the ending. Stine could have very easily turned this into some moral tale. He could have gone back in time and see how his little sister actually really loved him when she was little and was just going through a phase. Or he could have gone back and seen that he did something really awful to her when she was younger and changed it so she wouldn't have been so mean to her. But nope, Stine wasn't having any of that shit. He just erased her from assistance and shrugged and said "meh." And that is fucking awesome. I mean normally I would be for there being some sort of lesson or moral or something more to the story. But come on, the kid wished his little sister was never born and didn't go through some trite Jimmy Stewart It's a Wonderful Life BS. I approve.

Rating: 4/5 clocks

Up Next

The next book in the series is Monster Blood III. That wacky blood is at it again I guess! I think Monster Blood is the most sequeled book he wrote, at the very least in the original series. Understandable, because it was one of the more popular books.

However, Halloween is coming up soon and I want to do something special for it. The past few years I have done some of the "Give Yourself Goosebumps" series of books, but I am doing something different this year. So check back on Halloween for that, and sometime in November for Monster Blood III.

August 30, 2014

#27 A Night in Terror Tower

Judging a Book by its Cover

Mwa-hah-hah, the executioner is here. With his bulging muscles he looks a bit like a poorly conceived professional wrestler. Granted, even in a "no rules" match I imagine most wrestling organizations frown upon use of a battle axe. Also, the executioners tailor seems to be a bit inept. His clothes have the strangest stitched together pieces. Can't the executioners union bargain for decent uniforms?

So anyway, here we are going to spend a night in Terror Tower. The name evokes a Disney World ride but if
I remember right it is more based on the Tower of London. This is one of those "vacation" books where they go off to an exotic location... like England! A safe choice because 9 year olds have almost certainly heard of it before.

Lets have some hypotheses about what will happen in this book. My first thought is that the kid will take a tour and the actors portraying historical figures will be legitimately sinister. Of course, there could also be time travel involved. A tower lost in time? Maybe it'll be like Scooby Doo and some cranky old man who is trying to dig up ancient relics wears an executioners costume at night to scare away visitors.

Enough speculation. Taglines! The front one is, "It's gonna be a L-O-N-G night!" Which is neither funny nor clever. F. The back tagline reads, "ALl locked up and no place to go!" which is a play on a popular phrase. Also it takes on the funny aspect of literally having no place to go when one is locked up. B+.

Now it's been awhile since I've written here because I am terrible at doing this, but lets get to it!

Getting Goosebumps

Terror Tower is an old prison in England where people used to be tortured. Clearly, the perfect place for children like Eddie and his sister Sue to visit. Of course, they already saw Westminster Abbey and ate some bangers and mash so what is left to do but visit a torture chamber? Well, they could go to another museum but tour guide Mr. Starkes puts it up to a vote and Eddie demands to see Terror Tower! Apparently it was a fort built by the Romans, until converted into a prison. Twas the first debtors prison in England you see! The tour takes a dark turn when Mr. Starkes informs them that they will be imprisoned and tortured until they confess to why they wanted to come to such a place. Just kidding! Oh Mr. Starkes, you rascal!

There tour starts off well enough. They get to see all sorts of family fun like executioners axes and the torture rack. But then the kids see a mysterious, hatted gentleman who doesn't seem to be with the group. Also, when Sue wants to take a picture, she can't find her camera. Is it lost forever? Nope, Eddie stole it proudly proclaiming, "the mad pickpocket strikes again!" Sue didn't even get a chance to take her picture because they had to keep up with the group and behold the wholesome goodness of thumbscrews and spiked handcuffs. Being the consummate sibling, Sue gets Eddie back for his theft by feigning grievous injury at the hands of the torture devises. Hilarious!

Now we hit the part of the book that gives the plot away. They climb the tower and Sue can swear she's
climbed it sometime before in her life. Then she learns about the tragedy of Prince Edward and Princess Susannah. Eddie and Sue. Edward and Sussannah. I don't know if I picked up on it immediately as a kid but the clues were fucking crystal clear on this read through. Yay for being an adult reading a children's book! Anyway the young royalty it seems, were imprisoned in the tower and ordered to be smothered in their sleep. The rest of the story is unclear because of Eddie and Sue's fucking about. Then they lost the rest of the tour. Panicked they wonder what to do when the gentleman with a hat finds them and tells the kids they must follow him if they don't wish to be hurt. They assume he is a security guard until he begins acting like a lunatic. The only solution of course is, RUN!

