Just a heads up, I know the next review hasn't happened yet. I've been really stressed with work and stuff, hopefully by spring I can get one out.
Goosebumps: Reliving the Terror of Youth
My adult look at the Goosebumps books I loved as a child. Beware, I might use strong language... because these books are fucking ridiculous.
January 27, 2023
October 31, 2022
Goosebumps #41: Bad Hare Day
Judging a Book by its Cover
Greetings Goosebumpers (is that what I should call my readers?) I know I've been pretty lacking in updates but it's Halloween and here I am, back again. Today I'll be talking about an entry from the classic Goosebumps Series, novel #41, Bad Hare Day.
First things first, I do love a pun title. This title is kind of like the inverse of My Hairiest Adventure, right? So that gets points right off the bat.
So once again Tim Jacobus knocks it out of the park with a great illustration. It has his trademark weird angles. The rabbit's embellished features like big ol' teeth and creepy eyes manage to make a pretty unscary creature pretty fearsome.
I do have a confession to make though. There are like, "magic essence" lines sort of wafting up from the hat right? At first I thought those were stink lines. Attack of the stinky rabbit doesn't have the same ring to it though.
So we learn a few things from this cover. There is presumably going to be some illusionist magic. A rabbit will be involved. And as the tagline fills us in, this rabbit will in fact not be the easter bunny.
Will there be an evil rabbit that saws kids in half? Will there be a robot rabbit that steals from fans at magic shows? Will there be an alien rabbit that invades a budding young magicians house? It's Goosebumps so anything is possible. Let's get in to it.
Tim Swanson's family is kind of a drag. Both of his parents are continually having the worst days of their lives due to work being a miserable slog. His younger sister Ginny takes karate for self defense... but uses it more for offense... specifically against Tim.
So what does Tim have to look forward to in his miserable life? His love of magic. Of course, it's still a work in progress. Trying to impress his friends with magic tricks doesn't go to well. Ginny the Karate Kid reveals that all his cards are the 3 of clubs, making picking the right card a real easy feat. He loses his audience, and an argument with his sister ends with a nice karate chop to the gut. Pretty embarrassing to get beat up by your younger sister.
At least his friend Foz is on his side. Together they check out the magic shop together for some new tricks. Of course, with only 5 bucks to his name Tim mostly browses. The quirky shop owner tricks them with a prop sword. Convincing kids they are witnessing a murder IS pretty hilarious. They get him back later using one of his prop guillotines to fake getting a hand chopped off. The owner is pretty embarrassed he falls for one of his own tricks. Knowing they have a true love of magic, he gives them free tickets to a show for the worlds greatest magician, and Tim's personal hero, Amaz-O.
Foz is out right away, realizing instantly that his parents would never let him go to a show at 10pm on a school night. Tim is more hopefully. After all, magic is his passion and Amaz-O is his hero! Surely his parents will understand!
... No. They don't. Will Smith was right. Parents just don't understand. Undeterred, Tim decides to sneak out and attend the show at Midnight Mansion. Unfortunately for him Ginny hears him sneaking out and demands to tag along under threat of tattling.
Dodging cops upon their bikes, they make it there. A slick lie to the doorman assuring him their parents are just parking the car and they are in. Instantly Tim is enthralled.
The show is absolutely amazing. Doves fly out of his hat. Things levitate. All the magical things happen. Amaz-O is as amazing as his name suggests. Best of all is that Tim himself gets called up to assist in the last trick. He is going to disappear! Nervously he enters the box for the trick. He gets spun around. He gets sucked into the 5th dimension! Well no... he falls down a chute to the basement. So that's how the trick works. Now all he has to do is wait for Amaz-O to come down and get him and he can strike up a conversation with his hero...
Problem though. No one comes. He is alone down there. Also the door is locked. He yells for help. No help. Only one thing to do, bust open the door. He manages to, but still there is no one. He yells out and wanders around. How could everyone leave him?
Finally he finds Amaz-O's personal room. He eagerly comes inside, a little upset that the jerk left him alone down there, but still eager to meet his hero... Instead all he sees is Amaz-O's rabbit and hears the magician yell at him, call him a punk, tell him to get out of there.
Tim leaves in a huff and as a parting gift steals Amaz-O's personal trunk of tricks on the way out. He runs to his bike being followed by security, and runs into a miffed Ginny. Together they bike off into the night and manage to get home safe and sound.
His sister demands they share the trunk, again, under threat of tattling. She may not be the biggest magic fan, but a professional magicians props are too tempting a thing to let go. Tim agrees to share the trunk, and they will open it up together the next day. Then Tim IMMEDIATELY breaks his promise. What can he say, magic is too cool to wait.
