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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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