They managed to run their asses right into the dungeon. "Abandon all hope!" proclaims a thunderous voice as they enter. Boney hands flail out from behind cells and bodies are chained to the floor. They are dummies, and the voice was a tape. I wanted to think of a clever way to revealed that but I couldn't. RL Stine couldn't either though, so no worries. The weird guy chasing them is real though, and he's still a'chasin'! He done chased em into the sewer where a legion of rats emerged. Luckily Mr. Hat is scared of rats too. While the kids manage to evade the rodents by clinging to grips on the sewer ceiling, the creepy Hatman has to run away. Alas, his hat flies off his head and gets chewed to pieces. RIP Hat.

When they get out of the sewer they discover that the tour bus left without them. A crabby, disbelieving security guard sends them off to their parents' hotel in a taxi. When the arrive there is a problem paying the cabby. He doesn't seem to think the money their parents gave them is real legal tender. He wants genuine British pounds. Luckily he allows them to go in and get "real" money from their parents. Trouble is, there parents don't seem to be in the room! Luckily, in a massive breach of security a hotel worker lets them inside.No luggage or anything is inside the room and the person working at the front desk says it is vacant. Worst of all, the kids can't seem to remember their last name. In fact, while sitting down to tea and trying to remember their last name they realize they can't even remember what their parents look like or where they live. Did I miss the chapter where Gilligan dropped a coconut on their heads? The only things they seem to really remember is their own first names and what they thought was their hotel room number, 626. They can remember what happened today but not yesterday. One thing they also forgot, though only momentarily, is that a pissed off cabby was waiting for them outside. As they try to escape him they run into... the hatless man!

Now, with this meeting of the no hat man, he is demanding that they "give them back?" Give what back? Turns out the pickpocket strikes again. Eddie had stolen some weird stones from the weird guy. He tries to bargain for their safety by giving the stones back but he is the worst bargainer ever. Eddie just gives them back and then the hatless dude somehow does some dimension bending and everything goes black. When they awaken they are in a very old looking hall. Must be a historic part of the hotel. A robed man, however, informs them that is the Abbey. He also tells them not to leave, and that he smells evil on them. What does evil smell like anyway? Anyway, he also tells them their time is near. Judging by the evil smelling comment I don't think the time nearness is a good thing.

Not convinced that they were indeed in an Abbey instead of their hotel they go locking for the elevator.
Instead they found a restaurant of some kind, but not the one they found last night. This one has blazing fires, wooden tables, and a whole deer on a spit. Everyone was dressed weird and eating with their hands. Must be a costume party and not time travel! Suddenly every stopped to look at Sue and Eddie. One man proclaims, "it's them!" and the kids use the only solution they know. They run.

Outside they finally get a clue that they've time traveled. There are no cars or tall buildings, just haystacks and cottages. Because they aren't bright children they still are determined to look for their hotel. A boy talks to them and doesn't seem to know what a hotel is. You can tell he is from olden times because he uses the word "ye."

Suddenly Eddie disappeared. Then the weird hatless man appeared. But he has a brand new hat on this time. Yay! But then an oxcart hurries by and his hat falls off! Oh no! In the chaos Sue escapes and tries to hide. She gets a peasant woman to hide her by bribing her with the money her parents gave her to get a cab. Turns out they are gold Sovereigns which, if RL Stine was using any historical accuracy would place this time period from the late 1400's on. Immediately the woman turns Sue over to hatman. What a bitch! Can you not trust people who take bribes anymore? As Sue gets taken away her betrayer tells her that she couldn't go against the wishes of the Lord High Executioner. Sue wonders what an executioner would want to do to her, because she is an idiot

They get let out at, of course, Terror Tower. They are locked in a room confused and alone. Then a purple robed purple eyed man enters. Is purple even a possible eye color? Anyway, he seems dismayed that they have "returned." They "don't remember him, but they will." He calls them Edward and Susannah, but their names are Eddie and Sue. If it took you this long into the book to figure out that they are the same people, then you are clearly some kind of idiot 8 year old. Hah hah. Bow to my superior adult mind! Anyway, purple eye's name is Mogred the wizard which would explain the purple eyes. Anyway, he explains the HUGE PLOT TWIST to the kids. Turns out Prince Eddie and Princess Sue's uncle king has ordered them to be placed in the tower. Denying the story Sue wonders if Morgred is crazy. Sure, you traveled in time and got put in a Medieval torture chamber, but the wizard who says your a princess is crazy. Oh anyway, also their parents are dead. Now the kids are going to be murdered. bummer. Morgred tried to stop it by sending them forward in time and changing their memories but apparently it didn't work. Then, even though he spent time explaining all this shit, he puts his hand to their heads and restored their memories. Wouldn't it have been easier just to do that in the first place?