The chest blows up as soon as he opens it. Except it is only an audio chip with an explosion sound. Still scares the crap out of a kid though. He tries out some of the tricks without really knowing what to do and only succeeds in letting loose a bunch of live snakes from Amaz-O's suit. Enough is enough, I've had it with these mother fucking snakes in this mother fucking suit! When he fully investigates them it turns out they are clockwork automatons. That must be HELLA complicated clockwork. Finally he gives it up for the evening.
The next morning Ginny immediately tries to confess, but their parents are too distracted by the hellscape that is adult life. She also knows that Tim broke the promise. The agree to check out the trunk together with Tim's friend Foz.
Foz is also faked out by the exploding trunk. Tim is eager to show off some tricks. He does the ball under a shell trick. Ginny guesses the ball right. How can that be? Tim palmed the ball. But then they realize there is a ball under EVERY shell. And there are more balls popping out from under the shells all the time! Quickly they stash it away, clearly this magic is too advanced. Next Tim inadvertently lets loose legions of doves. How the hell are they gonna clean all this up?
They escape to the outdoors, but Tim hasn't given up on the tricks yet. But why is there a carrot in there? Without any fucking hesitation Ginny bites the magic carrot. What kid in the world is so eager to eat a carrot? I don't believe you RL Stine. This carrot turns out to be some genuine magic too, because it turns his sister into a rabbit. Tim threatened to do this all the time, but now it actually happened! And it's going to be a big problem because if parent's don't understand kids going to see a magic show at 10 pm on a school night they sure as hell are not going to understand you turning your kid sister into a damn rabbit.
Tim finds a magic wand and tries it out. All it does is shoot out handkerchiefs. Pretty impressive, but not useful. They finally find a instruction paper but wouldn't ya just know, a convenient gust of wind blows it away and into a nearby stream. Shucks. There goes any hope of turning rabbit Ginny back to human. Aww well.
Well I guess there is one more thing to try. They have gotta go meet Amaz-O and confess to their crimes... and also get Ginny turned back to a human.
Back on their bikes, they return to the Midnight Mansion only to find it closed. They barge in anyway, and go to Amaz-O's room. There he sits, but he is outright ignoring him. Wait no, he's not ignoring them, he's asleep. Wait no, he's not asleep, he's dead! Wait no, he's not dead, he's.... a wooden puppet? How can that be? Is it a prop for his shows?
Either way his rabbit is still there. And Amaz-O's voice calls out calling them a bunch of punks that need to leave. Wait no, his rabbit is saying that.... wait no, the rabbit IS Amaz-O!
See Amaz-O has some backstory. He was a human once. The greatest magician in the world. Famous, popular, rich, and all that good stuff. He had a jealous hater named Frank. Frank was a genuine sorcerer. Real fucking magic. Problem is he had none of the success because he was kind of awkward. So what's a man to do? Turn the person you're jealous of into a rabbit apparently. And what is a rabbit magician to do? Go on continuing to do magic apparently... He just has a wooden puppet of what he used to look like because apparently no one would pay to see a magic rabbit? Wait no... everyone would pay shit tons to see a magic rabbit. So I guess I don't understand why you need the wooden puppet BUT NO MATTER.
This story resolves itself. The magic carrot has a time limit. In a scant half hour Ginny will be a human again. What a happy ending. And in the happiest ending, Amaz-O wants Tim to be in on his act.
There is a problem though. Tim thought he was going to be replacing the wooden puppet. Turns out instead he is replacing the rabbit... He does get plenty of lettuce though...
What I thought
One of R.L. Stine's strong suits can be putting forward some relatable childhood experiences. A lot of kids have definitely had a "magic tricks" phase. If you didn't, there is a good chance you went to school with someone you did. Maybe it was just a couple of simple card tricks. Maybe it was a full fledged prepackaged magic kit. As far as "hobby leads to trouble" plots go, I think this is more relatable than say, the ventriloquism in Night of the Living Dummy.
This also has the whole aspect of "your desires coming true in a horrible way." The monkey paw if you would. Tim wants to be able to do wonderful magic, but he cheats his way there and it overwhelms him. Tim also wants to turn his sister into a rabbit and I'll be damned but he does it, and immediately realizes there are real world consequences to it.
Parents in Stine books always disbelieve the kids, but in this book they outright ignore them due to the stresses of life. It's a different way to paint the characters that still results in the kids being all alone in their trouble. As an adult now, the parents are hell relatable.
I do have a problem with this book though. It resolves itself. Stine often comes up with really silly solutions to the problems in the books but here the solution is just to wait. They don't have to do ANYTHING to get Ginny back to being a human. They have no problems to figure out. They don't outsmart anyone. They don't even figure out the true identity of Amaz-O on their own really. He just outright tells them everything in an explanation dump, along with the fact that there problem won't be a problem in a half an hour. It sorta lets the steam out of the climax of this story. The twist of the magician being a rabbit is moderately interesting, as you would think the sister turning into the rabbit is the allusion of the "hare" in the title... but the fact that they didn't have to do anything to reveal it... Just feels like R.L. Stine sorta hit the right page count and needed to wrap things up.
When it comes down to it, I don't think the ending completely ruins the story. In some ways, any mix up of the Goosebumps formula kind of feels like a relief, but I still found it a little disappointing. The use of magic which is supposed to be an illusion but in fact real, maintains enough allure to save the story. What kid hasn't wondered in the back of their head if maybe that guy getting sawed in half was REALLY getting sawed in half?
This is a decent Goosebumps entry, just not top tier.
Rating: 3 rabbits out of 5
So my tentative plan for that update will just be to do the next book in the series. I kind of want to at least close out all the original books sometime within my lifetime. So next up would be #42, Egg Monsters from Mars. Those are the scariest types of egg monsters in my humble opinion.
Anyway, thanks for reading this. It's fun to relive these silly books with people who have memories of them, however vague those memories may be. I am actually pretty surprised that every so often I get comments from people I don't actually know. I am glad some people get some fun out of this besides myself.
Until next time Goosebumpers! (ok I am rethinking calling my readers that.)
August 17, 2022
Hey guys, I know I haven't updated in a long time. Before the end of the year I WILL release a new review. I've just been really busy and stressed with work and life. I will motivate myself though, hopefully by Halloween to put something up here though. Stay spooky everyone.
October 30, 2021
Choose Your Own Adventure #71 - Space Vampire
I'm not going to read every single story line until I get all of the over 24 endings in this. Like times past when I have done this style of book I will give it 3 attempts to get the "good" ending. If I die 3 quick times well... then that's just a bummer isn't it?
To begin with I am briefed about the usual nature of the book, that you don't read it in a linear page by page fashion. I'm already aware of this but there is also a warning. The space vampire, it would seem, has extraordinary powers and a terrifying appetite. I will heed this warning!
In an interesting turn of events Space Force is real. Who knew Donald Trump stole his idea from a book in 1987? Not only is it real, but I am about to graduate from their academy on Mars. Dope. My communicator goes off, I'm needed immediately! I hustle through various hi-tech security protocol to the office of Jason Neff who appears to be some sort of... space Dumbledore. He declares that I, who have the cool code name of Osprey, am graduating first in my glass. Hell yeah, I'm the best. It turns out that my credentials as the best is going to be put to the test immediately. Am I to stop an alien invasion from the Canopians? No sir, the problem we're facing is.. SPACE VAMPIRES. You see Vampires are weak on Earth what with all the Sunlight and such. Deeper in space though? Not a problem. A space vampire has gotten aboard a transport ship and is killing a passenger each night. If I can't stop this vampire there may be a whole invasion of them! I don't have to take this mission though. If I want to pass it up, I can be on my way to Barnard's Star to see if it is suitable for colonization.
Listen this book is called SPACE VAMPIRES, of course I'm going to take the space vampire mission. For breakfast the cook hands me some garlic to improve the taste of my future space food. Can't imagine how that will come in to play, eh? Then its off into space and immediately into trouble. A Canopian attack vessel intercepts us and Captain Rick Field asks for my input. I can suggest we outrun them, or tell him to attack.
Let's attack these assholes. Or not. Rick Field doesn't give a fuck about my input. He thinks getting the space vampires is more important than destroying an immediate alien threat. Just like that I'm shooting pool at an officer's club waiting for reassignment. One decision and I'm already on the outs! I could maybe go after the vampire on my own though. The computer system still thinks I have security clearance. Ahead of me is a hangar hosting a very top secret special unique awesome spaceship. I could maybe borrow it to go eradicate the space vampire menace.... or I could play by the rules.
You don't kill space vampires by playing it safe. Let's commandeer this vessel an get to vampire murderin'. I start the process of "borrowing it" but the guys in the hangar seem to realize I don't belong. There are sirens and guard robots. It's close but I get my ass out of there unscathed and am on my way to the vampire infested transport ship. I consult the space computer about how to go and kill Spaceferatu and it highlights some pointers. Sunlight will do the trick. They can be captured with force field generators which I happen to have. They also recommend back up. I could call my friend Steve to come out a'vampire huntin' with me or I could go it alone.
The more the merrier when it comes to killing vamps I say. I invite Steve-o along but security forces are there! Has he ratted me out or did they intercept my message. My options are to surrender, to escape, or to "think of something else."
I'm going to escape. I've got the best spaceship in the fleet, I can handle a nice running away. Or at least I could if they didn't have override codes for my secret stolen spaceship. All I can do is wait for Space Force to come and arrest me. Damn you Donald Trump!