Anyway, turns out those weird stones the execution hard were part of the magic that sent the kids forward in time. As luck would have it, Prince Eddie stole them back again! It's an easy spell to do, but Mogred can't do it because if he does it again the king would have him executed. He doesn't think about sending himself forward in time with them because he is... say it with me... an idiot. Well Eddie stole the rocks for a third fucking time and finally got their asses back to the present day (which was like the mid 1990s) They are with the tour and this time the guide explains that on the night they were set to be executed the prince and princess mysteriously disappeared. Morgred is even with them in the future. Eddie decided to bring him with. I don't know why, that guy was all set to let them die. He may be a masterful wizard but he was outsmarted by a god damn 12 year old. Annnnywho, that's the end.

What Did I Think?

First things first, lets start with the cover. That generic, hooded, hunchbacked executioner doesn't really appear in the fucking book. The Lord High Executioner or whatever he was called had a wide brimmed hat (that was tragically lost and replaced as I have mentioned) and a cape. Did the illustrator even skim this book?

But about the story. I think this is the first time travel book in the series. (Tick Tock Your Dead was time travel, but it was a choose your own adventure style book.) Time travel is fun. Usually it's more of a sci-fi thing. Sometimes it's magical, like modern people getting sent back in time (like Black Knight starring Martin Lawrence!) but this is like... ancient people being sent forward in time.... and then... back... and then forward again. It's simple enough though, easy for a kid to follow...

But... is it too easy? I pointed out how they give away the plot twist really early and really blatantly. Too blatant for a 10 year old? I don't know. I don't remember if I figured it out that early as a kid. Maybe Stine was right to hammer the reader over the head with the evidence right away. I feel like a kid might have gotten more from a small peppering of clues over time. An adult reader surely would have!

How about we talk about the characters. Well... There were some... I mean, you don't get any real in his delorean.
characterization from these books. Eddie was generic boy. I guess he was a little easily frightened and a bit of a thief. Sue was generic girl. Executioner guy was generic bad guy. Morgred was... An idiot. I gotta believe even 10 year old me wondered why this numbskull didn't think to send himself back to the future with the kids

So I dunno. This just seems to continue the tradition of this series being shallow simple fun. There can be depth to kids books. Look at Charlotte's Web. Hell, look at The Lorax, and that shit was aimed at kindergarteners. I guess not everything has to have any meaning or depth. It would be nice if Stine had tried a little bit harder though. Then maybe each book could be memorable on its own, instead of just a cog of mass produced 60 series long literature. But hey, I had fun with it then, and it was still kind of fun now.

Rating: 3/5 Executioner's Axes

Up Next

There is actually a sequel to this book called Return to Terror Tower. It was one of the Give Yourself Goosebumps series though, and not in the main series. I never read it, and I don't own it. So the next book up in the main series is #28, the Cuckoo Clock of Doom. I gotta say, I think my entries will be shorter from now on. Really they have to be. It takes me waaaay longer to write an entry than to read the book. I am starting to see it as a little bit of a chore, when I feel like it should be fun. So I'll try to still a good job of saying what happens, but maybe condense it a bit. Catch ya next time.

June 21, 2014

#26 My Hairiest Adventure

Judging a book by its cover

Yes, that is a rather large Corona. It pairs nicely with Goosebumps. Really I should have read the Spanish translation of Goosebumps. I remember in grade school my Spanish teacher tried to get us to read it, but the problem was we only really knew nouns. Since the book didn't read "Hello my name is apple banana bathroom pants," it didn't really work.