Ok, graduating head of the class, accepting the mission to kill space Dracula, intercepted by Canopian alien attack ship... but this time I'm going to tell the captain we should flee!
Flee we do indeed. We are able to get to the transport with the Vampire on it. Each night it kills a victim... What the hell does night and day matter in a space ship? Unless you're rotating on a planet night and day don't even really exist! Someone suggests we fire on the ship because they are an idiot and don't want any survivors at all. The captain asks for any DECENT input. I could tell him we should board the ship, or to wait until it lands on Earth.
Wait until it lands on Earth? That's dumb! Then we'll have vampires on Earth! No, we are gonna board the ship. The captain agrees and suggests using human bait... What an asshole. Do I volunteer to be bait or not?
Sure why the hell not, go big or go home I say. (and that worked so well for me last time when I stole a space ship) My mission is to lay there helplessly and let a vampire go in for the kill. My shipmates will catch him in a force field while he is overcome with bloodlust. I didn't know this plan was quite this shitty when I volunteered but no backing out now I guess. I get into bay... wait... and... holy shit it worked. We captured the vampire. Now the only problem is getting him to sunlight. I am ordered to watch over him and shoot him with a stun gun if he starts to escape. I gotta be the bait AND his watcher. Graduating first in your class sucks. While watching over him I yearn to talk to him. I could learn so much about vampires. Should I strike up a conversation?
Hell no. This tricky vampire scum is gonna die and I won't be fooled into feeling pity. I stand watch until arrive near enough the sun to do him in. His spirit is broken, and in the full sunlight he shrivels to nothing. The book suggests I feel a little sad about what I've done as if I've "killed a magnificent tiger." Once again I say hell no. This vampire scum is dead and won't be preying on earthlings anymore. This book may try to steal victory away from me, but I won't accept it. Mission fucking accomplished, vampire fucking dead.
Well even though I succeeded in killing the vampire I did say I would attempt this 3 times and there are at least 22 more endings so lets get at it. This time instead of accepting the mission to kill the space vampire I'm going to go on the mission to evaluate Barnard's Star for colonization. Weeks away on a scout ship, the mission turns out pretty boring. I could take my job seriously and pay close attention...or I could go for a nap...
A little nap never hurt anyone says I. Maybe I as wrong though. I slept 3 hours and no one came to relieve me of my shift. Turns out no one did so because they'd all been killed by a vampire. Oops! Sorry bros, my bad. The vampire confronts me and demands I set course for the space vampire home world. He wants to tell his fellow vampires how delicious human blood is. I have to play along, but where should I send the ship? I could start heading to Akbar, the vampire home world, or start flying to the Sun.
Well the sun kills vampires so sunward ho I go. Vampy notices pretty quickly that we're heading to the sun and he is not a real fan of that idea. I accelerate to throw him off balance. By the time he attacks you again we are in range of the sun. He disintegrates and I manage to get ship off course of the sun and heading towards earth in the nick of time. They'll be so glad I killed a space vampire that they probably won't even mind that all my crewmates are dead.....
August 13, 2021
Goosebumps: Night of the Living Dummy III
Back from the Dead
They say on a Friday the 13th spooky things can happen. They say, even the dead can rise from the dead... Like... dead blogs... Like this one!
It's been a year and a half since I've written a review on this site. I'm extremely sorry. The bulk of this blog was written while I was unemployed suffering from extreme anxiety so I had a lot of free time and needed an outlet. For the past 2 years I've been gainfully employed in a bakery which has been good for my life overall but bad for free time to update this blog.
I'm going to try to rectify that. Even if I don't update as often as I used to, I should still be able to manage one every so often. The goal I have is to do at least 2 more updates before the end of the year. I have one entry I was planning to release earlier this year and just flat out flaked on. I also want to release one for Halloween, another spooky spooky day. Hopefully I can motivate myself!
During the drought of updates this page still managed to get a lot of hits. I still got a comment or two now again. I really appreciate that people were still visiting here even if I neglected it. I'll try to do better in the future.
Judging a Book by its Cover
Anyway, without further ado, time to talk about the book I'll be reading. What better book to return from the dead with than Night of the Living Dummy III. Yes, one RL Stine's most sequelled books. The star of these books, Slappy the Dummy, even has his own featured series called Goosebumps SlappyWorld that is still being published right now as we speak.
The cover art immediately might help you realize why this particular series of Goosebumps is so popular. Ventriloquist dummies are creepy. This illustration answers the question, "what is creepier than one ventriloquist dummy?"..."a bunch of ventriloquist dummies!" They are just hanging out in a dank old attic. Who knows what they are planning? Nothing good!
It's worth noting that this whole dummy gathering is a real wooden sausage party. Only one of the puppet looks female. We demand haunted puppet equality now! If we don't get representation in demented dolls, where are we gonna get it? Oh well. It was the 90s, what are you gonna do.