Anyway, the cover. It depicts a boy shocked that his mother was right, too much masturbating will make your palms hairy. Seriously though, there is a problem with this cover. It's not scary. Not all the book covers in this series are scary, true, but it feels like this one should be, and could be. A major problem is the giant chimpanzee ears. Now if he turns into a chimp, then I will apologize shunning this attribute of the cover, but I feel like it should feel more werewolf than monkey. Also the way the hair is growing on his hands look like furry hobo gloves. Of course, a book about a hobo chimp man would be pretty good but I doubt that this book is about that.

The front tagline is "It keeps growing... and growing... and growing..." which is neither clever nor funny. D-. The back tagline reads, "he's having a really, really bad-hair day..." Now bad hair day IS kind of funny. C+. The tagline of my Corona reads "La cerveza mas fina." It's clearly a lie, (it means the finest beer) but it is suitably in Spanish so I give it a B.

Time to crack open this brew and crack open this book.

Getting Goosebumps

We open on Larry Boyd, a tween boy being chased through the snow by stray dogs. He trips, which is what
happens when you are being chased in a horror story but luckily his friend and band-mate Lily is there to chase dogs off with a shovel. Lily is unique because she has two different color eyes like David Bowie. Together with their friends, Crazy Eyes Lily and Hairy Larry (a nickname these tease him with due to his crazy hair) form the hot new rock and roll band The Geeks. That name could change though. Previously they were known as the spirit. Crazy Eyes Lily wants to name the band Pirate Gold because she has a necklace made of Pirate Gold. The arch nemesis of The Geeks is rival band Howie and the Shouters. They'll get the chance to prove their superiority at the upcoming battle of the bands It'll be a challenge though, because the Geeks don't have a bassist, or even a drummer for that matter. What they do have  is 3 guitarists, a singer, and a keyboard that they program drum beats on. Will they prevail? To do so they must practice!

Naturally practice can only go on for so long before you go out and play in the snow. Or if you are Larry, before you go pilfer through the neighbors garbage and fine fake tanning cream. If you are the kind of person who rummages trash you probably don't have any qualms about rubbing it all over yourself. Larry and his friends sure do not have any such qualms! When the expired Insta-Tan fails to instantly tan, the kids disgurntledly toss it into the woods and have a good old fashioned snowball fight. Suddenly, midst the fight, Larry falls ill. Has the tanning solution poisoned him? No. He has no ability to perspire and has to go to his annual doctor visit to get a shot.

That isn't the only thing making Larry uneasy though. When he gets home he is shocked to discover there is a thick patch of hair growing on the back of his hand. In a quick bout of "don't try this at home please" Larry uses his dad's razor to shave himself. His thoughts turn to the Insta-Tan. Have his friends grown hair?


Meanwhile at school Larry has to deal with typical kid stuff, like being teased, doing book reports, being tripped by Howie (of Howie and the Shouters) and growing hair all over his hands. Again. Larry runs out into the hall where a teacher thinks he is wearing gloves. Gloves! The solution to his problem. He puts on a pair so no one will be the wiser. With this clever trick he i able to right out the day. When he makes it home he lets his mom know that he put on expired tanning cream and has been sprouting hair. Unfortunately she was on the phone and not listening to him, so he decides not to push the issue. Once again he haves his hand hair.

The next day starts off ok. No hair grown over night! But the neighborhood dog horde is after him again! He runs to his friends who chase the dog off. They decide one of the dogs looks like their friend Manny. What a weird thing to point out. This couldn't possibly relate to the plot could it? We shall see. Meanwhile at school hair sprouts on Larry's knees so he wears his jeans to class. An easy solution. However, he didn't put the tanning cream on his knees. Why would the hair sprout there?

After school once again The Geeks meet to practice for their triumph over The Shouters. The problem is that Manny didn't show up. They go to his house, but he isn't there. In fact, no one is there. Nothing is there. Did he move? And not tell anyone? Weird.

Finally, Larry decides to tell his dad about the tanning and the hair. His dad is extremely worried and takes him straight to Dr. Murkin. Murkin, like Merkin. Merkin like pubic wigs... The doc gives him his usual shot for his condition but seems not terribly concerned about the hair. He took the wait and see approach, but assured the kid that the tanning solution wasn't the culprit.

Larry remains unconvinced. At the next Geeks practice he inquires about the hair status of the rest of the group. Most of them tease him with the "hairy Larry" chant but Lily seems embarrassed. When questioned about the hair, she says she doesn't want to talk about it.