So I'm assuming this book is indeed going to feature many dummies. Are they Slappy's relatives? Are they just other discarded puppets? Is Slappy bringing them to life or are they just coming to life on their own? So many questions to answer and there is only one way to find out. Let's read!
Trina lives in a creaky old house with mom, dad, and brother Dan. She'll call her brother Mouse sometimes because he's a tiny little dude. Trina on the other hand, is a bit chubby. Boy can I relate. They don't even really look like siblings. Has mom been fooling around? I'm guessing this book wont' tell us.
So the creepiest part of this creaky old house is the attic. Why? All the god damn eyes. What eyes? The ventriloquist dummy eyes. Before dad became a camera salesman he performed puppetry with his dummy Wilbur. Wilbur isn't the only dummy up there though. There are plenty. So many that dad calls it the dummy museum. I thought that's what you called Congress, heyo! Point is, these dummies don't get used much these days. Mostly just the occasional birthday party, or when Dan is trying to scare his sister. Speaking of trying to scare his sister, one of the dummies starts threatening Trina, but Dan is on the other side of the room. Who could it be? A living dummy! Wait, no, it's still chapter one. It's dad this time pranking his daughter. Nothing is better for childhood development than a little trauma.
Scaring his daughter wasn't the only goal though. Dad has a new dummy to show off. He found it in the garbage with its head split in two... You know... Slappy's head was broken in two at the end of Night of the Living Dummy 2. Weird coincidence eh? Well all it took was a little glue and this totally unrelated dummy is good as new. This couldn't be Slappy though, because they've named this dummy Smiley. What a nice friendly name! Smiley even has a little slip of paper in his suit pocket... full of cryptic sounding nonsense language words. Just like Slappy... And once they read it out load (why do they always read it out loud!??!) the Smiley even SLAPS Trina. You know I am beginning to think maybe this dummy IS Slappy.
Dad brushes aside the accusations of dummy assault with the news that the kids cousin Zane is coming to visit. The cousin they just love to scare. I think we can all see where this is going. Problem is, dad made the kids promise they wouldn't scare him. Darn.
So what happens? Zane is IMMEDIATELY startled by one of the dummies falling on him when he opened the bed room door. The kids play innocent, but who else could have rigged the dummy to do that?
When the kids go to put the dummy back in the attic Zane joins them. Their cousin is a newfound shutterbug and takes his camera everywhere. He uses the opportunity to get some dummy photos. It's all going great... until one of the dummies SLAPS him. This time it was a different culprit than the Trina slapper. Arnie, one of dad's older puppets did the deed. Trina blames Dan for both slaps, but her brother plays innocent yet again.
That night Cousin Zane startles Trina in her sleep by accident trying to get her to wake up. Though he is a big guy, he frightens easily and in this spooky house alone at night he thought he heard voices from the attic. He and his cousin go to the kitchen to have a bowl of cereal and calm down but a misplaced dummy scares them even more. Once again the blame is placed on Dan. They go to confront him upstairs but he is sound asleep. When they go to leave the room the dummy from the kitchen has followed them upstairs. Dan in his bed couldn't have pulled this one off! No, it was dad! Only he didn't scare them on purpose. He heard a ruckus in the kitchen and went to check on it only to find one of his dummies misplaced, so he was going to put it back. His is quite displeased as what he assumes is his kids nonsense. He told them not to scare Zane and yet all that's happened so far has been Zane getting scared. Dad makes them promise to knock it off or there will be hell to pay (ok maybe he didn't phrase it like that.)
So, now that dad has laid down the law surely there will be no more dummy shenanigans right? Wrong. Trina wakes up and immediately sees Rocky the dummy back in the kitchen. She doesn't know who did it but she wisely hauls him up to the attic immediately.
The rest of the day is spent playing nice with Zane. The amateur photographer wants to take pictures of.... their moldings. Ah yes, moldings, a fascination all young men have. He fills up his roll of film, reminding this that it is in fact the 1990s and film still exists, and goes down to the dark room with his cousins. Once he develops the photos he is very displeased. It seems all the photos, are photos of Rocky the dummy!
Trina decides to go upstairs and question the dummies. I am not sure why. She doesn't seem to really expect answers. She gets a response anyway. Smiley the new dummy starts insulting her in a hoarse whisper. She almost believes its the dummy until she notices Dan behind the couch. Dan blames Trina for the moving dummies. Trina blames Dan. Then Dan came up with the wildest accusation of all time. Zane has been doing it to himself. To get even with them for being assholes to their cousin. He does have a point though. Zane is the only one who could have taken those photos of Rocky the dummy.... right?