Later he decides to investigate the Insta-Tan hypothesis further. He goes to find the bottle of it he tossed to bring to Dr. Murkin. When he discovers it, dog horde emerges and causes him to drop and break the bottle. Drat! Meanwhile his hair growing is going wild. Meanwhile Lily is missing. And more curiously a dog with different color eyes and Lily's pirate gold following Larry. It has to be Lily! Plus, Lily's parents, when confronted, claim there is no Lily. THERE IS NO LILY. What a weird way to put it. Her parents are also moving.

However the show must go on. The Geeks replace singer Lily with Katrina who plays guitar in the band.
First they had to wait through Howie and the Shouters who were AMAZING. The Geeks were a bit sloppy. Larry messed up his solo yet the crowd cheered in amazement. "What great special effects" they cheered. What special effects? Larry was getting hairy again! Hairy Larry! But Hairy Larry won the Battle of the Bands. It is a bitter victory though because of his affliction. Finally his parents tell him what is going on. He isn't getting hairy because of the Insta-Tan. He is getting hairy because... He is a dog. Yep. Dr. Murkin's shots have been to keep him a boy, instead of a dog, but the shots wear out. He has decided not to change dogs into human anymore. It's too hard for the families when they turn back to dogs. That's ok though, because Larry is happy as a dog. He still gets to see his parents from time to time too. They got a new baby even! A little one named Jaspar... just like Larry's old cat.

What I Thought

I always rush to talk about the end, because the end is what I most immediately think of and frequently it is a twist that is stupid enough for me to want to talk about right away. This book is no exception but I always say I should talk about the rest of the book first, and finally I am going to do that.

So this book is a little unique amongst Goosebumps which is always a good thing. It's not scary in the traditional sense of having a monster or beast of some sort. You have hair growing all over. That is kind of scary in a different way. A medical way. Of course, hair is more embarrassing than deadly, but hey these are scares for kids. Also for a 12 year old, hair growing where it hasn't before is a very real worry. If he was a better author I would be convinced this was a deliberate take on puberty.

Having the battle of the bands aspect was kind of interesting too. While not all kids had a jr. high band, many did and those who didn't probably wanted one. It set up a nice rivalry with douchebag Howie and his shouters. I think everyone in school had at least one kid they kind of loathed. Someone who was better than you, but also kind of a dick.

Now we have the ending. Of course the ending was strongly hinted at. Larry can't perspire, neither can dogs. Feral dogs ravaged the neighborhood. I, however, hoped the ending would be that he was a werewolf. A bit cliche but far less lame. That would be a bit too much like the plot of Teen Wolf though. Still I didn't entirely see the ending coming because I refused to believe such a stupid ending would happen. I also thought that maybe the Insta-Tan could have been related just because the parents were so strongly opposed to that notion. Insta-Tan as werewolf potion?

Seriously though, why would a doctor turn dogs into children? I suppose just to show you he could, would be one thing. But we have enough god damn kids. No one needs to turn too many puppies into even more too many kids. What was his motivation? Better that he was turning kids into dogs as some sort of devious plot. Or breeding werewolves, which are much cooler than dogs which is why I thought there would be werewolves in this god damn book. Also, where are the lawsuits? This really can't be an FDA approved treatment could it? Do these dog-people have birth certificates? Social security numbers? If they got old enough could they vote?

All valid questions I think


2 out of 5 dog bones

Up Next

Now there was an interesting thing in this book. RL Stine named dropped Bruce Coville who was also a children's author. I only remember reading one of his books and that was Bruce Coville's Book of Monsters. I remember nothing about it except the cover. In my box of old Goosebumps books there were 2 non-Goosebumps books I have considered reading along with the them. Unfortunately the Book of Monsters isn't one of them, because I can't find it! I know I owned it! I'll have to look for it, because I'd be really interested to see what other horror was marketed at young people of the day. Some day I will find it and post a review up here, I swear.

Meanwhile, however the next Goosebumps book is A Night in Terror Tower. Clearly this is about a haunting in a Disney Ride. Right? Nah, I am pretty sure they went to some European castle or something. Who knows. I really don't remember any of these friggen books anymore. Also, after I read them, I forget about them really quickly. They all kind of blend together.

Oh well, until next time.