That night the siblings stake out the attic to catch Zane in the act. The hide for quite awhile before someone starts walking across the room, picking up a dummy. Who could be it? Zane!... Wait what, you mean it was ACTUALLY Zane this whole time and none of the dummies are alive? Yes, he'd been doing it to get back at his cousins just as they theorized. They all declare that their scores have been settled and they are calling a ventriloquist truce.
Thanks to the truce they were all finally able to enjoy the visit. They spent the day out enjoying nature, riding bikes, taking photos. Everything was wonderful. Then they got home and Zane room was totally trashed, complete with a dummy as the centerpiece. Mom was quite upset but how could any of the kids have done this? They were outside with each other the whole day!
Sleeping that night Trina had nightmares about dummy. She awoke to the greatest nightmare of all, an actual dummy laying on top of her! Naturally she screamed and woke up her father who was extremely pissed about everything. All this dummy nonsense has to stop!
Later that night Dan startled Trina awake to launch accusations against Zane. In his opinion their cousin hasn't been honoring the truce. They have a point, who else could be doing it?
During dinner later that day that had a big feast with the neighbors in honor of the cousins visit. When Zane goes to get his camera there is a huge commotion. Someone has smashed his very expensive equipment. This just proves it couldn't be Zane causing the mischief. He would never break his own camera, he loves photography too much. Suddenly there is more commotion. Someone has overturned dishes for the delicious food planned for the dinner. Who could have done it? Well some dummies are present... Things are quickly getting out of control.
Zane, however, is still the kids only suspect. Once again they wait in the attic to confront him when he goes to move the dummies around. They only had to wait a half an hour for him to show up with a dummy slung over his shoulder... only this time it wasn't zane... IT WAS SMILEY THE DUMMY!
They confront the doll, by name even, but he assures them his name isn't Smiley... It's Slappy! They tussle with the dummy, but he assures them that they are now his slaves. Slappy has never heard of the emancipation proclamation. They make a huge racket and Dad arrives. He is PISSED. Since he arrived to late to see any evidence of dummy life, he calls bullshit on his kids excuses and grounds them immediately.
A tired and disgusted Dad leaves them to clean up their mess, and Slappy immediately lets the kids know about his plan to blackmail them into servitude. Parents, it seems, would never believe a dummy could come to life. In a last ditch effort Trina tries to pull Slappy's glued head apart, to no avail.
Then she comes up with one more last, last ditch effort. They toss him down the well in their yard. Despite being evil, Slappy is often easily overpowered by kids since he is, ya know, a tiny ventriloquist dummy.
They think their problems are all solved but that morning Slappy greets them at the breakfast table. They go to put him away and Slappy assures his slaves he's never going to give up. He will probably however let them down, and may even run around and will most definitely hurt them.
Trina comes up with a plan. She remembers those creepy words from the paper in Slappy's pocket and theorizes reading them brought him to life. Maybe reading them again would undo the damage? They go to get the paper from Slappy's pocket, but he isn't going to make it easy for them. Trina scuffles with the dummy, in a losing battle but Dan manages to grab the paper from his pocket and read the words.
Then there arises a problem. You see, Slappy doesn't suddenly lose his livelihood. no, instead all the rest of Dad's dummies are brought to life. They march forward to attack.... Slappy! Yes, the dummy crew circles round their evil brethren to do battle. Zane appears, and all the dummies are on the floor. Did the other puppets defeat Slappy? It seems so.
Now is the time for Zane to leave. They ask him about his broken camera but it turns out he isn't interested in photography anymore. No, now he is interested in... ventriloquism! Dad offers him a dummy and the kids know just the one to give him, Slappy. Trina is sure Slappy and Zane will have a grand old time together. As their cousin departs, Slappy turns to give Trina a goodbye wink.
What I Thought
Once again one of the hardest parts of trying to review a Goosebumps book as an adult is to try and put yourself into the mind of a child. To try and remember there is a mindset that goes in to this book that believes anything is possible. Not the cynical mind of an adult who has read dozens of these.
So how do you write 3rd book about a living dummy and not immediately give away who is the culprit? If you remember Night of the Living Dummy the original, things were actually more about another puppet named Mr. Wood, with Slappy only being revealed to also be alive with the very last stinger. Night of the Living Dummy II was actually Slappy's main go around. So for number 3, what do you do? Do you get a new puppet? But Slappy is a pretty big feature at Goosebumps, even back in the day when this is published. You gotta have Slappy! So how do you make kids not immediately know that Slappy is the bad guy? Well Stine did his best. Step 1, add LOTS of Dummies. Any of them could be evil. Also, you remove Slappy's identity. Sure kids who have read the last book should probably be able to put the clues together, but by giving him the new name of Smiley you distance Slappy from some kids mind. Lastly, you have a triad of blame to shift. All the kids are blaming each other for every. Young readers that may not realize there HAS to be a supernatural element may indeed be quick to blame Dan, or Trina, or Zane. These things I believe ultimately I think are what make this book work for the age bracket its intended.
To that note, I'd just like to say that Zane as a character added a lot. Many Goosebumps books are merely siblings goading each other. Zane is an outsider who is familiar to both of them. It makes allegiances hard to sus out. The siblings don't want to trust each other, but also they both can't trust Zane. Zane's innocent act works extremely well. Even I wasn't totally suspecting that he would in fact be part of the shenanigans. The fact that he was guilty but also there was also in fact the mischievous Slappy involved "pulling the strings."
This didn't need some of the tricks of other books I like to feel
interesting like an exotic locale or an absolutely bonkers new villain.
All it takes is some misdirection and some interpersonal relationships.
Sure, I wouldn't say there were any "new" tricks to this book, but
ultimately I think RL Stine took the usual tricks he uses and just did
them as well as he can.
Maybe it's because it's been over a year since I have read a Goosebumps book, but this book which is #40 overall, and #3 in the Dummy series could have easily felt extremely tired and stale, but I actually really enjoyed it.
Rating: 4 creepy dummies I may or may not have already used in past reviews out of 5
July 17, 2020
March 1, 2020
Goosebumps #39 - How I Got My Shrunken Head
Alright so I said I'd have a new review out by February... and it's March.... but not very late into March so I think I'm doing good!
We are back on track with the next entry in the original Goosebumps series. It's #39 How I Got My Shrunken Head. As expected the head in question looks pretty creepy. I think generally in a shrunken head the eyes are sewn shut... since eyes tend to rot away. I'm guessing this one is super natural though? Also its skin is green. Skin usually doesn't turn green. Maybe it's a goblin head. Looks like one to me...
There are some nice details in the illustration. There is a pair of chucks that often grace Goosebumps covers. There is also a "University" pennant. Most people cheer for a specific university but this kid just loves secondary education in general. I also want to know who has purple and blue tiles in their room. Weird color scheme dude.
The tagline give us so head related word play. "Heads up!" says the front illustration. I wonder if the fact that this tagline is next to a baseball glove and ball is coincidental or planned. My guess is a happy accident. Thinking they thought that out seems like giving them too much credit. The back HILARIOUSLY states that "two heads are better than one." I might have to disagree in this case. No preserved human remains for me thanks.
Anyway, it's been awhile. lets see if I remember how to write a a synopsis and review.
So by total coincidence after collecting shrunken heads in the game, one shows up at his doorstep. Not by itself though, it was carried by a woman named Carolyn who apparently knows his Aunt Benna. Aunt Benna it seems is off on a jungle island studying. The shrunken head is a gift, because what kid doesn't like playing with parts of corpses?
Well that shrunken head does some weird stuff. And some of it is his sister playing pranks, but some of it is harder to explain... like at night it started glowing... and grinning! Still it could be his sister pranking, little sisters are so jealous of gross human heads. She even scratched the darn thing in a spat!
So it turns out that Carolyn was sent by Aunt Benna to bring her nephew Mark to visit her in the jungle. Well the word of a stranger with absolutely no warning from the Aunt is good enough for mom, so Mark packs his bags and is off to dangerous parts unknown with a woman they've never met carrying a disembodied human head through the airport. Sounds like everything here is in order. Next stop, the jungles of Baladora.
Once there instead of meeting his Aunt whom he has not seen since he was quite young, he instead gets introduced to a Dr. Hawlings and his daughter Kareen. Benna, it seems, is missing. That is the reason Mark had to come. They didn't contact police, military, rescue crews, the government, trackers, no.... they contacted a 12 year old boy. How can Mark be of any use what so ever? Well it's simple, Mark has the JUNGLE MAGIC. Yup, that's gonna be the plot of this book I guess. Jungle magic. The Oloyan people of the island had the magic. They were headshrinkers, hence the head in Marks possession. Mark too possess the magic only he is... skeptical. I can't imagine why!
Mark uses some of that good common sense Goosebumps protagonists have and decides to explore the jungle a little bit at night. He comes across a seriously creepy pile of heads. Not cool. He retreats pretty quickly and searches headquarters for a flashlight. Instead he finds Aunt Benna's notes. Turns out ol' Benna is hiding on purpose because Dr. Hawlings and co. are EVIL. They want the jungle magic for their own evil purposes. But come on now, what is the jungle magic of a race of ancient headshrinkers for if not for evil? Anyway to keep things safe she gave Mark the magic years ago, and kept he safe 4000 miles away from the island. Sure would be a shame if he showed up at the island for some reason... oh damn!
Kareen interrupts things. She believes in Marks jungle magic and despite being Dr. Hawlings spawn convinces Mark she truly cares about his aunt. She helps him escape to the jungle, alone... which is a great place for a 12 year old city boy to be. No joke, the dude passes out and gets covered by huge angry ants. Way to go Mark, your aunt is going to die because you are inept.
In desperation he shouts "Kah-lee-ah!" that stupid jungle cry he used in the video game. Turns out that is a plot point too. His jungle cry. It saves his ass somehow. Next his dumb ass falls into quicksand. He never saw the Mythbusters where they proved you don't drown in quicksand so he panics. His little shout won't help him because he dropped the shrunken head, which is part of the jungle magic. Then he thumps the head his way and grabs on to it. His shout works and summons vines to the rescue. But where is his aunt? Well lucky for him that his shrunken head works as a Benna seeking compass.
Next our dude gets attacked by an angry momma tiger. Never fear though because a literal hole rips in the earth to protect him. Course now he is stuck in a hole. Out of the frying pan into the fire. He can't figure out a way to get out of this one. What do you do when jungle magic fails you? Count on Kareen.
The duo walks in a Benna-ward direction while Kareen tries to convince Mark her dad isn't so evil. Then they find Benna and then Kareen tries to convince the old woman of her dad's not evilness too. Then Kareen pulls a total heel turn and reveals that she is totally evil herself, and had been helping her dad find Aunt Benna. Kareen tries to justify it by saying kids gotta help their parents even if they are evil.
They get one last chance to spill the secret or they are gonna get their heads shrunken, shrinked? shrank? shrunk? Their heads are gonna get smaller. The plan to save their asses goes awry when the head gets swatted away into a pile of heads. How can he tell which one is the right one? Oh right, his dumb sister scratched up his, that's how! Hey lookit those details coming back into play.
With the right had and a fierce "kah-lee-ah" the head shrinkers become the shrinkees, except not just their heads shrink but their whole bodies. Odd. Anyway as tiny Stuart Little sized people they are powerless and Benna is free to return to civilization with her nephew. She does the responsible thing and takes back the jungle magic she gave him years ago, but he can keep the shrunken head.... hey did that thing start talking?
Fundamentally this is the kind of Goosebumps book I should like. There tend to be "location" books, where kids go on an adventure far from the normalcy of home. The Mummy books were a good example of this, exploring ancient pyramids and tombs. Likewise, this explores a jungle. of course it's not a very realistic jungle. It is a jungle right out of old timey adventure movies I bet RL Stine grew up watching. If Tarzan swung by on a rope it wouldn't be out of place.
If this is the kind of Goosebumps book I should like, then why didn't it? I think "jungle magic" had a big part to do with it. Stine loves to put really dumb plot points like this in. I mean, there is probably a really cool way to reveal a magic of the island. Shouting "kah-lee-ah" and calling it "jungle magic" is not really that way. More than just a magical device, it kind of serves as a means to just magically solve any problem by shouting some words. It's a nifty little Swiss army tool for making sure the protagonist can get out of anything.
Plus he doesn't really flesh things out. For example, why does Dr. Hawlings want the jungle magic? Like, ok... yes he wants to strip mine the area.... why does he need jungle magic for that? Trust me, standard industry has been doing a great job of ripping apart the jungle for raw materials without any need for magic. All you need is bulldozers and chainsaws. Easy peasy.
So lets go over what is scary/creepy. Shrunken heads are creepy. Thing is, I don't know if they go far enough to really convey how creepy that are. Real ones are ACTUAL HUMAN FLESH. Like a real person got murdered and their skin got preserved. It's creepy as fuck! And it's a real actual thing too. Of course probably 80% of so called shrunken heads in collections are thought to be fakes. To be honest if I had a shrunken head I'd be revealed to found out it is a fake.
The other scares are largely "real" scares. Jungle mayhem. Vicious tigers, swarming aunts, fictional deadly quicksand. To me these are largely the more interesting scares of the story. A shrunken head is just gross, a tiger will maul you to death. It could have used a snake squeezing the life of him though. That would be my suggestion.
I think perhaps one of the big reasons I didn't enjoy this is the same reason I didn't enjoy many of these books on the reread. I'm thinking with my adult brain not my child brain. Still, adult brain me wonders if even child brain would think shouting "kah-lee-ah" is pretty dumb.
At the end of the day I guess this book just isn't that memorable to stand out in the field of the near 40 other original series Goosebumps books that were out at this time. If you like the jungle setting it my sit well with you, but otherwise it doesn't have much else to offer.
Rating: 2 out of 5 shrunken heads
Ideally I'll have my next review up April 1st. It won't be a Goosebumps book, or even by R.L. Stine, but it's from a series I've wanted to review for awhile now. Excuse me for these little deviations! I think it'll be a fun one though. Until then, thanks for reading.